The carrier registration service companies named in a recent preliminary injunction sought by the Federal Trade Commission say they have “stood their ground” against the allegations, and contend that the government’s statement on the matter fails to mention a judge’s reversal of an ex parte temporary restraining order (TRO)—calling into question “the propriety of the overbroad and aggressive tactics” employed by the FTC in this case.
"Normally, it is our practice to refrain from commenting to the media on matters that are pending before the court. However, the FTC's tactics thus far, which include concealment of their losses in court from the public, call for the record to be set straight,” said attorney Andrew Gordon, a member of the legal defense team, in a statement. “Until we get to trial, we will allow our court filings, such as the answer and recent motion to allocate receivership expenses to the FTC, to speak for us. It is telling that the Court quickly discharged the receivership and asset freeze that the FTC previously misled the Court to enter. It is important in the American system of justice that our clients get a fair trial, and that the press refrain from jumping to conclusions and accepting the FTC's complaint and publications as the whole, true story."
Dotauthority.com Inc., Dotfilings.com Inc., Excelsior Enterprises International Inc., and JPL Enterprises International Inc. and individuals James P. Lamb, and Uliana Bogash are the defendants in the matter. FTC alleges the companies tricked small commercial trucking businesses into paying them for federal and state motor carrier registrations by impersonating government transportation agencies, such as the U.S. Dept. of Transportation.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants have taken in more than $19 million from thousands of small businesses by sending misleading robocalls, emails, and text messages that create and reinforce the false impression that they are, or are affiliated with, the USDOT, the UCR system, or another government agency.
On Sept. 15, the FTC obtained an ex parte TRO, freezing the defendants' personal and business assets, and imposing a court-appointed receiver.
Two weeks later, the federal court took witness testimony and heard arguments from the defendants' counsel, specifically that
- the request for an asset freeze and receivership was improvident;
- the FTC acted inappropriately by implying that exigent circumstances existed when, in fact, no emergency existed; and
- the defendants' business was both legitimate and extremely helpful to thousands of customers nationwide who relied on them for their interstate commercial carriers registrations.
After the defendants prevailed at the hearing, and the asset freeze and receivership were immediately lifted and a “greatly modified” preliminary injunction was issued, according to Gordon.
Still, the defense counsel points to “substantial advantages” enjoyed by the FTC in litigating matters involving claims of deceptive advertising: FTC typically imposes a “drastically accelerated” litigation timeline, limiting defendants’ ability to prepare for court; and FTC is held to a different standard of law, making it easier for the commission to obtain preliminary injunctions.
“When online advertisers face off against the FTC, it is a wildly uneven playing field,” Gordon says.
The defense team contends that following the “resounding defeat” in the early stages of the case, the FTC has published “false and defamatory statements” about the defendants in press releases and FTC-sponsored blog posts—activities which are “all too familiar” to counsel who handle FTC matters.
DOTAuthority.com President James Lamb denies any wrongdoing in the matter and questions what might be motivating the FTC to suddenly attack his 15 year old business.
"For over a decade, we have worked diligently to serve and educate the industry and stand up for the rights of the smaller players in this industry. Now the FTC is calling our reputable service a ‘scam’ when, in reality, we have always provided a valuable service to carriers and owner operators that helps keep them in compliance and out of trouble,” Lamb says. “Anyone who visits our website can see that we perform valuable registration services for the transportation industry and hold ourselves out as an independent third party. Our resolve and faith in the justice system has not been shaken by FTC's false claims, strong arm tactics, and attempts to demonize us in the press before trial."