Sunday, June 26, 2011

Who Really Owns Facebook?

The fight over who has stakes in Facebook continues. According to court documents that were filed on Friday, June 17, Paul Cegila, the man that claims that he owns half of founder Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking giant, has passed the lie detector test that he was given. The test focused in on the authenticity of a contract that Cegila and Zuckerberg allegedly signed back in 2003. Facebook claims that the documents are forged, but according to Cegila’s lawyers, the test showed “no deception.”

In 2003 Zuckerberg was hired by Cegila to do some programming for a company called StreetFax. It was after this encounter that Cegila was then convinced by Zuckerberg to invest in Facebook. At the time Facebook was in its beginning stages and was only available to Harvard students. According to a transcript that was revealed in April of an alleged email correspondence between Cegila and Zuckerberg, Cegila was given a 50 percent share of Facebook for a $1,000 investment. He was also allegedly promised an additional 1 percent share for every day that Facebook was not online past January 1, 2004.

Despite the results of the lie detector test, Facebook lawyers were not convinced.

"This latest court filing confirms that the bogus emails are, literally, a cut-and-paste job, just like the so-called contract is a fraud," attorney Orin Snyder of Gibson Dunn said in a statement emailed to media. There is a deafening silence in these papers: Ceglia does not dispute that he has a track record of forging documents to rip people off.

"And the fact that this plaintiff now has to rely on a polygraph test says it all. Everyone knows polygraph tests are easily manipulated, which is why courts routinely disregard them."

The supposed email contract is not the only document that Cegila is releasing. He also put out emails in which Zuckerberg allegedly requested to use a source code from StreetFax to power Facebook’s search engine and a proposal to charge a fee for alumni to be able to use the site.

Yet another email detailed an additional $1,000 that Cegila supposedly invested in the company, and others featured back and forth about Cegila’s alleged stakes in Facebook. In one, Zuckerberg even supposedly offered to refund Cegila’s investment.

Some of the emails that Cegila claims are genuine feature Zuckerberg referencing the “upperclassmen.” It seems most probable that this reference would be aimed toward the twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. These two young men were champion crew athletes that claimed to be the actual originators of Facebook. In 2008 the twins were able to secure a $65 million settlement from the company, and they continue to pursue legal filings against both Facebook and Zuckerberg.

In one of the alleged emails that Cegila has filed, Zuckerberg writes, “I have recently met with a couple of upperclassmen here at Harvard that are planning to launch a site very similar to ours. If we don't make a move soon, I think we will lose the advantage we would have if we release before them. I've stalled them for the time being and with a break if you could send another $1000 for the facebook project, it would allow me to pay my roommate or Jeff to help integrate the search code and get the site live before them."

In response to all of these claims that Cegila is making, Facebook has requested that they be allowed to immediately review the original copies of the contract and a few other emails that Cegila claims to have but has not yet released. Cegila’s lawyers are requesting that both sides turn over any relevant evidence that they have simultaneously. A court date has currently been set for June 30. There these motions will be decided.

"Not only does Mr. Ceglia possess an original agreement, it has been examined by two forensic document experts," attorneys for Ceglia said in an email to the media.

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