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Comment and Opinion

This is the saga of my dealings with a multi-level marketing company.


Some true believers do not give up easily (8/1/2005)
If I were the suspicious, paranoid kind I would be very worried about the amount of email I have been receiving lately about some comments I made about a company new to Australia whose "product" is cheap telephone calls. Generally the conversation starts out with an innocuous, disingenuous enquiry about my knowledge of marketing in general and this company in particular. When I respond, I am then told of people making fabulous amounts of money out of the company (one person even knows someone who is getting "6 figures" a month in commission, something which, according to the company's compensation plan I have, would require tens of millions of dollars worth of telephone bills to pass through that person's downline each month). The reaction to my comments about the way that the company has altered the appearance in its promotional material of the building in which it rents a small amount of office space is "Who cares about signs on buildings?" (I care, because if you can't believe the first thing they say to you, what can you believe?) It seems by the amount of attention I am getting, though, that there is a real campaign going on to block any criticism of the company.

Here are some facts for people who think that they might be able to make "6 figures" a year (or even a lifetime) by selling discounted telephone calls in Australia. The country has four major telecommunications operators and several more who are sniping around the edges. All compete on price. The second-largest company, Optus, has managed to move its market share by about one percentage point since the first anniversary of its opening for business in 1993, and it only achieved what it had then because there were huge government-supported incentives and inducements to change from the existing monopoly carrier (which is still the biggest gorilla in town). Telstra and Optus are virtually unchallenged in the fixed-line telephone market. The most visible competitors over the last few years have been AAPT and Orange. Orange are no longer a fixed-line competitor (they were in the fixed-line market with a strange hybrid system which worked like a cordless phone when you were near the base station and like a mobile phone when you were out of range - the specific technology didn't matter) and AAPT seems to now only advertise cheap overseas calls. The Big Two are required by law to sell capacity at a price which allows companies to profitably resell calls carried by the two carriers. This is where this particular company fits in. Also fitting in are the companies who constantly telemarket businesses offering to save them money if they switch their telephone billing. I get two or three of these calls a week in the office, all telling me that I can stay with Telstra but pay less, and all having the half-second delay and Peter Sellers accent that identify Indian call centres. Untrained distributors are going to compete with this and make lots of money, and they are going to do it without cold calling. Yeah, right.

The mobile phone market is an even better example of how hard it is to get people to change suppliers, because it is a lot easier to get a new SIM card than to get the exchange wires switched over. Again, Telstra and Optus have most of the market. The two most visible competitors are Vodaphone and Hutchison Whampoa (with the Orange and 3 brands). These two companies, which are huge world-wide businesses, literally fight for scraps at the bottom of the mobile phone market. Both spend tens of millions of dollars a year in advertising and offer enormous discounts ($200 worth of calls a month, plus free SMS, plus a free phone, all for $49 a month is a not-unusual offer.) Both are surviving only because their overseas owners have very deep pockets, but even then they may need help. Hutchinson's 3G network will receive a large cash injection from Telstra later this year, and I have heard of a similar planned "merger" of Optus and Vodaphone infrastructure. The corporate competition legislation in Australia discourages big companies putting competitors out of business (or even letting them go out of business by themselves), so these lifebelts to the smaller mobile providers are probably just there to satisfy the bureaucrats and the media. (Remember how Microsoft bought a lot of shares in Apple a few years back because MS feared the backlash if nature took its course and Apple went broke?)

So into this highly-expensive and highly-competitive market comes a company, with "no cold calling, no advertising" rules, and it is going to be far more successful than Vodaphone. Did I already say "Yeah, right!"? I will admit that there is money to be made. It is in collecting the startup fees from as many people as possible before the supply of potential "independent representatives" dries up.


And one more thing ... (5/2/2005)
A multi-level marketing company has claimed that I was violating their copyright by reproducing the first nine steps that a new representative was supposed to perform in order to firmly establish his or her "Global Enterprise". I can understand why they would not want this information to be freely available, as representatives are expected to pay $500 before seeing it. I have paraphrased the nine steps below. (The paraphrase is an original artistic work by Peter Bowditch and he claims copyright in all countries which honour the Berne Convention. Anyone can freely reproduce the paraphrase provided that the original source is acknowledged.)

The nine steps to financial freedom:

  1. Register yourself with the company and give them your credit card number so that they can directly bill you for whatever they need to for the business. Sign up for their service so that your upline can get his commission on your expenditure. Go to a web site which does not look like it has anything official to do with the MLM company but where you can find out about what opportunities will be coming up in the near future for you to spend money on things like meetings and seminars.
  2. Make a list of everyone you know who might be a possible prospect for adding to your downline. This list is dynamic and will change over time as you meet new people and cross others off because they have either joined up or exhibited chronic loserness. You should aim to have 100 people on the list.
  3. Sign up at least six customers within the first 72 hours. If you don't do this you will not receive any bonuses.
  4. Arrange for your first meeting in your home where you show the plan to potential suckers. You should hold this meeting within a few days and invite 10 to 20 people. Someone higher in the pyramid than you will do the actual presentation, as you may not have the experience yet to be convincing when you tell them how rich they are going to become. As your upline is a very busy person and has many other potential suckers to talk to, you should not waste his time by not having enough prospects there or by cancelling if, for example, your mother dies.
  5. Have a conference telephone conversation with your upline and other pyramidees. This will only cost you $1.99, which is less than the commission you will receive for $200 worth of sales made to your "customers" and is therefore a real bargain. This is training for you to "build your Global Enterprise!".
  6. Read the "self help" book which you got in exchange for $500. Pay particular attention to the part which tells you how little commission you are going to really get from your "customers".
  7. Within the first 21 days sign up 20 customers and also sign up three more distributors who have each paid their $500 and themselves signed up at least six customers.
  8. Put your name down for the next international MLM conference, which will be organised by and profited from by someone higher in the pyramid than you (but they will not mention the profit, even if you ask them).
  9. Just as they tell you in every other pyramid scheme - duplicate this system exactly with everyone you recruit.

Speaking of the MLM company ... (5/2/2005)
When I first started talking about the MLM company above I received some emails asking for clarification. It soon became obvious that some of these emails were coming from company representatives who were pretending to be innocent bystanders. One of the writers was Rodney, who started out by asking some general questions about MLM. When I replied, he revealed a little more about himself by spouting some of the company propaganda (people earning "6 figures" a month, etc) and told me that he had fully investigated it and had the forms ready to sign. Now it turns out that I am causing him great distress by publishing his name as such publication has "cost [him] employment opportunities, loss of clients, and loss of money" and is apparently even placing the lives of his family at risk. As for costing him money and clients, he should have thought of that before he wrote to me with lies about his involvement with the company. I don't know how I am putting his family at risk, unless his upline is threatening him for making the company look bad.

Every page on this site contains a link to a page which gives the email republication policy here, so anyone with the research skills to find out my home phone number should have been able to find out what might happen if they wrote to me. Yes, Rodney phoned me at home. In fact, he spent a day alternately ringing my home and office telephones in an effort to disrupt my personal life and work. He failed on both counts. (He also told me that he was going to get 20,000 of his closest friends to continually ring me in order to destroy my life and business. That came to nothing as well.) His one piece of luck was that a power failure caused by a huge storm showed that the rechargeable batteries in my home answering machine were not recharging at all, so I lost the message he left telling me how miserable he was planning to make my life. If that message had not been erased, you would be able to listen to it here today.


Apology (9/4/2005)
The Millenium Project was unavailable for just under three hours on Friday, April 8. This was because the organisation hosting the site had been presented with a demand by an MLM company for removal of material from this site, exploiting a change to Australia's copyright laws which came into effect on January 1, 2005. The company did not contact me first, but there is no reason for me to expect courtesy from them anyway. Their claim was that certain material on this site violated their copyright and should be removed immediately. The hosting organisation acted properly in this case, and spent a week in negotiation with the company before notifying me of their intention to take down the site. They had no real choice in this matter as they did not want to leave themselves open to possible criminal charges. The take-down process has several stages, but unfortunately someone was a bit hasty and did everything at once and this meant that the site became inaccessible only 21 minutes after the notification to comply was emailed to me. I have since received an apology for the disruption and the site was back up literally within minutes of my informing them that I had made the necessary changes. At no time was any other part of the RatbagsDotCom site affected and nobody at OzHosting was anything other than helpful and sympathetic, including their legal representative. I know of other hosting organisations which would have had no hesitation in simply cancelling my account and shutting down the complete domain, and I would like to publicly thank everyone at OzHosting for the way they conducted themselves and their demonstrated commitment to customer service (and free speech).

It is possibly a coincidence that the attack on this site started about a week after the MLM company had been found by the Federal Court of Australia to be operating in breach of the anti-pyramid-scheme section of the Trade Practices Act 1974.


They can't stand the heat, want kitchen changed (9/4/2005)
The method chosen by the MLM company to attack my freedom of speech was to claim that I had breached their copyright by publishing materials which belonged to them. It is always encouraging when people react to criticism not by responding to the criticism but by trying to suppress the evidence which supports the criticism. It is doubly encouraging when they admit by their actions that the suppressed material is factual. If they own it and it is protected by copyright then they cannot deny its existence or legitimacy. This lesson was learnt by the criminal cult of Scientology when they simultaneously tried to argue that material published on the Internet was both a fabrication and a disclosure of trade secrets. It can't be both. When they finally decided on the trade secrets argument they were admitting to the validity of the documents.

Most of the company's alleged copyrighted material could be removed from this site without doing any damage to my criticism, but there were two issues which I would like to comment on further.

The first of these was a photograph of a building located in North Sydney. The photograph in the company's advertising material shows this building without any signs on its roof, although in reality there are two large neon signs advertising an insurance company. I am very pleased that the company has formally admitted, by their claim of copyright, that the photographs in their brochures do not show the building as it really is but have been modified to disguise the facts. Put simply - the company has stated that images which have been modified to hide the truth are their property and they use them to influence people who may potentially do business with them. I thank them for this, and for confirming my original claim that the advertising brochures were misleading. By the way, in a discussion I had with a lawyer about this the argument was raised that the company probably do not own the copyright for the image in question An office building with the signs removedas it could be considered an original artistic work of whoever it was who digitally modified the photograph to remove the insurance company logos. In any case, all instances of the allegedly copyrighted image on this site have been replaced by my original work of art which can be seen at the right of the screen.

The second matter was a list of the first nine things that a new representative should do in order to firmly establish his or her "Global Enterprise". The company claimed that the material I had here had been taken from their web site, but it had, in fact, been downloaded from the personal web site of someone who was instrumental in setting up the scheme in Australia (and who was a co-respondent in an action brought against the company by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for apparent breach of the anti-pyramid-scheme provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974). It is quite normal for multi-level marketing organisations to pretend that web sites run by representatives are autonomous, thus giving them a form of plausible deniability for statements and claims made on those sites. It is good to see that this company is not trying to distance itself from the representative's site and are claiming it as their own. You can see some more about this here.


The MLM company tries again, fails again (16/4/2005)
Yet again, a representative of an MLM company has attacked my right of free speech by demanding that "copyright" material be removed from this web site. Under a change to Australian copyright law passed late in 2004, the hosting ISP has no choice but to take down any allegedly offending material, whether or not copyright has been established. All that is necessary is for someone to say that something is copyright, and it is then up to the ISP and the web site owner to prove otherwise in court. This absurdity in the law was exploited by the MLM company this week when they claimed that something was copyrighted because it had been republished from their web site when in reality it had not been on their site at all but had been emailed to me by someone claiming to represent the company. This is a clear abuse of the law, and can only be interpreted as an attempt to harass both me and my hosting ISP. If they had any problems with copyright material on this site the time to mention it was in the first complaint, not in what appears to be a pattern of harassment by claiming a new infringement each week.

The material which they claim is covered by copyright was transmitted to me in an email by a person who was one of the people involved in the early stages of setting up the scheme in Australia and who in his first communication with me referred to himself as "a representative of " the company. Interestingly, simultaneously with saying that they needed to change things to become legal they also claimed that they had done nothing wrong. This sort of doublethink is common in the world of multi-level marketing.

The first line of the email said: "Iíll be very pleased if we can get some accuracy on your site", and it then went on to reproduce an email which had been sent to company representatives in Australia. At the time he wrote to me, the writer was fully aware of the policy at this site of publishing any and all critical communications. It would be also reasonable to assume that someone saying "Iíll be very pleased if we can get some accuracy on your site" and then providing some information would expect that information to be published. Now that the company is claiming that the information should not be made public one can only infer that they are ashamed of what it said or they would prefer that it not be read as it casts a bad light on them. What they cannot claim, now that they have asserted copyright, is that the email does not exist or that the words which were reproduced here from it misrepresented the message in any way.


Brief update (23/4/2005)
This week's update is late and short because I had to spend some time dealing with lawyers and thwarting their attempts to interfere with my life. All because some company doesn't like people talking about them.


It's time for them to put up or shut up (30/4/2005)
The update this week is again brief because again I had to waste time responding to a complaint from an MLM company. They tried two approaches this time. One was their weekly complaint to the web site hosting organisation whining about another supposed breach of copyright that they had found. The second was to fax me a letter accusing me of all sorts of things and giving me a deadline to remove all allegedly offending material from this site. One of the things I was accused of was described to me by a lawyer as "ludicrous", and it was obvious that all the company wanted was for me to become frightened and go away. I don't frighten easily, so I have set my own deadline and they have been asked to list all of the things on this site that they believe are unlawful. If they can't do that then they can hardly come back in the future and claim that there is anything wrong. What these people want is what all pyramid scheme and MLM operators want - they want no publicity which might warn potential victims.


They chose to shut up (7/5/2005)
I mentioned last week that an MLM company had given me a deadline to remove certain unspecified material from this site. I replied with my own deadline for them to say what they wanted removed. As expected, there was no response. This means that they have forfeited any right to complain about what I have to say on this site about their operations. If they or their lawyers make any more attempts to close this site down by making spurious claims of copyright or defamation then these claims will be exposed for the barratry and harassment that they are.


A blip on the radar (2/7/2005)
Remember the multi-level company which tried to have this site shut down because they didn't like me mentioning their adventures in court? (They had been found to be acting in breach of the anti-pyramid-scheme provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974.) Unfortunately the judge who made the decision died before he could bring down his final orders and there will be a delay until a replacement judge can be briefed. In one surreal moment, someone from the company told me that they were negotiating with the judge and he had agreed that they were acting legally. The clown who told me this didn't know that I knew about the untimely death of Justice Selway, but he probably wouldn't have cared anyway.


And again ... (5/9/2005)
Remember the MLM company which was trying to shut this site down back in April? Well, they have made another threat against this web site. This is the fifth threat. Previous threats have been based on claims that there is copyright material on this site, exploiting changes in Australian copyright laws made in 2004 which made it easy for people (even acting anonymously) to abuse and harass web site owners. It is interesting to note that some of the copyright claims covered material which was not obtained from any company publication or web site. The Federal Attorney-General's department informed me that such apparently false copyright claims might be offences against the Commonwealth Criminal Code, but I graciously declined the opportunity of having the authorities investigate further to establish whether any criminal activity had actually taken place.



And now this ...  (15/9/2005)
An order to appear in court next week has just turned up, together with a 9mm pile of paper accusing me of all sorts of things, such as influencing Australia's largest property investor and one of the world's largest real estate agencies so that they didn't want to renew the lease on the company's office space and encouraging Australia's two largest telecommunications companies to say bad things about the company. I seriously doubt that AMP Capital or Jones Lang Lasalle or Telstra or Optus have ever heard of me. Strangely, it is also a problem for the company that my web site comes up before theirs when you search Google. This matter is apparently of such urgency that action started in the court yesterday without me, but it seems that the judge thought that I should be notified of the action and also be there to respond. The urgency is a surprise as I asked the company to identify its complaints several months ago and have heard nothing cogent since.

The Millenium Project might suffer some disruption over the next week or so because of this bullshit, so please bear with me.


Apologies all round (17/9/2005)
I was planning to have an apology in advance this week for not being here next week, but I also have to apologise for not really being here this week as well. Next weekend I will be travelling to Canowindra, a delightful town about four hours drive west of where I live, as part of an Australian Skeptics delegation to present a donation to the Age of Fishes Museum so that the museum can continue its fine work of research and education. This amazing place features displays about the 360 million-year-old fossil fishes from the Devonian period which abound in the area. It's a long way from home, but it is worth the drive just to look at those ancient fossilised creatures and try to imagine what it must have been like when the Australian continent was young.

The reason for the lack of new stuff this week is that I have to prepare to appear in court, as an MLM company is asking the court to find that I have been breaching the Trade Practices Act. They have presented the court with all the allegations which have been both recorded and answered here, although they forgot to tell the court that I have responded or to tell the court what those responses were. Remarkably, new allegations have been added which suggest that this web site influences the business decisions of some extremely large corporations, and even those of infinitely wealthy Middle Eastern oil potentates. All claims made will be strenuously defended, of course.

Because of the very short notice (I received the order to appear in court on Thursday and I have to appear next Wednesday), my legal advisors and I have to spend some time this weekend getting our material together so I don't have the time I usually have to spend on this site. Still, I suppose I should be grateful that I got any notice at all. Someone I know who dared to criticise another multi-level marketing organisation was served with an order on a Saturday afternoon to appear in court at 9:30 the following Monday.

A media release was sent to more than 800 telecommunications, IT, legal, finance, news and business editors and journalists across Australia on Thursday, September 15, 2005.

I will be opening a bank account during the next week to hold donations made to cover any legal costs I might incur. Any donations made through any of the PayPal buttons on RatbagsDotCom web sites between September 14 and the resolution of the court action will be apportioned 80% to the defence fund and 20% to children's health charities (as has been the practice for all donations in the past). If I prevail in the court action, and I would have run away by now if I didn't think I could win, all of the money in the account will be donated to the Children's Medical Research Institute and the Children's Hospital at Westmead.


What is still going on (1/10/2005)
There is not much new here again this week because I have been involved in other matters, part of which included writing a twelve thousand word affidavit for presentation to a court describing the history of this site, its philosophy, and the stories of various complaints made about the site. Twelve thousand words is a lot of words (I wrote a best-selling book once which only had about thirty thousand words in it and my editor allowed me three months to write it) so I have tired fingers and brain. I probably also have the basis for a book about things that can happen to web site owners.

I am still under restriction as to what I can say about certain things and where I can say it, but as courtrooms in Australia are public places and the proceedings of the courts are not secret (unless a judge so orders) I think that is safe for me to say that anyone going to the Federal Court of Australia's web site next Wednesday evening, opening the page which shows the court lists for the following day, clicking on the link for New South Wales and then looking for my name will be informed about where I can be found from 9:30am onwards on Thursday, October 6. As I said, our courts are open to the public and any member of the public who wants to come along will be welcome.


What's going on this week (8/10/2005)
My side appeared in the Federal Court in Sydney on Thursday, October 6, bringing with us a comprehensive affidavit and a big pile of supporting exhibits, ready for our day in court. The other side appeared but had done absolutely nothing, which was very strange in light of the claim made in court on September 21 that they were suffering enormous and ongoing damage (including the very high probability of being thrown out of their office by the landlord) and an adjournment until October 6 would devastate them. Perhaps the "urgency" was exaggerated. The matter has been adjourned and we will all be back in court on Friday, October 21. Once again I invite the public to come along and take advantage of the freedom in Australia to observe court proceedings. Check the Federal Court of Australia's web site on the previous evening to see the court lists for New South Wales for the following day, but it should be 9:30am in Court 23E at the Queens Square court building.

(And don't take any metal through the detector, because security is more sensitive than at the airport. I have been into the building five times now and set off the alarm three times. Once for no identifiable reason, once with the tiny headphones for my MP3 player, once with the foil wrapper on some pills in my shirt pocket. There is nothing like a bit of "Place your feet apart and your arms out to the sides, Sir" to set your anxiety level before going into court. Still, I suppose it is better than my experience at Ottawa airport some years ago. When the alarm went off a lady pointed a pistol at me and simply said "Get your hands in the air". With my hands raised I remembered that I had taken my belt off and put it through the x-ray so that the buckle wouldn't set off the alarm. With both hands above my head I wondered what was holding my trousers up. You can guess the next part of the story.)


This week's legal news (15/10/2005)
Nothing much to report, really. It will be lights, (no) camera, action at 9:30 in the forenoon on Friday, October 21, in court 23E, Queens Square, Sydney. Everyone is invited.


The regular court report (22/10/2005)
There was a delay starting the day's proceedings on Friday, October 21, which meant that we ran out of time with about an hour's worth of work left. Everyone will be back next Thursday afternoon at 2:15 for the final chapter. (See the Federal Court's daily listing for New South Wales on Wednesday evening for the location.). I would like to thank the supporters who turned up yesterday, and also any who arrived and went to courtroom 23E only to find it empty. Judges usually operate out of the same room all the time but on this occasion we were somewhere else in the building. If everything goes as it should then next week the notices will disappear, some small changes will be made to the content of some pages on the site and it will be, in the words of someone else who once appeared in the Federal Court of Australia, "business as usual".


On October 28, 2005, I was ordered to remove certain allegedly disparaging comments from this site, and I also agreed to display a notice detailing the state of the court action.


This week in court (29/10/2005)
Following the court order mentioned above, I have had to make some changes to the content of this site. (I would like to thank the author of the notice I agreed to display for pointing out the statistics for MLM participation in Australia. You can see some comments about the arithmetic here.) None of the changes were substantial, and the two pages I chose to remove were taken down because, with or without the requested changes, they were no longer relevant. The next stage is that I have to rewrite the main page about the company, but this doesn't worry me because I was planning to do so anyway to make the chronology and some references and citations clearer. That change will be published immediately after we get out of court on November 8, which is the date set down for the court to finalise all this nonsense. If everything goes right that day's session should be very short, but we thought that about the last time until a certain movement away from commitments was observed. Again I would like to thank the friends who turned up to watch the proceedings and support me. Like most of the other people in the room they were expecting to be out of the place in twenty minutes, but they stayed until closing time. It meant we went out for dinner rather than afternoon tea.


And another thing ... (29/10/2005)
At 10:15pm on Thursday, October 27, I received a telephone call from some unidentified person who wanted to tell me how pleased he was that a court had finally taken action about the terrible things I had been saying about this particular MLM company. I hung up when he started telling me how I should be sympathetic to all the people whose lives I had ruined. As I said, he didn't say who he was, but I have just two words for him: "Caller Identification".


Business Opportunity (29/10/2005)
A Ratbags Dream (Planned) UK HQrecent court decision has opened up the Australian market for multi-level marketing schemes. To take advantage of the new legal freedom and to reward the visitors to this site for their support and patience throughout the recent troubles, I have launched The Ratbags Dream to allow all of us to secure the levels of income which will assure us of an endless supply of Ferraris, French champagne, truffle sandwiches and gorgeous and insatiable young sexual companions. (Note to self: think about rewording that last sentence before getting the wife to proofread this week's update - you know how she hates two-door sports cars.) We will shortly be expanding into other countries (see our proposed European headquarters in the picture) and will be looking for representatives to take The Ratbags Dream worldwide. So, put a photograph of a Ferrari (or a Porsche if you insist) over the bathroom mirror so you can see it while you are shaving and get on over to the Ratbags Dream page before it's too late. I'm off now to polish the Lexus.


Court Calendar (5/11/2005)
The back of a lawyerNothing happened during the last week. I will be back in court at 9:30am on Tuesday, November 8, and hopefully everything will be all over shortly after that. I say "hopefully" because we have gone to court on several occasions now expecting that we would be out of the place quickly only to find that agreements no longer applied or that subpoenaed material had not been produced or that something else had changed or that ... As usual, anyone who wants to come along is welcome. We will probably be in Courtroom 20D, but see the Federal Court's daily listing for New South Wales on Monday evening for the location. If you arrive late and the courtroom is empty this should be seen as A Very Good Sign Indeed, and you will be able to find us in the coffee shop across the road from the Phillip Street entrance to the court building.


Court report (12/11/2005)
Nothing! I put on a tie for nothing. The lawyers stood up, introduced themselves to the judge, and everyone agreed to come back later to talk about it again. The longest part of the proceedings was everyone checking their diaries to see what day was suitable. I think it took longer to get a cup of coffee in the court building restaurant than it did to go from "All rise" to "Court is adjourned". December 13, at 4:15 in the afternoon. And I set off the security alarm again. That's the sixth time, I think, so now I just automatically put my arms out and walk over to the man with the wand thing.


Back in court (10/12/2005)
I will be back in court on Tuesday, December 13, at 4:15 in the afternoon for a brief appearance. The applicant has made an Offer of Compromise, but it looks like me that would have to do the compromising so I am not sure how much progress has been made. I will know more after my lawyers have had time to consider the offer.


Court Report (17/12/2005)
Yet another appearance where putting on a tie took longer than the time actually spent in front of a judge. On the positive side, I didn't set off the alarm when passing through the security check to get into the court building as I have done on all except one of the previous occasions. The judge was a little nonplussed that a settlement had not been reached, but the Offer of Compromise from the applicant had been unacceptable for several reasons. We have a date with Justice Madgwick on February 15, 2006, but he has given some broad hints that he would like matters to be settled before that. I have to keep reminding myself that this action was commenced against me ex parte (that is, without notifying me of the first day in court), and when the judge refused to hear the case without me present or represented it was brought on with extreme urgency due to alleged massive and continuing damage to the applicant's business. All that urgency seems to have gone away.


It's over (16/2/2006)
The dispute between the MLM company and me has been settled. I can't discuss the particulars of the settlement agreement, but it will be obvious to anyone looking around that certain material has been removed from this site. It eventually came down to a type of Pascal's Wager, where the potential cost to me if the case proceeded and I lost could have been very great but if we went ahead and I won the victory would have been somewhat Pyrrhic. Both sides have learned an expensive lesson that targets are sometimes not as soft as they might appear.

I would like to thank everyone who sent me encouraging emails throughout the saga and also those people who contributed to my defence fund. The money collected was less that what the exercise cost me, but every dollar counts and is enormously appreciated. Special thanks must go to my barrister, Mr Martin Hadley, and my solicitor, Mr Philip Argy, for the excellent advice and assistance they provided. I hope that we never have to meet professionally again. I must also thank the legal people and executives at destra Corporation for allowing this site to stay on the air throughout the difficulties and for supporting my freedom of speech. I know of hosting services who would have shut me down without a backward glance.


The court case and its aftermath (4/3/2006)
Ever since the settlement of my recent court case I have been receiving a trickle of disingenuous and transparent emails asking apparently innocent questions about it. Some of them say things like "Have you ever heard of [XYZ], what do you think of them?", and some say things like "Have you changed your mind about [XYZ]?" One ranted on about a supposed class court action against me. The latest one challenged me by declaring that I had been "emasculated". I hope (and assume, of course) that these aren't attempts to get me to break the terms of the confidential settlement by discussing its contents. If they are, they will fail.


The following message was posted to the Usenet newsgroup misc.health.alternative on April 6, 2006.

Convicted liar Peter Bowditch of Gebesse Consultants has been served again by [XYZ].

As part of therecent [XYZ] settlement with wacko-Bowditch, an Australian court ordered Bowditch to effectively cease and desist in his campaign of lies, libel, and defamation. Bowditch was ordered to remove all internet materials under his illiterate penmanship. Bowditch forgot his blogs!

[XYZ] and the court were recently made aware of this omission and the court has allowed [XYZ]'s claim to remain active. [XYZ] has given Bowditch 24 hours to comply.

No such court action or demands have occurred, of course. I have added it to the pile of failed attempts to get me to reveal the terms of the Deed of Settlement.


More tributes to me (15/4/2006)
I was informed about two more tribute sites to me during the week. The person doing the informing was immediately advised that they had been added to the list of tributes and awards which I proudly display on this site. Both mentioned the recent court case in which I was involved, and both totally misrepresented both the case and the result. I am bound by a confidentiality agreement concerning the precise terms of the settlement (a common restriction in such cases) and I can not and will not comment on the specifics of that settlement, but the final court order is a matter of public record and can be seen on the web site of the Federal Court of Australia.

The court order quite clearly states that I cannot make certain representations about certain parties in the future, and it also says "2. The application otherwise be dismissed" and "3. No order as to costs". What the first of these means is that all other complaints against me were dismissed, so allegations by the writers of these two web sites that I had completely "lost" (based on the fact that action had started but not ended!) are incorrect. What the second means is that I did not have to pay the applicant's legal costs. This implies (as does the absence of a specific order to that effect) that there was no order for damages. Statements by, for example, Mr William P O'Neill, that I have been bankrupted by damages and costs are therefore obviously incorrect. The cost to me was not insignificant, but it consisted only of the opportunity cost of not being able to work continuously at my job, the incidental costs such as travel and transcript fees, and what I had to pay my lawyers. As the facts can easily be ascertained from the Court, anyone declaring something else to be the truth is probably acting in contempt of the Federal Court of Australia.


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