How many lawyers does it take to sue Facebook?
This is a mathematical and, who knows, moral conundrum, one that is being examined to the full by Paul Ceglia.
Should you have been been busy suing for your half-share of MySpace lately, you might not be aware that Ceglia is the man who claims that Mark Zuckerberg gave him half of Facebook while he was still even younger than he is today.
Ceglia always seems to have gone away--and then he doesn't. Today, the AP (via CBS Moneywatch) brings us word that he has hired five new lawyers to press his case for those billions that will surely avalanche from Facebook's forthcoming IPO.
I am sure that, if this case were ever turned into a movie, there would be more twists than a reasonable writer could successfully and believably insert.
Just in the last month, Ceglia was ordered by a court to pay Facebook $75,000 in legal fees, after alleged delays in producing certain e-mails. Not too many days later, Facebook accused Ceglia of concealing e-mail accounts, including one that had the cheery name "firstname.lastname@example.org."
Ceglia's case is based on e-mails allegedly sent in 2003 by Zuckerberg. In these e-mails, Zuckerberg allegedly gave Ceglia half of the company.
Facebook has declared that the e-mails and any contract that might have been created on their basis are "forgeries."
'The strength of Paul's case'
So what might possess lawyers of a certain reputation to take Ceglia's case on? Bloomberg reports that Ceglia's new legal hires are from Milberg, a law firm that seems well versed in class action lawsuits.
Dean Boland, Ceglia's lawyer, declared to Bloomberg: "Their participation speaks to the strength of Paul's case, now that defendants will not be able to dismiss it on their empty claims of fraud."
So, somehow, the question remains as to what these lawyers feel they have in order to continue to press the case.
Here's a quote from Milberg's Web site: "Analysis of 735 settled cases yields the conclusion that 'settlements are higher' when Milberg is appointed as lead or co-lead plaintiff law firm."
Might it be that Ceglia's lawyers believe that Facebook doesn't want this case to be hanging over its IPO and will therefore be prepared to settle? Might it be that these lawyers have seen evidence which leads them to believe that Ceglia's case is a good one?
I contacted Facebook to see whether the company has any reaction and a spokesman told me: "No comment."
Meanwhile, I am trying to imagine what twist John Grisham might have brought to this apparent tale of one man against the machine. He might ensure that readers wait until the courtroom scene before the smoking firearm is produced by a disheveled-looking, recently divorced, debt-ridden lawyer.
Or he might imagine that the poor downtrodden Ceglia was being secretly financed by Facebook's equally vast and even more mean-spirited corporate competitors, who dearly wish that the company would fall into hands other than Mark Zuckerberg's.
Naturally, it would be impossible to imagine any fine tech company behaving in such a gloriously underhanded manner. Oh, yes, there was that little thing where Facebook was accused of a PR smear campaign against Google. But that was nothing. Facebook said so.
However, in the world of fiction, it would make for a very good novel with quite splendid movie rights, wouldn't it?