Six-year-old DLA Piper is in the news again today. Or, more accurately, its client, wood pellet salesman Paul Ceglia — the man who is suing Facebook for half the company — is in the news. The reason, of course: Facebook has just filed a document with the court that not only calls Ceglia an “egregious fraud,” but pushes before it a mound of new evidence that may have onlookers wondering why DLA Piper took the case.
DLA Piper isn’t backing down, though. The law firm, and Ceglia’s other attorneys, Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman, sent the following statement to peHUB:
“Mr. Ceglia welcomes the opportunity to expedite discovery in this case and disagrees with the opinions within the filing, which have been made by those who have not examined the actual contract at issue in this case or any of the other relevant evidence.”
Facebook’s attorneys responded to Ceglia’s suit — as Forbes reported earlier today — claiming their investigators found that Ceglia was charged with misdemeanor trespassing in Florida six years ago. Ceglia was on someone’s private property, trying to sell it, Facebook’s attorneys say. According to the court document:
“That trespass incident appears to be part of a wide-ranging criminal land scam involving the fraudulent sale of land in New York and Florida. Working from his base in Wellsville, Ceglia defrauded numerous victims by, among other things, (1) fraudulently misrepresenting tracts of land as buildable or useable as residential tracts when, in fact, they were not; (2) engaging in ‘shill bidding’ on eBay, thus artificially inflating the price of the land being auctioned; and (3) in some cases, simply accepting down payments and financing payments for land that he did not own and was in no position to sell.”
Facebook’s legal response also alleges that Ceglia’s purported agreement with Zuckerberg is an “amateurish forgery,” according to the experts hired by the company, and that the emails that Ceglia claims to have exchanged with Zuckerberg don’t exist on his Harvard email account.
Having the highly regarded DLA Piper take on the case in the first place lent Ceglia’s case enough credibility that people have taken his claims seriously. DLA Piper told Business Insider that it performed “weeks” of due diligence to persuade itself that Ceglia’s claims were valid.
It isn’t clear if the response from Facebook’s attorneys will hurt DLA Piper’s image. The firm’s integrity was also called into question last month in a malpractice suit that it settled, according to the Associated Press. The AP reported that DLA Piper “helped a San Diego developer siphon off millions of dollars from a joint project with [Miami-based homebuilder] Lennar while representing both the company and the developer, according to a malpractice lawsuit settled by the Miami-based home-builder and the firm.”
According to the AP, “Lennar [in March] acknowledged a $37.5 million third-party confidential settlement contributed to a $27.4 million first-quarter profit for the company. The Daily Business Review learned the settlement came in the DLA Piper malpractice case.”
DLA Piper declined to comment about the Lennar case when asked about it by peHUB.