With the Winklevoss twins out of the picture, Facebook has redirected its attention to the other guy claiming a piece of Facebook: New York wood-pellet salesman Paul Ceglia. On Thursday, Facebook filed its response to Ceglia's suit, which claims a 50 percent stake in the company based on a contract Mark Zuckerberg signed with him in 2003 in exchange for $2,000 in seed money. In its response, Facebook's lawyers tore into Ceglia in a statement Forbes's Kashmir Hill says was "written as much for the media as for the judge." It reads:
This lawsuit is a brazen and outrageous fraud on the Court. Plaintiff is an inveterate scam artist whose misconduct extends across decades and borders. His latest and most farreaching fraud is the Amended Complaint filed in this action, which is based upon a doctored contract and fabricated evidence. Plaintiff alleges that he recently “discovered” a purported contract that now supposedly entitles him to ownership of 50 percent of Zuckerberg’s interest in Facebook. The purported contract was signed in 2003, yet Plaintiff waited until 2010 to file this action — a seven-year delay during which Plaintiff remained utterly silent while Facebook grew into one of the world’s best-known companies. Plaintiff has now come out of the woodwork seeking billions in damages.
Harsh words indeed! As The New York Times Miguel Helft writes, " It repeats Facebook’s contention that the contract between the two men was doctored and goes on to deny the allegations made by Mr. Ceglia paragraph by paragraph." But this isn't a done deal.
The entire case relies on the authenticity of the contract and the emails between Zuckerberg and Ceglia surrounding the agreement. No one gave this case much notice until April when Ceglia's claim was taken up by DLA Piper, a massive international law firm with 3,000 lawyers and nearly $2 billion in revenue. It seemed astonishing that an "extremely reputable" law firm would take up the case unless it knew the documents were authentic. The intriguing question today, raised by Business Insider's Henry Blodget, is if Facebook itself knows whether the emails are legit.