LendingTree Lawyers Threaten Blogger With Defamation

Alex Stenback of Behind the Mortgage recently posted the LendingTree data breach story seen here, and his posting attracted a provocative comment regarding LendingTree’s lending practices. In short, the commenter alleged that LendingTree does not let banks compete, but has its own internal lending division (Home Loan Center) that does all the “competing.”

Who knows where the commenter got his information, but a class-action lawsuit in 2006 alleged just that: banks were not really competing, just LendingTree employees. As far as I can tell, the lawsuit is ongoing.

Apparently, all this bothered LendingTree, which sent its lawyer after Stenback to remove the comment, suggesting that by hosting it, Stenback was defaming LendingTree (not likely):

Thanks Alex. Perhaps I was unclear. Are you unwilling to remove the entire comment? It is rife with defamatory comments about LendingTree officers. We would very much appreciate you doing as other blogs have done with this exact comment by removing it entirely.

Maybe that is a polite request, but it sounds like a threat to me. And heck, it sounds like the comment even has some basis in fact.

Comments

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  1. Pylon83 says:

    More or less, websites are not responsible for the content of independent posters/commenters. I believe there was a 7th Circuit case regarding Craigslist and some discriminatory housings listings that established/affirmed this.

  2. khiltd says:

    All you really need to do is apply for a loan through LendingTree and see if you recognize the names of any of the “banks” that are “competing” for the chance to rob you blind. I certainly hadn’t and took my business elsewhere, but that didn’t stop them from emailing me 2-3 times a day for several years. I guess junk mail was what I won.

  3. Screw Lending Tree and all of it’s board of director’s. I wouldn’t trust any further than I could throw them , under water, behind my back. Defame these NUTZ!

  4. khiltd says:

    Apply for a loan through them and see if you recognize the names of any of the “banks” that “compete” for the chance to rob you blind. Use a disposable email address, though, because all you’ll ever actually “win” is a whole lot of junk mail.

  5. Techguy1138 says:

    What part of that is a threat?

  6. khiltd says:

    Sorry for the double; it looked like the form ate the first one!

  7. Squeegoth says:

    ALL LENDING TREE EMPLOYEES WILL EAT YOUR DELICIOUS, DELICIOUS BABIES SO THAT THEY CAN USE THEIR POWER FOR THEIR ANGRY SNAKE GODS.

    Sue the fuck out of me. Have at it.

  8. Tzepish says:

    “It is rife with defamatory comments about LendingTree officers”

    Defamatory? Doesn’t it have to be false to be defamatory?

  9. SuffolkHouse says:

    Lending Tree doesn’t let banks compete? I’m surprised to learn that Lending Tree doesn’t let banks compete. It certainly would surprise a lot of people that Lending Tree doesn’t let banks compete.

  10. Crazytree says:

    “The U.S. state of California enacted Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16 in 1992, a statute intended to prevent the misuse of litigation in SLAPP suits. It provides for a special motion which a defendant can file at the outset of a lawsuit to strike a complaint where the complaint arises from conduct that falls within the rights of petition or free speech. The statute expressly applies to any writing or speech made in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial proceeding, or any other official proceeding authorized by law, but there is no requirement that the writing or speech be promulgated directly to the official body. It also applies to speech in a public forum about an issue of public interest and to any other petition or speech conduct about an issue of public interest.

    The filing of an anti-SLAPP motion prevents the plaintiff from amending the complaint and stays all discovery. If the special motion is denied, the filing of an appeal immediately stays the trial court proceedings as to each challenged cause of action. Defendants prevailing on an anti-SLAPP motion (including any subsequent appeal) are entitled to a mandatory award of reasonable attorney’s fees. More than 200 published court opinions have interpreted and applied California’s anti-SLAPP law.

    California’s Code of Civil Procedure § 425.17 corrects abuse of the anti-SLAPP statute (CCP § 425.16). Signed into law on September 6, 2003, this statute prohibits anti-SLAPP motions in response to certain public interest lawsuits and class actions, and actions that arise from commercial statements or conduct. Section 425.18, signed into law on October 6, 2005, was enacted to facilitate SLAPP victims in recovering their damages through a SLAPPback (malicious prosecution action) against the SLAPP filers and their attorneys after the underlying SLAPP has been dismissed.”

  11. socritic says:

    No business from me or anyone i know to lending tree. bullies are SO last decade.

  12. BigElectricCat says:

    In this case, the lawyer in question appears to be more of a thug than anything else:

    “It is rife with defamatory comments about LendingTree officers.”

    Which parts, specifically, are alleged to be defamatory? And how does Mr./Ms. Attorney arrive at that conclusion?

    “We would very much appreciate you doing as other blogs have done with this exact comment by removing it entirely.”

    1) I doubt other blogs have done that.

    2) Why remove the *entire* comment?

    Looks more like damage control to me.

  13. Crazytree says:

    Global Telemedia International, Inc. v. Doe 1 et al.
    Cite as: 132 F.Supp.2d 1261

    GLOBAL TELEMEDIA INTERNATIONAL, Inc.; Jonathon Bentley-Stevens; Regina S. Peralta, Plaintiffs,
    v.
    DOE 1 aka BUSTEDAGAIN40; Doe 2 aka ELECTRICK_MAN; Doe 3 aka BDAMAN609;
    and Does 4 through 35, inclusive, Defendants.

    U.S. District Court, Central District of California

    No. SA CV 00-1155 DOC (EEx)

  14. JiminyChristmas says:

    @Techguy1138:

    The giveaway is the word defamatory; which is part of the legalese related to libel/slander lawsuits.

  15. Techguy1138 says:

    @JiminyChristmas:
    Thanks!

    I guess I wouldn’t have given this a second thought since the blog wasn’t the origination source, nor was the blogger the author.

    I can see the implied link now.

  16. m4ximusprim3 says:

    I once saw C.D. Davies strapped down on a log naked while Keith Hall inserted greased pigs into his rectum. Bob Harris took pictures and fondled himself.

    Thats the truth, I swear it.

  17. Buran says:

    @Crazytree: Is that a real filing?

  18. lightaugust says:

    Is this enough to give Lending Tree a bye in the first round of the Worst Company tourney?

  19. AT203 says:

    Note, blogs and websites are not liable for content posted by their users.

    [en.wikipedia.org]

  20. spinachdip says:

    @Techguy1138: FWIW, there (not exactly) gray area exists because:
    1) Whether the blog author wrote the comments or not, he is the publisher of the comment, however passive a role he takes. In libel, it’s not so much the false and defamatory speech, but the reproduction of said false and defamatory speech that’s baaaaaaad.
    2) Whether a medium is the source of the false and defamatory speech is irrelevant. If you publish (or enable the publishing) false and defamatory speech, whether it’s coming from you or attributed to someone else, you’re publishing libel.

    This is all moot of course, as publishers aren’t held liable for libel committed by commenters, but you can see why publishers need to be explicitly protected.

  21. BigElectricCat says:

    @spinachdip:

    Key phrase: “FALSE and defamatory speech”

    Emphasis mine. Defamatory statements that have the virtue of being true are a horse of a different color.

  22. spinachdip says:

    @BigElectricCat: In the case of Lending Tree, make that “knowingly false and defamatory”.

    It looks like Lending Tree threw out the “defamatory” out there to scare the little blogger who may not have taken Media Law in college.

  23. Chongo says:

    Here’s a question I have though: is the website responsible for reporting the commentor’s IP address to the lawyers if they want them? what if the site refuses?

  24. Daniel says:

    Get Consumerist! =P

    The comment (I think. It was the only one at that link):

    LT was not hacked. LT has a web access system and high paid LOs making an average of $7,500 per Interest Only ARM Loan for LTs internal lending division, LT Loans. To understand LT Loans and the level of senior management driven crime, Google for the lawsuit where LendingTree promises “When banks compete you win”. This lawsuit stems from the reality that the consumer’s identity info went only to their own internal lender LT Loans. LT Loans then displayed wholesaler names as lenders to the consumer and closed loans internally with LT Loans.

    Yes the LendingTree Senior Team knew there was risk in letting LT Loans manage their own leads without matching to lenders on their network as the original business model was founded on. Each person on the senior team had a million dollar+ bonus based upon LT Loan Revenue- would you imagine the smiles arround the table in senior team meetings when it was decided weekly that it is ok to match only to LT Loans with million dollar+ bonuses?

    Note that the CEOs on both coasts and most of the VPs on that senior team have decided to pursue family interests after their bonus payouts in cash and stock incentives. The senior team laid off people who managed their systems, and then their senior team was negligent in managing consumer data. Loan Officers stopped making high commissions and sold consumer identities to multiple dishonest lenders. LendingTree Senior Executives did not deactivate passwords to the systems that hold the 70+ consumer data fields including your address, your cell phone number, and your social security number.

    Do you think while having weekly senior team meetings each and every senior executive with a bonus based upon margins at Lending Tree Loans choose not see the risk in sending consumer information to an internal entity without monitoring simple password deactivation? For more than 6 months, 10,000 new consumer records a day- the senior team continued to allow LT Loans to operate without shutting down passwords in their legacy systems.

    Don’t believe it?

    Here is the still public link to the LendingTree consumer data- [REDACTED AT THE REQUEST OF LENDING TREE LEGAL REPRESENTATION] link to the FBI Mortgage Fraud Division. [www.fbi.gov]

    [tips.fbi.gov] Identity Theft Fraud for Profit and by Senior LendingTree Executives is a possible topic. The FBI has a field office in Charlotte about 30 minutes from LendingTree so take the 3 minutes to file an online form. Of course this is just my opinion…

  25. spinachdip says:

    @Daniel: OMG, you just added Consumerist to the list of defendants in a future, possible, but for now imaginary lawsuit!

    @Chongo: I was wondering about that too. I imagine you can refuse, but you could be subpoenaed?

  26. nobodygrrl says:

    @Pylon83:

    Actually, our friends in Congress, through the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230), have shielded website operators from liability for publishing defamatory posts so long as it doesn’t seem like the websites are doing anything that resembles filtering, editing, or authoring the posts. In fact, in most states, they don’t even have to remove the posts despite being on actual notice of the defamatory content.

    The best that a “victim” can do is file a lawsuit against a “Doe” defendant and then subpoena the IP records from the website. If they’re able to identify the poster, then they can substitute him/her for the “Doe” and go from there. Plus, most complaints-oriented websites have language in their TOS that provide that content will be removed upon a court order, which the “victim” can usually get via a preliminary injunction (even one that’s not contested because there’s a “Doe” defendant). You just have to find a judge that’s willing to go with you on it.

  27. Crazytree says:

    @Buran:

    [www.casp.net]

    [www.casp.net]

    note: these are only CA cases

  28. mikelotus says:

    I’ll have to post the comment on my blog to and time to digg it.

  29. charodon says:

    nobodygrrl is correct. There aren’t many clear rules in law, but this is one of them. 47 U.S.C. 230(c)(1) absolutely immunizes bloggers for defamation liability for a comment posted on their blogs by an unrelated third party. That’s true even if the blogger edits the comment to remove objectionable material, which Stenback did. He can remove the comment or not remove it, it’s his choice, but he won’t be liable either way.

  30. Was this the comment?

    LT was not hacked. LT has a web access system and high paid LOs making an average of $7,500 per Interest Only ARM Loan for LTs internal lending division, LT Loans. To understand LT Loans and the level of senior management driven crime, Google for the lawsuit where LendingTree promises “When banks compete you win”. This lawsuit stems from the reality that the consumer’s identity info went only to their own internal lender LT Loans. LT Loans then displayed wholesaler names as lenders to the consumer and closed loans internally with LT Loans.

    Yes the LendingTree Senior Team knew there was risk in letting LT Loans manage their own leads without matching to lenders on their network as the original business model was founded on. Each person on the senior team had a million dollar+ bonus based upon LT Loan Revenue- would you imagine the smiles arround the table in senior team meetings when it was decided weekly that it is ok to match only to LT Loans with million dollar+ bonuses?

    Note that the CEOs on both coasts and most of the VPs on that senior team have decided to pursue family interests after their bonus payouts in cash and stock incentives. The senior team laid off people who managed their systems, and then their senior team was negligent in managing consumer data. Loan Officers stopped making high commissions and sold consumer identities to multiple dishonest lenders. LendingTree Senior Executives did not deactivate passwords to the systems that hold the 70+ consumer data fields including your address, your cell phone number, and your social security number.

    Do you think while having weekly senior team meetings each and every senior executive with a bonus based upon margins at Lending Tree Loans choose not see the risk in sending consumer information to an internal entity without monitoring simple password deactivation? For more than 6 months, 10,000 new consumer records a day- the senior team continued to allow LT Loans to operate without shutting down passwords in their legacy systems.

    Don’t believe it?

    Here is the still public link to the LendingTree consumer data- [REDACTED AT THE REQUEST OF LENDING TREE LEGAL REPRESENTATION] link to the FBI Mortgage Fraud Division. [www.fbi.gov]

    [tips.fbi.gov] Identity Theft Fraud for Profit and by Senior LendingTree Executives is a possible topic. The FBI has a field office in Charlotte about 30 minutes from LendingTree so take the 3 minutes to file an online form. Of course this is just my opinion…

    whoops, another copy exists!

  31. Skeptic says:

    Defamatory is ok if it is true.

    Libel requires it to be **false** and defamatory, and sometimes **knowingly** false and defamatory.

  32. hi says:

    This is the price of being defamous.

    pfblueprint

  33. WhirlyBird says:
  34. SarraJK says:

    @ khiltd: I used them in 2006 to refi my HELOC. The responders I’d heard of were E*Trade, Wachovia, and Chase. The lenders were pretty aggressive with their pitches (and lots of emails), but overall it was a pretty good experience. Even Wachovia, who was my current lender, offered better deal than I’d been able to get when I first approached them about a refi.

    One of the companies I hadn’t heard of was pretty aggressive, even months after I’d chosen another company. I wonder if they were affiliated with Lending Tree.

  35. BlyGilmore says:

    The sad thing is for every one person that questions a letter by a law firm and what it is asking, 10 people get the fear of god struck in them and kowtow to the law firms every wish.

  36. PLATTWORX says:

    I made the stupid mistake of visiting Lending Tree to investigate new car loan rates. I have, in the last day, received 43 (I counted) messages from all over the place, mostly spam… offering deals on loans and cars. I even got called by a Toyota dealer two states away because they were told I had interest in their cars. (WHAT?!?!!?) Every lender that contacted me sounded and acted like someone giving loans out of their basement at home. Very unprofessional. I won’t be back!