A disturbing taste of the “Digital Wild West”

Dodgy dealings happen all the time but it’s not often you get to see it boiling over into the public arena as we have today. I saw in my newsfeed this morning that GrokLaw had picked up on (Darl, Norris, Bryan Cave Named as Defendants in IP Litigation – The Pelican Brief) a Courthouse News article (Ex-Partner Accused of AIP Trade Secret Theft) about a recently filed complaint by Pelican Equity, LLC against Talos Partners, Darl McBride (of SCO Group fame), Robert V. Brazell (of Overstock.com fame), Stephen L. Norris, Rama Ramachandran and lawfirm Bryan Cave LLP.

It claims a conspiracy to “steal AIP’s proprietary stock loan product” (EQUITAP™, [which] helps investors achieve their financial goals by structuring non-recourse loans using the securities in their portfolio as collateral) and “virtually API’s entire business from API and its founder, Mark Robbins” (Pelican claim to own the relevant rights). It then goes on to explain the whole sorry story of a techie (Robbins) investing four years and apparently all of his money into development of a product, being approached by seasoned businessmen (Brazell and McBride) as potential partners, the subsequent formation of a new business (Talos) and theft of everything from AIP’s products to website to employees (Ramachandran) with the help of AIP’s own lawyers (Bryan Cave LLP) who ultimately blew the whistle with an “astonishing” conflict of interest waiver.

The truly mindblowing part of the whole story though is the Skyline Cowboy site they claim is run by McBride and Brazell: “Finally, in a heinous effort to obliterate AIP’s business and deflect their misdeeds [they] have over approximately the last 60 days littered the Internet with scurrilous postings on http://www.skylinecowboy.com, a website they used primarily for that purpose, and on Yahoo, Twitter and other message boards.

If that’s true it’s like coming back to stab the guy in the carpark after you’ve robbed him of everything he owns. Not only have they posted a video of the guy’s wife being served what they claim is a $109,627 check fraud judgment following a $1,000 bounty as well as a $20,000 reward for arrest and $1,000,000 reward for “full restitution” (save that both appear to be impossible – and likely a result of the claimed highway robbery), but now they’ve offered $30,000 for the true identity of GrokLaw’s Pamela Jones (PJ) who they claim is a “Secret IBM Shill Blogger”. Let’s not be too quick to forget the relationship to SCO Group and their apparently Microsoft funded attacks on IBM, Novell and Linux in general.

Anyway you can see the juicy details for yourself in the filings and if you’re a GrokLaw member, the article and associated discussion (the article has since been updated “Now that I’ve read it, I’ve made the article Members Only for now.” and unfortunately “creation of new accounts has been temporarily disabled“). I have but one question: Who the %!#$ do these cowboys think they are? It’s amazing to think that our society routinely jails people for petty theft while leaving [what appear to be] career conmen free to enrich themselves at others’ expense. Anyway at least Bernie Madoff got his comeuppance… you’ve heard my opinion – what’s yours?

Update: An anonymous commenter just stated that they “know for a fact” that Rob Brazell went to Skyline High School. Sure enough a Google search for skyline and salt lake city (where all the action is) brings the school up first (so the origin of the name fits) and another for brazell and skyline high school returns over 100 results (so some members of the Brazell family(s) went there). If that’s true then it seems the lawsuit is “on the money” (so to speak).