DEVELOPING: Herbalife V. Twitter: More Latino Polarization?

Screen shot from Twitter.

Screen shot from Twitter.

UPDATED 3:33 P.M. EDT U.S.A. Herbalife International of America Inc. has sued Twitter Inc. in a reported bid to out the identity of a person posting on Twitter as @AfueraHerbaLIES and then potentially sue that person for defamation, Reuters and other media outlets are reporting.

The PP Blog this morning identified the action as case No. 2015-L-007373. It was filed July 20 in the Law Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill. Dentons US LLP is listed as counsel for Herbalife. The complaint is styled a “Petition for Discovery.” It was not immediately clear if Twitter had been served.

From Reuters (italics added):

Herbalife said it wants Twitter to provide information such as IP addresses and account details of the user who vilified the company and its management as “thieves, pill pushing frauds and bullies”.

The @AfueraHerbaLIES Twitter site appears to have posts in both Spanish and English and to position Herbalife as a pyramid scheme that rips off Latinos. One post — apparently from yesterday — features an image of a space alien puffing on a cigarette (or weed) while flipping Herbalife the bird.

Another — dated July 14 — is positioned as a “Media Alert.” It tells readers “El Chapo” was seen entering Herbalife’s corporate office.

“El Chapo” is the reputed druglord Joaquin Guzman Loera, who escaped from a prison in Mexico on July 11, prompting the U.S. Department of Justice to issue a statement on a Sunday that offered assistance to Mexico in recapturing him.

Herbalife sued six days after the “Media Alert” post, which included a superimposed image of Guzman in a frame that also included an image of Herbalife CEO Michael O. Johnson outside an Herbalife office building.

“Wonder what he could be doing there? $$$,” the Tweet inquired (and answered) about Guzman.

Billionaire businessman, MLM aficionado and GOP Presidential hopeful Donald Trump last week reportedly declared he’d kick Guzman’s ass. Trump reportedly later called the FBI, when a Twitter account purportedly linked to Guzman was used to threaten him.

Herbalife has been under fire from activist investor Bill Ackman, who has called the company a pyramid scheme that targets vulnerable population groups. (See Nov. 13, 2013, PP Blog editorial: Herbalife And Polarization In The Latino Community. Use the Blog’s search function for other references to Ackman and Herbalife.)

Herbalife has hired former government officials as it seeks to stem the tide of attacks against the company, which faces investigations in multiple jurisdictions. As it gets more and more entrenched in politics, the MLM firm, which was ripe for parody before Ackman produced a serious analysis in 2012, now may be particularly ripe.

If Trump, displeased with the state of immigration in America, drops out of the Presidential race, for example, might the Herbalife braintrust consider hiring him to bolster the relationship between the company and Latinos? (It might not be a good idea.)

Might the company be in the market to hire the “two 20-week old, 48-pound” Thanksgiving turkeys President Obama pardoned last year — simply because they were available and potentially useful as part of Washington’s revolving door? Could those grossly overweight birds have benefited from a month or two on Herbalife weight-loss shakes? Will there be “before” and “after” pictures if Herbalife takes them on?

 

An opinion piece at ValueWalk this afternoon illustrates some of the PR dangers Herbalife faces with its action aimed at  @AfueraHerbaLIES, an account that appears to have only 93 followers.

NOTE ADDED AT 8:35 P.M. EDT U.S.A. See the first comment in the thread below, which includes a link to a report today in the Cook County Record. Herbalife appears to be bringing this action under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 224. The PP Blog has provided additional links below that contain information on Rule 224.

 

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7 Responses to “DEVELOPING: Herbalife V. Twitter: More Latino Polarization?”

  1. Quick note: The Cook County Record has some details from the Herbalife complaint, reportedly brought under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 224.

    http://cookcountyrecord.com/stories/510629761-herbalife-asks-court-to-force-twitter-to-reveal-identity-of-troll-behind-defamatory-tweets

    SNIPPET:

    ___________________________________________________________

    In June, for instance, the Twitter user allegedly posted a tweet accusing Pamela Jones Harbour, a Herbalife executive and former Federal Trade Commissioner, “of perpetuating ‘modern day slavery’ by posting the following statement: ‘Former FTC Chair has no respect 4 others sold herself 2 $HLF that has her preserving a modern day slave industry 4 $$ (sic.)”

    ___________________________________________________________

    Here is some info on Illinois Supreme Court Rule 224:

    https://www.iltla.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Dixon-Grant_Summer-2014-FINAL.pdf

    Twitter itself isn’t being accused of damaging Herbalife. Rather, by naming Twitter a respondent in the Rule 224 action, Herbalife appears to be trying to open a door that would force Twitter to provide info on @AfueraHerbaLIES, so Herbalife then could sue @AfueraHerbaLIES.

    I’ve found a few cases in Illinois unrelated to Herbalife. These cases name Twitter a respondent in bids to unmask Tweeters allegedly engaging in misconduct such as defamation and trademark infringement.

    http://digitalcommons.law.scu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1705&context=historical

    http://digitalcommons.law.scu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1990&context=historical

    http://digitalcommons.law.scu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1580&context=historical

    Also see:

    http://www.thenationaltriallawyers.org/2015/03/anonymous-poster-defamation-suit/

    Patrick

      (Quote)

  2. Another story that touches on Rule 224. From the State Journal-Register on June 18, 2015:

    http://www.sj-r.com/article/20150618/NEWS/150619478

    SNIPPET:

    ______________________________________________________

    The Illinois Supreme Court has affirmed lower court rulings that Internet service provider Comcast must reveal the identity of an online commenter who compared a Stephenson County politician to convicted pedophile and ex-Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

    ______________________________________________________

    Patrick

      (Quote)

  3. Always thought Herbalife is a CALIFORNIA company, so this court-shopping / law-shopping is bull**** in itself.

      (Quote)

  4. Furthermore, seem to recall a case where a money launderer for a south-of-the-border narc cartel claimed that he laundered money with Herbalife account in front of an informant.

    “In one candid conversation, the traffickers boasted about who was able to move the biggest loads of money, the way fishermen brag about their catches. One said he could easily move $4 million to $5 million a month. Then the others spoke about the tricks of the trade, including how they had used various methods, including prepaid debit cards and an Herbalife account, to move the money.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/09/world/americas/us-agents-aided-mexican-drug-trafficker-to-infiltrate-ring.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&

      (Quote)

  5. K. Chang: Always thought Herbalife is a CALIFORNIA company, so this court-shopping / law-shopping is bull**** in itself.

    Herbalife of America Inc. is based in California.

    This Facebook page that appears to be related to Herbalife, however, is styled “Herbalife Warehouse Des Plain[e]s IL[:] Health Food Store.”

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Herbalife-Warehouse-Des-Plains-IL/127783813970916

    Also see: http://www.local.com/business/details/des-plaines-il/herbalife-108143819/

    I’m not sure how Herbalife is arguing it has standing under Illinois Rule 224 to bring the action against Twitter, which also is based in California.

    But Herbalife potentially has trouble in Illinois. The AG is investigating the company:

    http://www.cnbc.com/2014/04/17/illinois-attorney-general-investigating-herbalife.html

    There also is an effort in Illinois by Latino activists to pressure the government to dial up Herbalife probes.

    http://www.valuewalk.com/2014/07/lulac-protests-herbalife-ltd-hlf-chicago-extravaganza/

    Patrick

      (Quote)

  6. The Los Angeles Times has a copy of the Herbalife complaint within this story:

    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-herbalife-wants-to-unmask-twitter-user-20150722-story.html

    Herbalife argues that venue is proper in Illinois because Twitter does business there.

    The company further complains that @AfueraHerbaLIES has defamed Herbalife through claims its product is toxic.

    Patrick

      (Quote)

  7. PatrickPretty.com: Herbalife argues that venue is proper in Illinois because Twitter does business there.

    So they are basically arguing that they can sue where the law is more favorable to them, instead of proper jurisdiction.

    EFF is going to have a field day with them. Streisand effect will do the rest.

      (Quote)

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