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ML-Implode Wins Reversal In NH Supreme Court Case; Re-Posts Materials on Mortgage Specialists’ Fraud

In a resounding ruling for free speech, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has reversed a superior court’s ruling ordering the Implode-o-Meter web site to take down contributed materials and divulge the identity of a whistleblower.   Read the ruling.

The case was The Mortgage Specialists vs. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc. (the owner of ML-Implode.com). It concerned items posted to MoSpec’s “Ailing/Watch List” entry — the 2007 “Loan Chart” data for the company, and a post by username “Brianbattersby” accusing MoSpec and its President, Michael Gill, of habitual/systemic fraud.

In light of the ruling, the original content has been restored at the company’s ML-Implode profile here.

The portions of the post written by ML-Implode chiefly concerned MoSpec being fined in 2008 by the New Hampshire and Massachusetts banking departments for its practices.  (MoSpec’s President, Michael Gill, called these “compliance” issues; the ML-Implode whistleblower argued otherwise.)

Included in the comments regarding Gill, censored until today, were

This guy is no stranger to REGULATORY ACTIONS. He was caught for FRAUD back in 2002 FOR SIGNING BORROWERS NAMES and bought his way out. He just paid 700,000 FRAUD FINE IN NH AND MA FOR SIGNING BORROWERS NAMES AGAIN ON 20 LOANS. He isn’t really even the owner. He is listed as president of the company but the shares are in his wife’s name. He is NOT ELIGABLE for a brokers license in NH. OH MAN WHAT WAS THE NH BANKING DEPT. THINKING?

The Nashua Telegraph reported on the implications of the case:

The court, for the first time in New Hampshire, set a precedent for how lower courts should treat cases involving the protection of anonymous online commenters. They instructed the courts to weigh claims of defamation against the backdrop of the media’s right to protect its sources.

The case drew national attention for its potential First Amendment implications. The case also had broad implications in determining who constitutes the media in an Internet age that has blurred the line between traditional news outlets and bloggers or citizen journalists.

[Update: Here is the Reporter's Committee coverage of the decision.  (They were one of our amici on the case).]

Since the MoSpec lawsuit against ML-Implode, Gill and MoSpec have been sued by former Operations Executive, Jean Duerr, for large-scale fraud.  The suit argues that the company’s managers were forced to implement systemic doctoring of loan files.  The allegations in this suit, filed in January 2010, are of the same nature as, but go well beyond the information originally released through ML-Implode.

Says site founder and publisher Aaron Krowne in a statement released on the decision,

We are pleased with the court’s ruling on the fundamental questions of free speech and find little to complain about in the analysis.  We have always been confident that there was no legitimacy to MoSpec’s complaint directed towards us, especially in the absence of any actual evidence as to libel or defamation.

We are, however, perplexed that the case was not completely dismissed. The court seemed to acknowledge that the sheer nature of such a suit against us, not the anonymous “Does”, was frivolous; yet it simply let the matter survive and remanded it  back to the lower court.

Besides the overall frivolity of the original action, we are unclear what valid issues involving us remain in play, considering that a former manager at the company has come out and sued them publicly.  This suit contains substantially more detailed allegations of the same character as the ones the whistleblower(s) were attempting to release through us, which in our opinion, not only vindicates us, but undermines the legal cause of action against us.

At any rate, since we have been rendered insolvent by the expense of this and similar frivolous SLAPP suits, we aren’t sure how we will be able to mount a continuing “defense” at all.

As events have unfolded, the nature of this suit has become clear: it is meant to limit the public’s knowledge about financial fraud, even though it is from a known offender, as the offender (and perhaps the banking regulator itself) wishes to accept a limited “settlement” in lieu of the full truth.   The fact that this matter has been allowed to continue on so long, achieving many of its tactical objectives against the whistleblowers, sets a bad precedent.

Thus, the general threat of “SLAPP” suits to bloggers and small-time, independent online media remains very much intact.   We recommend that all such parties intending to comment on significant matters of public concern take strategic (if not legal) steps to inoculate themselves, rather than assuming the courts will protect their actual (rather than theoretical) right to free speech.

There Are 20 Responses So Far. »

  1. Congrats Aaron. You won the good fight.

  2. Thanks Aaron for fighting the good fight!!!

    Strike one up for the little guys.

    It is too bad you are not allowed to collect court costs from the scum bag. After all…

    Our constitution quite consciously ties a free press to a free state, for effective self-government cannot succeed unless the people have access to an unimpeded and uncensored flow of reporting. News gathering is an integral part of the process.

  3. Please don’t give up! So many of us have already been pushed out. No matter how loud we speak or how often we just don’t seem to be heard. But if we keep speaking sooner than later knowledge will win out! Please keep up the awesome work!

  4. Congratulations, Aaron. I know this is quite a victory for free speech and particularly bloggers’ rights to the same. We may all be in your debt. I am also confused as to why it was merely remanded to the lower court. Ah, well. Perhaps a contingency lawyer will help out now. ;-)

  5. In the end, the good guys are supposed to win. We all know this put you through hell, but something really good is going to emerge for you with all of this.

    Aaron Krowne – 1
    Scumbag Abuser of Process – 0

  6. I read the opinion. I think it was well-written. While it would have been nice for the matter to completely end, the result is proper, the appellate court does not determine the disposition of the case but merely pointed out where the trial court erred and directed the court to now conduct its hearing within the scope of the appellate courts ruling. The plaintiff has a difficult road ahead.

    While ml-implode may have spent a ton of money preserving their right of free speech, the cost of doing so is inherent in the business of being a free speech publication. It is the cost of doing business. That hurts but you can expect that this will not be the last time someone will attempt to attack what is published and you have to adjust your business model to anticipate it. Checkbook got hurt in this, no question.

    A great win for ml-implode and a great win for free speech. I hope that the Plaintiff in the case reaches out and you all agree to a joint dismissal and move on. The only winners from this point forward will be legal counsel who get the pleasure of billing and collecting fees.

  7. [...] Specialists, Inc. v. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc. [PDF] The Implode-o-Meter Blog explains: The case was The Mortgage Specialists vs. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc. (the owner of [...]

  8. [...] Mortage Lender Implode-O-Meter blog reports: In a resounding ruling for free speech, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has reversed [...]

  9. [...] Mortage Lender Implode-O-Meter blog reports: In a resounding ruling for free speech, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has reversed [...]

  10. This is just another example of how the NH Banking Dept. spends its time harrassing those of us who are honest and strive to be the best licensees we can, while totally subjugating their responsibility when it comes to the real crooks. Mortgage Specialists should be shut down, but a hefty fine paid to the Department apparently was their “get out of jail card”. They also turned a blind eye on the recent Financial Resources Mortgage debacle/ponzi scheme. There will be more to come on this, but short of the Commissioner losing his job will be an injustice to all of us who run good honest companies.

  11. Oh boy, I just hope this helps me out of a Superior Court counter-SLAPP suit with Judge McHugh residing.

    I am a solitary citizen in NH that posted on a matter of public concern (all with reasonable and reliable sourcing) yet still have limited resources available.

    Must be common to infringe on free speech and truth to keep so much garbage hidden in this state.

  12. [...] (which had recently been totally outlawed, a fact conceded even by its own principals), and by an allegedly-corrupt mortgage lender out of New Hampshire, the Mortgage Specialists (which recently had been fined by multiple regional [...]

  13. [...] The Mortgage Specialists (ongoing) [...]

  14. Attorneys Code of ethics
    My letter yesterday clearly spelled out ethical and legal violations by the NH Supreme court and judges and attorneys. It is not like thousands of judges and attorneys did not read this letters. It is posted thousands of places on the web for the world to read. The American Bar Association in NH must be pulling it’s teeth out trying to use the law to stop my opinion letters of wrongs and Constitutional crimes by the very trusted citizens of this civilized society. The newspapers refuse to inform their readers of the unbiased truth so where do we go? Just type in “NH Supreme Court Libeled” and read the letter. No citizen can be put through the ridicule and harm because attorneys through the NH SC have figured out a way to manipulate the law to control and harm US Citizens for their own self gain. There is no question of libelous response to my letters for the truth is a powerful weapon. To stop my medical care for combat related disabilities received defending the USA goes far beyond any ethical code it is criminally wrong. My letter today will go out to thousands of law firms across the USA to see what ethical responsibility they feel to the USA and 100% combat related disabled US military veterans.
    The responsibility of the USA Today newspaper to print this letter front page is a solution that just might open eyes. The responsibility of any newspaper to print this letter front page is unquestionably the ethical responsibility that our civilized society seems to have lost. There is no liability as everyone in the world has easy access to my letters of government wrongs. I as any individual process the power to question the wrongful actions of even the NH SC. Government retribution to stop the free speech of a 100% disabled US Marine cannot be tolerated. I fell yesterday in my yard and lay helpless until a friend heard my voice. The body pain was so unreal and the delusional thoughts from the bump on my head made flashes of the enemy campsite that I was taken. My friend took me to the house and there I lay on the couch so my wife would not find out. My friend wanted to call the ambulance. I saw no need for another fight with my wife as the VA sends the bills to us again. Under the Americans with disabilities act should the judges and government officials have the right to do this to a 100% disabled US Marine?
    My thoughts of suicide are real as the enemy that I killed to escape. Reality of ever coming home is lost in the mind of that US Marine in the bush of Cambodia trying to do as his country orders him. The USA should be proud of pride we the US Military give to keep the USA strong and free. Why do you treat us like second-class citizens when we come back a different person than left? Pissing on the enemy is minor compared to the horrors of life waiting to kill them before they kill us. What do you think they did to me at that campsite before I left? Before you take our rights and judge us try living as we did for the freedom and security of the United States of America.
    Peter Macdonald Sgt USMC Semper Fi
    465 Packers falls Rd Lee NH 03824 603-659-6217

  15. [...] a May 2010 landmark decision, the New Hampshire Supreme court ruled in the case of The Mortgage Specialists vs. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc. [...]

  16. [...] a May 2010 landmark decision, the New Hampshire Supreme court ruled in the case of The Mortgage Specialists vs. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc. (ML-Implode’s [...]

  17. [...] a May 2010 landmark decision, the New Hampshire Supreme court ruled in the case of The Mortgage Specialists vs. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc. (ML-Implode’s [...]

  18. [...] a May 2010 landmark decision, the New Hampshire Supreme court ruled in the case of The Mortgage Specialists vs. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc. [...]

  19. [...] a May 2010 landmark decision, the New Hampshire Supreme court ruled in the case of The Mortgage Specialists vs. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc. (ML-Implode’s [...]

  20. [...] a May 2010 landmark decision, the New Hampshire Supreme court ruled in the case of  The Mortgage Specialists vs. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc. [...]

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