The Danny Boice Trustify Demand Letter Affair
Danny Boice Trustify Demand Letter
So there I was. Minding my own business. When out of the blue. A knock on the door. The FedEx guy hands me one of the greatest gifts I’ve received since my grandma bought me socks and underwear for my birthday. Here was a poorly constructed, Demand Letter from someone who claims to be an “attorney,” representing Danny Boice Trustify.
I’ve requested permission to reprint the letter in full and sadly I have received no such permission so under the doctrine of fair use I will highlight some of the more ironic passages of this long rambling 5 page letter.
The letter came from Anthony M. Conti, esquire of Conti Fenn & Lawrence PLLC of Baltimore.
Mr Conti’s letter dated April 12th was ominously labeled: URGENT – FOR IMMEDIATE REVIEW.
The subject: Re: Demand to Cease and Desist Defamation of Daniel Boice and Trustify
And very respectfully addressed to: Dear Mr. Helman:
“I am writing on behalf of my client, Daniel Boice, to demand that you immediately cease and desist from continuing to publish false and intentionally disparaging statements about Mr. Boice and his company Trustify.”
Oh my………have I been naughty? Have I intentionally published false statements about Danny Boice Trustify? Alas, the letter fails to document one falsehood. In fact the only falsehoods I found in the letter were the well documented falsehoods perpetrated by “Harvard” boy, Danny Boice. If Mr Boice and his low rent lawyer ever produce verifiable authenticated evidence that I am ill informed I will gladly and immediately change my opinion publish said new opinion, publish the newly introduced facts, get down on my knees and beg forgiveness (check the Vegas odds on that ever happening).
And then he got to the point:
“My client demands that you immediately and fully retract all of the defamatory statements you have published about him and Trustify, and where appropriate, publish corrections.”
The specific of the complaint seems to take umbrage with:
- March 9, 2017, blog post where I, “published the following statement: “According to Danny, he’s a Harvard man without quote marks, but Harvard would say different.” That was a great article! Thanks for noticing it.
- July 2, 2015, blog post where I wrote that, “Mr. Boice” pretends his not-for-credit, anyone with a credit card allowed, online Harvard class made him a Harvard alum.” Again, Mr Conti, I’d like to thank you for noticing my good work! That article was one of my favorites and folks can link to it here. As you can see I updated it in an attempt to clarify and make Danny feel better (as of this writing I have yet to receive a Thank You from the Danster Boicemeister). Mr Conti goes on to state that Mr Boice (no respect intended) did in fact attend Harvard University!!!! Truth be known I also went to Harvard a few months ago too! To visit my son. Yet years ago Danny implied that he was a Harvard grad. Numerous folks remember when he was out pitching to raise capital for Speek that he constantly left out any qualifiers to the Harvard referenced as his education on his bios. Numerous internet articles fell for the bait and reported him as a Harvard grad (like this 2011 post). Eventually Boice admitted he didn’t graduate but still implied that he was part of the real Harvard… not Harvard Extension School as in, I’ll quote cranky columnist, Glen Hellman here, “pretends his not-for-credit, anyone with a credit card allowed” classes were equivalent to being admitted into a very competitive program.” Recently Danny has revealed…. and I assume he’s revealed this reluctantly under pressure that he was not enrolled in the real Harvard but in the “Harvard” that indeed admits anyone with the ability to pay for the class to enroll. (assumptions regarding Dan’s intentions are not facts or opinions they are assumptions which may or may not be true).
- Mr Conti than makes an ironic statement: “Your statement that Mr. Boice intentionally misrepresented his credentials, particularly those relating to Harvard University, is false, and you would have discovered this had you performed even a cursory level of research on this issue.” Hahaha Mr Conti, had you performed even a cursory level of research on this issue you would have realized that Danny has only recently, like in the last 2 months, prior to you sending me this ill-advised letter, adjusted his profile to admit he had no academic accomplishments of any note (my opinion on Danny’s lack of academic credentials. Readers are enthusiastically encouraged to form your own low opinion of Mr Boice’s lack of academic achievements). BTW, I missed the part in this Article dated April 2013 where “Mr” Boice corrected the interviewer to let him know he wasn’t a graduate. Maybe you can find it for me Mr Conti… after all you’re so good on being preachy about doing my research…. why don’t you do some?
- March 9, 2017 blog post, “you repeatedly refer to Mr. Boice as a “Flim Flam man” Now this is absolutely true. I did and still do refer to him, as a Flim Flam man…. what would you call the person who founded a company called Flim Flam (Trustifies original name)? And really isn’t someone who pretends to be better educated than he really is in order to gain some economic advantage a Flim Flam man? Just saying (does saying “just saying” inoculate one from legal redress?).
- March 9, 2017 blog post, where I republish an articles from Glass Door, Mr Conti makes the specious argument “The republished post asserts that Mr. Boice and Trustify “have fired more than 3 women who have reported sexual harassment charges …. ” Trustify has not fired three women who have reported sexual harassment charges. In fact, Trustify has never had a single reported instance of sexual harassment to its human resources department.” Hmmm that’s a very interesting statement, “never had a single reported instance of sexual harassment to its human resources department.” How does Mr Conti know this? Is this his opinion or can her verify this as a fact? Wouldn’t it be interesting to depose all former Trustify employees? Wouldn’t it be interesting if by pursuing this further, people with knowledge of the facts came forward and were willing to testify? By the way, according to Fox News, no one ever reported incidents of sexual harassment to their HR department either. Should they report it to the boss who was Harassing them?
“Excuse me boss but I’d like to report you to you for harassing me.”
- March 9, 2017, blog post, Mr Conti asserts this blog post makes the false assertion and defamatory statement “concerning Mr. Boice, his company, and his spouse, including: “The disgusting behavior of the CEO, Danny Boice and his wife/trophy ‘President,’ Jennifer Mellon. Horrible human beings, thieves who deceit [sic] their investors, employees …. ” These statements falsely assert that Ms. Mellon is unqualified to be the President of Trustify and that she obtained her position at the company only because of her relationship to Mr. Boice.” So what? I reposted a Glassdoor review by a purported ex-Trustify employee’s opinion that questioned Jennifer Mellon’s ability as a as CEO. Yup that was me. Yet I didn’t say she was unqualified in that post, I’m saying it in this post like right here in the next sentence. What kind of moronic, unqualified CEO would authorize such a stupid legal request as this letter (there you go, now I not only said Jen Mellon is unqualified I called her a moron)? In that blog post however, I failed to question Jennifer Mellon’s ability… in fact I didn’t know who the crap Jennifer Mellon was.
- March 7, 2017, Blog post, Conti goes on and on and on and on to complain that I stated that Trustify is one of DCs best known dumpster fires without conducting any research. Mr Conti appears to have not conducted any research when he took the Danster’s word on Trustify’s finances.
- Conti supplies no proof when he asserts that Trustify has raised $10 million in funding. Had he done the most basic research on Angel List, Crunchbase, Moneytree and used his old Google machine he would have only found documented evidence of 2.4 million in funding.
- Mr Conti, I assure you I did lots of research before rendering my opinion…. Trustify is a Dumpster Fire. In fact I have documented proof that that is my opinion and I’m willing to sell you that documented evidence if you’re willing to pay!
- Conti goes on to make all kinds of assertions like Trustify has $8 million in revenue in two years (looking at reviews, downloads, I’m dubious of that number).
- That Trustify has $5 million in cash. You’d think they’d be able to afford a better lawyer if they had $5 million in cash. I don’t believe and see no proof that Trustify has $5 in cash on hand.
- Conti does not supply any proof leaving me to only assume that the Financials he’s presented come directly from the same guy who use to be a Harvard grad before he revised that to Harvard drop out and then rerevised it to having a credit card.
- After Mr Conti’s masterful defense of Trustify I have now come to the conclusion that calling Trustify a Dumpster Fire is unfair to Dumpsters. I don’t believe one word of these financial’s that Conti presented in the letter… not even the word “the.” Show me audited financials.
- The nicest compliment to me and insult to people like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein is that Conti then goes on to accuse me of being a journalist! Thank you! Conti states “As a journalist, you are not insulated from liability when you republish a statement of fact that has no attribution or actual facts to support the claim.” I’ve never been called a journalist before. I wish my mom was here to read that…. a journalist isn’t quite a doctor… but it’s better than a cranky satirist blogger. Thanks!
- Conti then lets me know that Trustify is backed by real credible law firms although none of the non-ambulance chasing firms are threatening me in this letter. He basically asserts, be afraid Mr Cranky, because Danny Boice Trustify uses real attorney’s, like DLA Piper and King and Spalding but not when those guys must do due diligence before representing fiction as facts.
I know for a fact that I’m not the first person Danny has threatened with legal action for revealing the ugly truth. I’m just the guy willing to make it public and not cower in fear from a toothless bully (hey Conti, toothless is an expression not to be taken literally. I think it’s highly probable that Boice has a tooth.).
The letter goes on to brag about a diverse workforce, diverse leadership team, some blah blah blah, don’t discriminate, the most transparent company ever created, most fabulous and greatest Venture Capital Investors of all time, the DC Mayor loves Trustify, pro bono, Sonny Bono, U2 Bono, some more blah blah blah, Ms Mellon is really really smart, went to college, didn’t flunk out of James Madison, blah blah blah. Stop exercising your constitutional rights. Blah Blah Blah. Stop being mean!
Finally the letter ominously threatens, and I quote:
“Mr. Boice demands that you provide any and all evidence to support the statements you have published about him, as well as the statements about Trustify and any of its officers or employees. If you are unable to provide any supporting evidence, Mr. Boice demands that you fully retract all of the false and defamatory statements you have published about him and Trustify and that you publish a correction of all of these false and defamatory statements in the same manner and in the same media that you published the false and defamatory statements. Mr. Boice also demands that you immediately cease and desist publishing any further false and defamatory statements regarding him and Trustify. Please provide my office with any supporting evidence you have for your published statements concerning Mr. Boice and/or Trustify, or retract and publish the appropriate corrections on or before 5:00 p.m. EST on April 21, 2017.”
Well I demand that Danny Boice changes his underwear every hour and that he should wear his underwear on his head so we can verify that they’re clean by 2:34 Greenwich Mean Time March 5th. But that’s probably not going to happen either.
Now let’s see how a real attorney would reply to this trash. What follows is the work of art response by a great attorney. Reprinted in full because he’s my attorney and he gave me permission. Check out Matt’s Bio Here
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
1200 Seventeenth Street NW | Washington, DC 20036-3006 | tel 202.663.8000 | fax 202.663.8007
Matthew J. MacLean
April 18, 2017
VIA EMAIL AND FEDERAL EXPRESS
Anthony M. Conti
Conti Fenn & Lawrence PLLC
36 South Charles Street, Suite 2501
Baltimore, MD 21201
Re: Reply to April 12, 2017 Cease and Desist Letter
Dear Mr. Conti,
My firm represents Glen Hellman, aka “Mr. Cranky.” Thank you for your letter.
We have carefully reviewed the relevant blog entries, and do not agree with your assessment that they are false and defamatory. Most are merely statements of opinion, which are not actionable as defamation. For example, when Mr. Hellman said that Trustify is a “dumpster fire,” he clearly meant it as a metaphor, and not as a literal statement of fact.
In the same vein, “crook” and “con man” are plainly “nonactionable rhetorical hyperbole.” Mattel, Inc. v. MCA Records, Inc., 296 F.3d 894, 908 (9th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation omitted) (finding terms “bank robber,” “heist”, “crime” and “theft” were not defamatory); see also Beverly Enterprises, Inc. v. Trump, 182 F.3d 183, 187 (3d Cir. 1999) (“Courts … have long recognized a distinction between actionable defamation and mere obscenities, insults, and other verbal abuse. Statements which are merely annoying or embarrassing or no more than rhetorical hyperbole or a vigorous epithet are not defamatory.”) (citing Greenbelt Cooperative Publishing Assoc. v. Bresler, 398 U.S. 6, 14 (1970)).
At any rate, reasonable readers understand that Mr. Hellman, who pens a blog under the name “Mr. Cranky”, is “a satirist, a humorist and a snarky commentator” who provides his perspective on issues of interest to technology investors. The March 9, 2017 article title “Dis-Trustify: Is #DCTech’s Trustify Trustworthy?”, for example, is pure paronomasia playing on the company’s name, concept, and a number of unfavorable reviews posted to a well-known website. Similarly, Mr. Hellman’s use of the term “Flim Flam man” is an obvious pun drawing upon Trustify’s former name, FlimFlam (a name that Mr. Boice presumably chose or approved of at one point). Such witticisms fall far short of defamation, particularly given that Trustify literally was a FlimFlam operation.
As to Mr. Hellman’s reporting of posts from Glassdoor.com, Mr. Hellman was simply reporting that these posts were made, not that they were true. In Mr. Hellman’s experience, the mere existence of such posts can be of as much interest to prospective investors as the posts’ veracity. Moreover, it is commonly understood in the Twitterverse and blogosphere that retweets and re-posts do not constitute endorsement. Your claim that Mr. Hellman vouched for their reliability is taken completely out of context. He was referring to the favorable posts, not the unfavorable posts, when he said that he was “positive” that they would “stand up to as much scrutiny as the founders college transcripts and his record of “successful startup career.’” I believe this is fully consistent with your own position.
Nevertheless, although we do not believe he has published anything false or defamatory, Mr. Hellman was persuaded that some clarification should be published with regard to Mr.Boice’s failure to achieve a degree from Harvard University’s Division of Continuing Education, which, according to Harvard’s website, “offers open-enrollment courses, degrees, and certificates, and professional development programs.” http://www.dce.harvard.edu/. An edifying article on the subject of the Harvard Continuing Education Division can be found here: “Did I Really Go To Harvard If I Got My Degree Taking Online Classes?” https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/09/did-i-really-go-to-harvard-if-i-gotmy-degree-taking-online-classes/279644/ (noting that “with no admission letter in hand and exactly zero hours spent preparing for graduate admissions tests, [the author] became a Harvard student” and that “of all the students that have taken courses at HES since its inception, less than one fifth of 1 percent have graduated with degrees.”). Mr. Hellman has no intention of unduly minimizing anybody’s educational accomplishments—or, in Mr. Boice’s case, education short of accomplishment—and has already published an appropriate clarification referencing his earlier posts on the subject.
Finally, although Mr. Hellman does not agree with certain of your contentions, he strongly believes that his intelligent and discerning readers would like to hear from Mr. Boice on the subjects you have raised, so that they can reach their own conclusions based on all the facts. As he indicated in his email to you yesterday, he would be very pleased to post your letter to his blog, with your permission.
I trust this will satisfy your concerns. Again, thank you for raising them.
Mathew J. MacLean
Needless to say… I recommend Matthew J. MacLean over Anthony M. Conti anyday. More info about Matt by linking here.
Update: June 30, 2017
Since writing this post on May 3rd, with 2 months under the bridge there has been no response from Trustify, Danny or their Attorney. Many former Trustify employees have shared stories that I will use in future posts. Many former Trustify employees have sent me copies of threatening demand letters that they have received from multiple different attorneys. What’s up with that? Why can’t Trustify keep a consistent relationship with an attorney?
The Lesson are many:
- Don’t Make Empty Threats
- Think who has more to lose before you decide to take or fake an action
- Hire a good attorney and not a joke
- A good attorney will tell you to stop being a friggin idiot
- If you don’t want people to call you a scumbag, try hard as hell not to be a scumbag
- Thanks for all the publicity! I actually picked up 3 clients who found me and engaged me after reading about this in the Washington Business Journal
- If you’re keeping score at home it’s: Mr Cranky – 10 — Flim Flam Danny Boice – 0
Finally thank you all for your financial support. For those who donated to the Mr Cranky defense fund the final invoice slightly exceeded the amount donated. I could not have used the money more wisely to promote my business.
Update: May 30, 2017
Spoiler Alert… For some reason… Danny and his low rent attorney have not been able to muster a response to our response. Sadly, The FlimFlam man has gone dark.