September 23, 2020

Alsup enters judgment against ‘Baby-Faced Wolf of Wall Street’


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Alsup-William-Article-201405221726By Ross Todd, From The Recorder
SAN FRANCISCO — Default judgments against pro se defendants aren’t often causes for celebration.
But Facebook Inc.’s lawyers at Perkins Coie have to be relieved, if not pleased, with the default judgment they secured Thursday against Martin Grunin, a 22-year-old New York man who allegedly scammed the company out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Facebook sued Grunin in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in May, accusing him of impersonating legitimate advertising companies to open Facebook ad accounts. Grunin, whom one New York tabloid dubbed a “baby-faced ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ wannabe,” allegedly sold those accounts to individuals who couldn’t get their own because they’d previously been banned from Facebook, didn’t have adequate credit, or didn’t intend to pay Facebook for the ads.
Facebook’s lawyers—Perkins Coie’s Judith Jennison and Joseph Cutler—claimed in the complaint that the company had fired off numerous cease-and-desist letters to Grunin and disabled at least 70 of his accounts since 2011. They claimed Facebook wasn’t paid for at least $340,000 worth of ads purchased on accounts that Grunin illegally created or acquired.
In Thursday’s decision, U.S. District Judge William Alsup granted Facebook’s request to enter default judgment. Grunin, Alsup wrote, failed to make a timely response to Facebook’s pleadings, and instead “larded the record with a hodgepodge of documents.”
Among the documents Alsup pointed to were a “declaration of Copyright Trademark” claiming that Grunin had rights to the phrase “MARTIN GRUNIN,” a notice purporting to charge Facebook $300,000 for filing a motion, and another saying that if Facebook wanted to enter into a “contractual relationship” with Grunin it had to pay him $100,000.
Grunin, who for a time in the litigation was represented by counsel, actually consented to default judgment through his lawyers in December. Grunin later stated that he wanted to proceed pro se and on Thursday he appeared on his own behalf before Alsup requesting that the default judgment be lifted.
In an order issued after the hearing, Alsup denied Grunin’s request finding that it came too late. Grunin, Alsup wrote, had been offered the opportunity to file a motion to lift the default judgment, but failed to do so. Alsup also found that Grunin had never claimed innocence and there was “no evidence in the record that proceeding on the merits would be productive.”
Alsup granted Facebook’s motion for default judgment and enjoined Grunin from using any Facebook website or service. The judge asked for another round of briefing on damages and fees, and scheduled a hearing on that topic for Feb. 19. Alsup also had a copy of his decision sent to the U.S. attorney’s office for possible investigation given “the serious nature of the allegations.”
A Perkins Coie spokesperson directed a request for comment to Facebook. In an emailed statement, Facebook associate general counsel Nikki Stitt Sokol said the company was pleased that judgment had been entered and that Grunin is barred from contact with the company’s services. “We will continue to use all available means to protect the people and business partners who use Facebook and to aggressively fight against potential scammers,” she said.
Grunin didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment made through one of his former lawyers. His phone number and email address weren’t available in court filings. Alsup wrote that Facebook’s future filings should be “mailed to Grunin’s last known address.”

IMAGE: U.S. District Judge William Alsup, Northern District of California
Hillary Jones-Mixon

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