FPA Forums and Reviews Admin
Windsor Brokers Has Sued The FPA
For Allowing Unhappy Clients To Complain
For Allowing Unhappy Clients To Complain
This time, it wasn't just a company threatening to sue the Forex Peace Army. Windsor Brokers hired a law firm and filed a suit against four of their own clients and the FPA's parent company. They want the FPA to remove a large number of reviews and forums posts made by angry clients.
Over 900 pages in the lawsuit documents
The incident began at the end of March 2017. First, there were a handful of negative reviews for Windsor Brokers. Within a few days, this swelled into a tidal wave of negative reviews, mostly from Egypt. At the same time, the first of several threads on this issue were opened.
Full Disclosure: I personally block the banner ads at the FPA. I don't want to know who is currently advertising, so I block the ads for myself and my review moderators. I had to ask the advertising department. They said Windsor had a small banner contract at the time the complaints began to come in. When I was informed, I told advertising not to allow that contract to be increased or extended until I figured out what the truth was behind the situation. Due to a miscommunication, I wasn't told of a separate contract from Windsor Brokers for branding customization of their review page. You can see a test example of a branded page by clicking here. My login blocks seeing most of the branding features, so I had to ask someone in advertising if the test page was fully set up.
I contacted a Windsor employee to ask about the situation. This eventually turned into me trying to handle a 3-way email conversation with one of the clients who filed an FPA Traders Court case. One of the first requests from Windsor's representative was for the client to identify himself. This seemed reasonable to me, since no one wants to waste time on an issue if the person complaining isn't one of the actual clients involved. It took awhile to get a 3rd party disclosure agreement to let me be part of the conversation and to get the client to identify himself. My goal was simply to find out if what this one client was claiming was true or was a misinterpretation of the situation. If it was true, I would expect Windsor Brokers to correct the situation. If it was a misinterpretation, I would explain it to him and the other clients to the best of my abilities.
I made it plain to all involved that I would not permit any more Traders Court complaints to be filed unless the client filing it included their Windsor Brokers MT4 account number at the beginning. I kept that promise. For reasons I did not understand at the time, most of Windsor's clients in the main discussion thread of this issue did not want to post their MT4 account numbers . This resulted in no new Traders Court cases being filed.
The situation was bad enough, but on July 20th, someone inside the offices of Windsor Brokers made it worse. A five star "client" review was submitted from inside their offices. Per FPA policy, the fake review was commented and set to zero stars. I am always disappointed to see any company leaving reviews for themselves. To see this happen while I'm trying to assist a company and one of its clients in determining what really happened in a disputed incident was doubly disappointing.
I'm not going to go into the details of the client claims here. This was made longer and more complicated by both sides. Each seemed to have to consult with a large number of people before responding. What should have been a simple fact-finding which could have been done in 1 to 3 weeks dragged on and on. The client involved failed to respond to messages in a timely fashion and I dismissed the case on September 25th. Since I had been told the client's group was planning to take the issues to the Cyprus regulators and courts, I thought that all I'd have to do was to wait for the wheels of justice to slowly grind our the facts.
On September 29th, I was informed that the FPA's parent company had received legal documents from the lawyers representing Windsor Brokers. Windsor was suing 4 of its own clients for defaming the company. They also decided to add the FPA's parent company to this lawsuit as the publisher of this 3rd party content. The lawsuit documents in Greek with an English translation came to over 900 pages.
The request to the court submitted by the lawyers for Windsor Brokers contained a statement about the FPA which I personally feel is defamatory. It said "The said forum presents that its intention is the protection of investors from forex companies, while forex companies see the same forum as a coercion mechanism which is used to extort money from them."
But they still wanted to keep advertising at the FPA
I am sure some bad companies may feel this way about the FPA and honest companies which have dealt with the FPA would be unlikely to take this incorrect viewpoint. If Windsor Brokers shared this false view, why were they helping to support the FPA by advertising on the website? Why did they include such a defamatory statement in their legal filing where they complained about being defamed? I had spend months trying to help determine facts. If Windsor is telling the truth about the client issues, then those facts would have helped to defend their forex company, not to extort money from it. Instead, the lawsuit looks like it is intended to be used as a coercion mechanism to prevent clients of Windsor brokers from being able to express themselves and to extort the FPA into removing client complaints about their company.
One of the defendants was the FPA member who filed the FPA Traders Court case. The court documents strongly imply that the only way Windsor linked him to his review and forums posts was through the 3 way email discussion between the client, Windsor Brokers, and the FPA. I personally cannot even begin to express my disappointment that my work to try to get to the facts behind each side's claims was then misused by Windsor Brokers to add another client to their lawsuit. I consider this to be a serious breach of the good faith nature of such a discussion.
The documents claim that the FPA knows the material is defamatory. At this point, no one at the FPA has the information needed to know if the claims made in the forums and reviews by those clients are fully true, fully false, or somewhere in between. I was trying to find out when the suit came with the false claim that the FPA already knows.
Among the papers was an injunction regarding the publication of defamatory material. I find the wording to be confusing about whether that applied to further publication of comments and reviews by the specific group of unhappy clients involved or if it was a requirement for the FPA to remove existing material. I personally find it hard to believe a judge would want material to be removed before hearing from the people who wrote it. I hope a judge would want to see what the regulators have to say about what happened. I temporarily locked the disputed threads. Since I have no way to tell what Windsor Brokers and their lawyers may view as defamatory, I left a message to my review moderators to hold all new reviews for Windsor Brokers in the queue. As of now, I'm reopening those threads and having the one review which came in for Windsor processed.
As far as I can tell, this is a textbook case of a SLAPP Suit. These are defined by Wikipedia as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. (Click to see full article). The basic idea of a SLAPP suit is try to force the removal of undesired content by suing, even if the lawsuit has no merits. The time, effort, and costs of defending against a lawsuit from Cyprus would be be a large obstacle to a good defense, both to the FPA and to the 4 named defendants.
I told advertising to end any advertising campaign for Windsor Brokers. One person from the ad department told me the banner campaign had run out months before. That was all I knew about, until October 27th. Then another Windsor employee emailed to find out why the review page customization had ended. After a few questions to the ad department, I found out about the review page branding customization contract which someone in advertising cancelled after learning of the lawsuit. On October 30th, I wrote back to inform Windsor Brokers about the cancellation of the contract. I told them that showing ads for a company while the company is suing the FPA would be a conflict of interest. Since the FPA has no interest in unfairly keeping money, I asked for bank wire instructions to return the unused funds from the cancelled contract.
Windsor's representatives didn't send the bank wire information. Instead, I was told that running ads to help a company gain clients while that company is suing the FPA is not a conflict of interest. I was also told that inclusion of the FPA in the lawsuit was "necessary". I was even told I could get the FPA out of the lawsuit, if I would only removed all the content that Windsor Brokers didn't like and to promise to never again publish any false or defamatory statements against the company. Even stranger, I was told that even if I didn't remove the material, I should reinstate the rating Windsor had before the group of clients complained, by removing the reviews those clients left from the Windsor review page.
I'm going to address these points one at a time.
1. I'm supposed to help a company which is suing the FPA gain more clients by letting them advertise. This means the company will have more profits to pay more lawyers. I am amazed that anyone could even try to claim this was not a conflict of interest. The FPA has a right to cancel advertising contracts. The contract with Windsor Brokers was cancelled the moment someone in advertising realized it was still running.
2. It was never necessary to include the FPA in the lawsuit. No FPA employee wrote one word in the forums and reviews expressing any opinion about whether the disputed complaints were correct or not. Instead, the FPA was trying to help determine the truth. The reward for trying to help was to be blindsided by a SLAPP suit.
3. No court has ruled on whether the information posted by those clients is true or false. No court has ruled that one word is defamatory. No regulator has yet ruled on whether the clients' claims are true or false. The FPA cannot allow anyone with a lawyer to "prove" posts are false and defamatory without complete rulings or at least an honest discussion between the FPA, the trader, and the broker to try to determine the facts. The FPA is not going to allow any company to scrub the complaints of angry clients by threatening the FPA with a SLAPP suit or actually filing a SLAPP suit against the FPA.
4. In the real world, if a company has a large group of unhappy clients, this often results in the rating going down. This can happen even if the clients are completely wrong about their claim about the company being at fault. What the FPA does is try to get companies and clients to talk to each other to determine facts and resolve issues. I spent a large amount of my personal time trying to help Windsor Brokers and a client determine the actual facts. Until I know all the facts or until all the judges and regulators involved have ruled, I see no reason to remove even one word. Suing to hide bad ratings is not how any company should seek to improve their rating.
I asked for bank wire instructions again on November 30th. This request was ignored. Instead, the demand to remove the client reviews and restore the former rating of Windsor Brokers was repeated. The claim was that the new rating has caused the company irreparable harm. Someone at Windsor Brokers still doesn't seem to understand that having angry clients is bad for ratings and having happy clients is good for ratings. That's how ratings work. I can't walk into the offices of Windsor Brokers or any other company and examine all the details of the account of every client who leaves a review, so how can I know which future reviews are real complaints and which are somehow defamatory?
Windsor's reply was that they just wanted the defamatory comments deleted. They also claimed to not want to censor clients' rights to free expression.
I find "remove things we claim are defamatory" and "we support free expression" to be contradictory. The clients and Windsor are going to be fighting this before the courts and in front of the regulators. When those rulings are issued, the FPA will look at them and take appropriate action. To consider removing even one word based on the accusation of one side without actual proof would be wrong. In cases like this, the FPA invites companies to present their side of the issue publicly. Windsor Brokers decided not to show their side in public. Instead, they are using a SLAPP suit to try to hide the opposition's view of a situation.
For over 10 years now, I have fought back against every attempt to prevent clients from expressing their opinions of the companies they deal with. Without regulatory and court rulings, how can any oiutside observer know which complaints are justified and are defamatory? If Windsor Brokers chose to file a lawsuit once, what assurance does any review site have that Windsor Brokers won't sue again and again whenever there are too many unhappy clients leaving reviews?
On December 28th, I sent a long letter back to Windsor Brokers. It included a 3rd request for bank wire information, whether or not they accepted my counter-proposal.
My counter-proposal was simple...
1. Permanently and irrevocably remove the legal threat against the FPA and its parent company.
2. Have the lawyers involved apologize for what they said about the FPA in the lawsuit. I found it strange that they would say something defamatory about the FPA while suing the FPA over claimed defamation written by Windsor clients.
3. Have the CEO of Windsor Brokers promise to never again make any legal threats against the FPA over 3rd party content.
4. Apppoint a new representative to the FPA.
Windsor Brokers wrote back. They included an argument about my interpretation of the injunction. Windsor then repeated their offer to drop the lawsuit if I did everything they asked. They again ignored the request for bank wire information,
I've already explained to Windsor's people that I am not going to remove 1 word their clients said unless I see court and regulatory rulings showing those words are untrue. I've explained that I am also not going to sit up and beg or fetch anyone's slippers.
The good news for the FPA, its members, and other readers is that the FPA has legal protections for a situation like this. The reason is simple. Jurisdiction and US laws against "venue shopping." That's where a person or company decides to find the location where it's easier for them to get a ruling against the target of a lawsuit. If a Cyprus court can control a US publisher, why can't a North Korean court demand that US news companies say nicer things about their leader? A North Korean court could demand this, but US new companies would ignore it.
US law is clear about overseas rulings regarding content are not enforceable if the US publisher could not be found guilty under US law. This means venue shopping is useless, unless the FPA broke US law by allowing those clients to post in the forums and reviews.
Are US review sites responsible for what reviewers say?
No. As a US based company, the FPA's parent company has no legal responsibility for 3rd party content. Without this legal protection, anyone with a lawyer could prevent complaints from being posted to the forums and reviews. How long would Amazon keep reviews if anyone could threaten lawsuits to have negative reviews removed? Thanks to US law, Amazon doesn't have to worry about this, at least on their US website.
I cannot count the hours I've spent on this issue. First, there were so many review submitted for Windsor Brokers that I couldn't leave them all to my review moderators. Then I tried to get Windsor's representative to join the discussion thread. When that failed, I spent large amounts of time trying to learn the facts by the 3 way email discussion, only to find the FPA being sued. Then there were the consultations with free speech advocates and lawyers from the US, Cyprus, and other countries. Finally, there have been the attempts I've made to convince Windsor Brokers to stop the lawsuit and to take their unused advertising funds back.
So far, the representatives of Windsor Brokers still say the only way to get the FPA removed from their SLAPP suit is to hide many pages of client reviews and forums posts. The FPA is also supposed to permanently guard against anything in the future which Windsor Brokers considers to be defamatory or else the lawsuit can come back, all while claiming that Windsor Brokers supports freedom of expression.
Under the circumstances, it is the opinion of the FPA and its owner that there is no choice but to publicize these actions by Windsor Brokers. I hope they will see the error of their ways and drop their lawsuit against their clients and the FPA's parent company. I hope they will instead take the issue before the Cyprus Regulators so the facts of what happened can be carefully examined.