Archive for the ‘Competitors and Business Enemies’ Category

Revenge is best served cold. The phrase is apt in the business-legal world. Some industries are very cutthroat. Some of your competitors or other business enemies are dirty, rotten scoundrels. They may pull various dirty tricks on your business. Steal your key employees. Defame you to clients or strategic partners, suppliers, contractors, employees, etc. Falsely report you to authorities, such as licensing agencies, taxing authorities, or other government entities who have some control over your business. They may even file frivolous lawsuits against you or your clients. If you are feeling paranoid, it’s only because they are out to get you.

These dirty tricks can hurt your business. They enrage you. That’s human. But resist the temptation to go off half-cocked and respond in kind. Tell yourself that it is just business. Part of being a success is becoming a target. Now, smile and start plotting your revenge. But there are many traps for the unwary business owner plotting revenge against a scoundrel competitor.

Don’t defame them just because they have defamed you. Generally speaking, defamation is making a false oral or written statement about another person or entity to a third party, that holds them up to scorn or ridicule. What is “false” and what is a “fact” are often gray areas. Unless you are 100% sure that the nasty letter/e-mail you are about to send is not defamatory, and not even arguably defamatory, you probably should not send it. You could also get tagged with a business tort known as Intentional Interference with Contract or Contractual Relations, even if your statements are not defamatory. If your business enemy loses business, you could be on the hook for the damages.

Additionally, you usually cannot sue someone just because they sued you or because they made some report to the government, because such actions may be protected under the Massachusetts Anti-SLAPP Statute. This could subject your company to immediate dismissal of the lawsuit and award of the other side’s attorney’s fees.

These laws are very complex; and the damages caused can be significant. Businesses can get themselves in serious trouble when they act to harm a competitor, even when the competitor drew first blood. It’s like in sports when the referee always notices the player who reacts to a dirty play with one of his own. Your reaction, or over-reaction, may get your business in trouble and even mask the original bad act by your business enemy. My (admittedly self-serving) advice should be clear. Consult a qualified business litigator before plotting your revenge or taking action to defend your company.

How to get back at your business enemies? The best revenge is to continue your success and crush your competitors in the market. You also may have a legitimate legal claim against them that will allow you to sue for your damages. While you should only file legitimate suits seeking legitimate damages, litigation may send an additional message that you will not be a punching bag. Sometimes there are other legal and ethical guerrilla tactics, but those are not for a public discussion.

By Adam P. Whitney, Esq.

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