Setting the Record Straight by Bill Singer, Esq.

April 9, 2018

Since 2015, the Blog has reported about developments in a civil lawsuit involving allegations of defamation by Plaintiff Brummer and a separate federal criminal case involving allegations against Defendant Wey and others. The nature of the ongoing civil case is characterized in part in a March 1, 2016, Order by the New York State Supreme Court:

Plaintiff commenced this action on April 22, 2015, asserting three causes of action for defamation, defamation per se, and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Mot. Wipper Aff., Exh. A). Plaintiff, is a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center and the sole African-American on the National Adjudicatory Council (NAC). He was part of a panel that upheld a decision by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Inc. ("FINRA"), issuing a lifetime ban from the security industry against two African-American stockbrokers: non-parties William Scholander and Talman Harris. NYG Capital LLC d/b/a New York Global Group (hereinafter referred to individually as "NYGG") is a U.S. and Asia based strategic market entry advisory, venture capital, and private equity investment group that services clients worldwide. FNL Media, LLC. is described in the Complaint as a division or subsidiary of NYGG, and the owner of TheBlot, a website and online digital magazine that claims to combine investigative journalism with reader-submitted opinions. According to the Complaint Benjamin Wey is the CEO of NYGG. a publisher and contributor to TheBlot (Mot. Wipper Aff., Exh. A). 

The Complaint alleges that almost a month after the NAC panel wrote the decision upholding the FINRA lifetime ban on non-parties William Scholander and Talman Harris. TheBlot. an on-line magazine. began publishing a series of articles defaming the plaintiff. The articles are described by plaintiff as falsely characterizing him as a "racist," an "Uncle Tom," as having an affair with a married woman, as being under investigation and implicated in fraud. Plaintiff also alleges that the defendants posted comments under a false identity and altered photographs of the plaintiff. Plaintiff claims that he is a private individual that had an excellent professional and personal reputation which has been damaged by the defendants' defamatory statements that resulted in the loss of work together with other damages (Mot. Wipper Aff .. Exh. A). 

In covering legal, regulatory, and compliance matters for the Blog, at times I defend the guilty or chastise the innocent, which places me in the uncomfortable role of marching into Hell for a heavenly cause or wrestling with angels. I don't apologize. If I'm going to do my job as a Wall Street gadfly, pundit, and cranky bastard, I have to be willing to offer unpopular opinions or take on the role of the Devil's Advocate. 

I am largely persuaded by Plaintiff Brummer's allegations that he was the victim of horrific defamation, but I concede that my knowledge of the case is limited to what I have read in the pleadings, motion papers, and various court orders/decisions. I await the ultimate decision from the court and will respect its findings. Please note that I have not represented and do not represent any of the parties in the civil lawsuit, and I have never personally met any of the parties. 

In the federal criminal case, I was troubled by what I viewed as investigative and prosecutorial misconduct aimed at Defendant Wey and others. Defense counsel did an extraordinary job in battling the government and winning a suppression order. I applauded the subsequent dismissal of the criminal case.  

I am angered by online articles that have displayed my image (without my express permission) and falsely attributed comments to me. Pointedly, I am aware that there are fraudulent online postings/comments purportedly by a "Bill" or "Bill Singer" that imply my authorship. For example, the  "reader comment" posted by a "Bill Singer" was not posted by me or at my direction or with my authorization and I disavow it for the garbage that it is:

Bill Singer October 11, 2017 Reply
I wish more people had the resources and guts as Benjamin Wey. Nail those lying Finra motherfuckers so the next innocent soul with less resources wouldn't be fucked over. As far as a Chris Brummer, this Dr. Bratwurst is burned. Pay up asshole!

I am confident that the content and context of my previously published remarks, which remain online for all to read, confirm that I am wholly sympathetic to Plaintiff Brummer in terms of his allegations that he was the victim of defamation. Any comments attributed to me to the contrary are bogus. To avoid any further confusion, I have posted extracts of some of my published comments below:

In "FINRA NAC Member Brummer Files Amended Defamation Complaint" ( Blog / January 19, 2017), I stated that:

I've been around Wall Street for 
some 35 years and have been admitted to the Bar since 1985. During that time, I've worked with and represented some not-so-nice folks and some truly wonderful human beings -- it all sort of comes with the territory of working on the Street and being a lawyer. Notwithstanding my three-decades-plus of experience, I've rarely been as disgusted with the underlying facts of a case as by those alleged in Christopher Brummer, Plaintiff, v. Benjamin Wey, FNI Media LLC, and NYG Capital LLC d/b/a New York Global Group, Defendants (Amended Complaint, Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County, File No. 153583/2015, January 13, 2017).

I have reprinted below "Brummer Versus Wey Defamation Case Moves Forward, Sort Of" ( Blog, March 16, 2016) and will refer you to that iteration of this story rather than attempt to refashion the tale and need yet another shower. If you have the stomach, read the above-cited Amended Complaint, but be prepared: It ain't pretty and there is nothing funny about any aspect of the alleged defamation. You might want to consider a tetanus shot before clicking on the link.

In covering the ongoing aspects of the Brummer lawsuit, I subsequently authored "Google Subpoena Withdrawn In Brummer V. Wey Defamation Case" ( Blog /  February 7, 2017), in which I stated:

Bill Singer's Comment

I am a long-time critic of the current state of Wall Street self-regulation and of FINRA (and its predecessor, the NASD). For nearly three decades, I have gone toe-to-toe many times with NASD/FINRA and I am not intimidated by the self-regulator, its Staff, or its management. Some might characterize my relationship with FINRA as trench warfare. I have no intention of altering my philosophical differences with FINRA and will not tone down my criticism or critique.

Notwithstanding my historic antagonism towards FINRA, I do not agree with the tone or the approach of TheBlot's coverage of FINRA's Scholander/Harris case. I will not enmesh myself in a discussion of the merits of FINRA's regulatory case or the issues on appeal. In this commentary, I am only addressing what I view as vicious, personal attacks by TheBlot against Brummer, who, as a member of FINRA's appellate body, the NAC, did not prepare the charges or present them at the OHO level. Given Brummer's limited involvement as one of several appellate adjudicators, I do not understand the rationale or the proportionality of TheBlot's ad hominem campaign, which has spread beyond the Plaintiff.

Respondents Scholander and Harris may be angry, furious, and enraged by FINRA Staff who investigated, charged, and prosecuted the case against them. As a defense lawyer, I appreciate that such a response is typical for those charged. Those same respondents may also view FINRA's case against them as unfair, biased, and baseless. Again, that sort of comes with the territory and is a typical reaction, sometimes with justification. FINRA is not always a sympathetic (or innocent) party because of its resort to questionable tactics and frequently unfair procedural policies; however, it is hard to use those circumstances to justify what strikes me as unwarranted insults and attacks heaped upon Brummer by TheBlot, which was not a named party in the FINRA regulatory case.

Journalists and pundits often feel passionately about misconduct by the high and mighty in regulation and government. That's a good thing. The issue in Brummer v. Wey, however, appears to be one of drawing lines and of crossing them.  There is a point where passion crosses over into unreasonableness. There is a point where disagreement crosses over into bogus alternative facts. There is a point where criticism crosses over into defamation.

The question before the New York State Supreme Court is whether TheBlot's commentary went beyond the boundaries of free speech and crossed over the line into defamation. Without question, this case seems destined not only for trial but for years of subsequent appeals. Personally, I am disgusted by the personal attacks against Plaintiff Brummer. As a lawyer, however, I also know that language that often disgusts me may still be protected speech. As to whether such protection will be afforded by the courts to Defendants is what this lawsuit will test.

In addition to the Brummer civil suit, various individuals cited in that matter were also embroiled in a federal criminal case. As I noted in part in "Benjamin Wey Wins Suppression Order In Securities Fraud Criminal Case" ( Blog, June 19, 2017):

Benjamin Wey has been embroiled in criminal, civil, and regulatory proceedings for the past few years. Wey and his legal team have responded with all the tools at their disposal and battled on -- and when I say "battle," you should think along the lines of mutual assured destruction and not thumbing one's nose. That aggressive defense strategy achieved the reversal of a NASDAQ delisting in the landmark Securities and Exchange Commission's Cleantech Innovations decision. Following lurid allegations of sexual harassment and other claims against Wey by former employee Hanna Bouveng, a federal jury awarded her $18 million (of which $16 million was in punitive damages), which was reduced to $5.6 million by a federal judge.  A few days ago, Wey's defense team achieved what many see as a epic victory in the form of a suppression order that may have seriously hindered if not effectively destroyed the Department of Justice's criminal case against Wey. Frankly, in some 32 years of practicing law, I have rarely read a more stunning Fourth Amendment ruling.

I urge all industry professionals to take the time to familiarize yourself with the issues noted in Wey's suppression motion and subsequent Southern District of New York Opinion and Order. Given the 92-page length of the Opinion and Order, it is not possible to fully digest its findings and rationale within the confines of the Blog and I pointedly make no boast of doing so.  In relatively superficial fashion, I will try to present to you some of the key issues.

A word of caution to my readers. To say that Benjamin Wey is a lightning-rod of a personality would be an understatement. He is, if nothing else, a man of strong opinions and the media-savvy to convey his thoughts with dramatic impact. None of which is to suggest -- not even remotely -- that this author or the Blog agree with any of Wey's positions or support his public relations approach. Notwithstanding, even the pariahs among us are entitled to the full protections of the law; and it is in those very difficult and challenging cases where the majesty of our system of justice best shines when it discharges its duty behind the blindfold and with due process and fairness.

Finally, as I noted in part in "Federal Prosecutors Throw In Towel Against Benjamin Wey" ( Blog, August 9, 2017):

Taking all of the above into consideration, DOJ owes Wey an apology. I say that because of the over-the-top fashion in which the government went after this defendant before an opening statement was made in a criminal court to a sitting jury. Regardless of how you feel about Wey, our system of law does not alter citizens charged with a crime into a pinata for DOJ and the FBI. As a nation, we treasure the "presumption of innocence."

The FBI and DOJ engaged in misconduct that violated the presumption of innocence and did little more than rip up many of the principles upon which our nation's criminal justice system is based. There is simply no other way to say that. The misconduct chipped away at bedrock. DOJ's nearly 2,000-word September 10, 2015, press release was disgraceful. At a minimum, DOJ should publish a nearly 2,000-word press release noting its decision to cease further prosecution of Wey and to affirm to the public that all allegations against Wey are now deemed false. Further, DOJ and the FBI should state that they disavow any prior comment that the FBI and the federal prosecutors conduct in this case was praiseworthy.

As DOJ abandons its case against Benjamin Wey, I am reminded of the scene in the movie "Gladiator" when the Emperor stabs Maximus before they enter the arena to fight each other. Wey's blood is on DOJ's knife. There was never any intention of ensuring a fair fight, which is the most important obligation of a prosecutor who speaks for the People. Whatever Benjamin Wey's alleged transgressions, the most sobering revelation from this failed criminal prosecution is the lack of confidence that federal prosecutors have in the ability of each citizen to hear a case and to reach the right verdict. We walk away feeling lied to by those who are entrusted with ensuring that justice is done. As Nietzsche warns "It's not that you lied but that I no longer believe you that has shaken me."