Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Facebook Lawyers: Contract is 'Outright Fabrication'

Facebook's lawyers filed evidence this week that they say shows a contract being cited in a New York man's suit over a stake in the company is an "outright fabrication."

In court papers filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, Facebook attorneys say they have found the original 2003 contract between the man, Paul Ceglia, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who was then a student at Harvard. The document that they've attached to their filing is for programming work on Ceglia's business and contains no mention of Facebook or anything similar.

Ceglia originally sued last year claiming that the 2003 contract included a $1,000 investment in what would eventually become Facebook, entitling him to a large ownership stake in the social-networking giant. Since the suit was filed, Facebook has maintained that the contract cited by Ceglia was a forgery.

The new document "was found embedded in the electronic data from 2004 on Ceglia's computer," Facebook's attorneys wrote. "This smoking-gun evidence confirms what Defendants have said all along: the purported contract attached to the complaint is an outright fabrication," they added.

Ceglia's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook's lawyers also say in the latest filing that forensic analysis shows key documents concerning Ceglia's claim of ownership were stored on removable storage devices that are now missing. But their analysis was able to find out the types of devices and that they contained files like "Zuckerberg Contract page1.tif," they say.

"Ceglia apparently did not realize that when a storage device of this type is attached to a computer, it leaves a digital fingerprint," the lawyers write.

The attorneys, from the firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, claim that Ceglia may have used the devices to manipulate the documents in the belief that the evidence would not be found. In the papers, the lawyers call the missing devices, "the digital equivalent of throwing critical evidence into Lake Erie."

In an Aug. 10 filing, Ceglia's attorneys said no basis has been shown for an accusation that Ceglia and his lawyers concealed any documents.

By Tom Loftus

Source: Wall Street Journal

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