MMM Receives Legal Threats – Great Lawyer Wanted

The threats are real.. but how we respond to them is our choice.

The threats are real.. but how we respond to them is our choice.

Sigh. I suppose this was bound to happen sometime.

This blog is approaching its third birthday and has been blessed with over 62 million page views from 5.2 million people and counting. Many people have helped and contributed along the way, and while we rant, swear, and speak out against many aspects of our culture, there have been very few bumps along the way. Even the corporate world that we occasionally mock has left us alone. Until now.

A few weeks ago, a flurry of registered letters and FedEx packages started arriving at the Mustache residence. They were from a law firm representing a company who didn’t like something that had been said by a member of the Forum section of this website.

How did they even find out about this conversation, you might ask? Through Google searches. After all these years, this website has garnered sufficient page rank that when we talk about something, it shows up high in the search engine rankings. The company was apparently Googling their own name, found something they did not agree with, and decided they wanted to silence the critics. Here’s a copy of that first letter, signed by the chairman:

The first threat. In retrospect I have learned it is complete bullshit, but it was scary at the time.

The first threat. In retrospect I have learned it is complete bullshit, but it was scary at the time.

From what I could tell, there wasn’t much merit to their complaint. They were asking me to take down posts that a reader had made regarding their company, alleging that it was “Libelous”. Never mind the fact that Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code holds that website owners cannot be held responsible for comments that their users make.

I could have taken it down anyway and been free from the hassle. But the whole thing seemed like bullshit to me. If I’m going to sit here and write about financial independence and the freedom it gives you from putting up with bullshit, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a corporate law firm push all of us around with questionable legal threats.

Adding to the bullshit nature of the claims, it seemed like my adversary was humorously unaware of the Streisand Effect: trying to suppress information only ensures its permanent and widespread distribution. That shit may have worked for totalitarian leaders intimidating villagers, but come on, the Internet has been invented. Can a tiny East Coast firm suppress a large blog, run by a person who thinks suppressing information is really, really evil?

So while I removed the old post pending some legal advice, I did take one step: I started a new thread on the forum, explaining the legal threat that I had received. I figured it was only fair that people should know what is happening, and there is no possible threat of libel from me simply reporting some actual events taken by this company. The Mustachians had a field day with it, and the discussion continues.

Well, they didn’t like that either. I came home from my day of carpentry today to find a slew of “sorry we missed you” registered mail and FedEx notes, and a non-registered letter from that same law firm. Inside was a huge printout of the whole forum thread and even more scary threats from the lawyers.

They stated that their lawsuit would be targeted against my wife and I, as well as our domain registrars (translation: we’ll get your website taken down too.)

It may all be groundless bullying, but it is also a little scary.

I’d love to have an aggressive lawyer who could receive these little threat letters for me and turn them around on the originating firm, so they would know that we will not be bullied. I do have several good friends who work in or own law firms, and they have provided some early encouragement. But rather than imposing on them, I thought it would be most appropriate (and most entertaining) to reach out to the Mustachians first.

If there’s an actual law we are breaking here, I will gladly stop breaking it, and offer my full apologies to those affected.

But if we are within our legal rights, then I will absolutely fight with every resource available to preserve those rights and keep publishing the opinions of both forum users and myself. And the results of the battle and the names of the companies who have attempted this will be published on this blog forever for the protection of others.

Update: After further advice from the MMM legal team, I can now safely share more details. The company is called Kiss Trust. The forum thread they are objecting to is this one right here. Their law firm is called “Law office of Mark B. Williams, PLC”, and here is a copy of the letter they sent me:


I’ve heard that all state BAR associations forbid their members from sending threatening letters when they know there is no real basis for the complaint. If a law firm is publicly shown to be doing this, it could be very bad for its reputation. But the practice remains widespread, and this surprises me.  I’m not saying that Mark B. Williams’ law firm would stoop to such a level – I don’t know enough of the law to prove such a thing. But if this does turn out to be the case, it will be important for this information to remain public as well. And for all other letters I receive from law firms to be published for further scrutiny by a larger audience.

Hey! What do you know, this new one came from another lawyer just the next day!


Either way, I look forward to learning the truth so I can better comply with the law, and sharing the results with you all along the way. I could not imagine a better learning experience, so I thank Kiss trust for providing us with this opportunity!

I will also start a dedicated page on this blog so this story and others from readers about legal and corporate harassment can be shared. It makes sense that if suppressing information and opinions with fear is the disease, then a public forum where we can share them permanently with each other is the antidote.

This blog reaches over 25,000 lawyers every month as just a tiny slice of its readership. I’m looking for one person, an aggressive and serious one who is willing to take on the bullies. This blog, while not a big-bucks operation, can pay you for your time as required, and you will also receive my wholehearted endorsement and recommendation if you want your firm’s information to be public. Ideally, this would become a recurring story as we document the progress of our fight.

Who’s in?

Update: I’ve found my great lawyer! After dozens of responses from attorneys in all sorts of firms, I have had an amazing crash course in first amendment law over the last 24 hours. What strikes me is how incredibly baseless the threats seem to be – they directly contradict everything the best lawyers around are telling me the law says! One of the cited precedent cases in that second letter turned out to be about an old couple with a leaky roof, and had no relationship to defamation at all.

I have chosen one firm to represent the blog, and we have some response letters in the works, which I can share with you as they are finished and sent.

If you are a US attorney with expertise in this area (or are just interested in helping out), please get in touch with me through the blog’s contact form here: https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/contact/

Although I am now happily represented and ready for some fun, the crowdsourcing effect of this article is amazing: we can combine knowledge from all attorneys and focus them into one case, ensuring a very good result.

Many thanks and here’s to the next three years!

Mr. Money Mustache

p.s. Kiss Trust – don’t you wish you had just left that innocent single comment alone in the forum now? And will you consider leaving all other bloggers alone from this point forward?

In response to your first threat, I documented your actions on a low-profile forum thread. The second threat encouraged me to write this article.
Then it spent some time on today’s top 10 in Hacker News.
Then the king of first amendment defenders, Ken White from Popehat tweeted it to his 12,000 twitter followers. (Thanks Ken!)
There’s currently an editing battle going on in your Wikipedia Entry between an IP address registered to your office, and somebody else who has added reference to this post. So you asked to have the whole post deleted, but Wikipedia isn’t listening to you either! (Internet etiquette tip: you’re not supposed to write your own Wikipedia entry)
And you got a good chunk of the country’s first amendment lawyers digging into your own firm and each of your law firms.

We can go a lot further on the publicity side of this, so just let us know where you want this story to appear next. It should be pretty obvious by this point that it is not me who is hurting your reputation, it is you. The more interesting you make this story, the more people will decide they want to share it. So keep making it interesting, and I’ll keep documenting!

On the other hand, when you are done punching yourself in the face, you can send me a personal apology and a promise never to do this again to anyone. I will publish it and we can all go back to our real jobs. Although your behavior is wrong right now, I have no objection to your actual trust business, and I believe in forgiveness. I think your potential customers may as well.

Update 2: This has all blown over

It didn’t take long after this post for things to go back to normal. I never heard from the company again, although I did receive second-hand word that they were pissed at the results of their attempted squelching. I also heard from the management of corporate-owned blog Get Rich Slowly that the K-trusters had sent very similar legal harassment to them over an honest review of the company’s products. What a bunch of bullshit. Glad it is over but we remain vigilant for the next battle.

  • Chad March 12, 2014, 2:48 pm

    Is it a bad thing that the forum is down? Hmm…

    Good luck to MMM on a successful defense.

  • KJM March 12, 2014, 2:50 pm

    The truth is a 100% defense to libel or slander. Just remembering my first year torts class.

  • Kathleen March 12, 2014, 2:52 pm

    I was just over at a frugal living forum and posters were discussing their dislike for Walmart meat. The idea that About.com could be sued because we talked about the things we hated about Walmart’s meat and it’s price is ridiculous.

  • Dezrah March 12, 2014, 2:54 pm

    There is only one man out there with the legal expertise to help you, the one and only Leonard “J” Crabs.

    Go here to see some of his amazing work:

  • MSW10 March 12, 2014, 3:04 pm

    The firm threatening you looks like a small time 4-person band of mediocre DUI attorneys. Bottom feeders extraordinaire.
    But that’s just my opinion : )

    Here’s the contact info for the Colorado ACLU

    Go crush em!

  • AlexF March 12, 2014, 3:12 pm

    Just tried to check out their website, looks like all the traffic from readers might have crashed their web servers. Hilarious. Although, I see there is a database error on the forums site also right now… Maybe it is also getting more attention than usual.

  • Jordan Read March 12, 2014, 3:13 pm

    I didn’t check out the Wikipedia page earlier, but it looks as if it’s now being considered for deletion…oops.

    And now, we’ll have to see. I like what Frugal Toque said, an early retirement blog readership has a good chance of having more spare time to confront this. Not the people you want to pick a fight with. :-)

    Good Hunting, MMM. Let us know what you need.

  • ALQI March 12, 2014, 3:15 pm

    Is there something non-lawyers can do to help? How about non-bloggers?

    Just wondering, cause I’d like to help but I have absolutely no credentials in anything that would be of use to MMM, at least not in this case.

    Would it be bad to turn this over to the 4chan btards?

  • Jordan Read March 12, 2014, 3:24 pm

    And their site is down. Think they are beginning to regret this move, yet? It also appears that their parent company’s site is down too.

  • Ginger March 12, 2014, 3:34 pm

    Side note, your forum is now down….

  • jestjack March 12, 2014, 3:37 pm

    Hmmmm….I will say that Culpepper Virginia is beautiful country….and evidently has it’s fair share of lawyers. An attorney that became a good and trusted friend once told me…. first …”anybody can sue anybody for anything”…the filing fees are modest and lawyers are set up for this . So their overhead continues if they are working or not. Second …”start to be concerned when you have to sign for your mail”. And third …”doing things for/on principle is fine …even admirable…but principle can be expensive”. What I would not do is ignore this. I would seek competant legal counsel. Just a “heads-up”… last time I needed such counsel …it was $250 an hour….and worth every cent. Took five years and many billable hours but I got what I wanted. Good Luck….

  • Nathan Friedly March 12, 2014, 3:39 pm

  • Ryan March 12, 2014, 3:43 pm

    Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. It’s scare tactics. But it reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from NewsRadio.

    “You can’t take something off the internet. It’s like trying to take pee out of a swimming pool. Once it’s in there, it’s in there.”

  • Jon W March 12, 2014, 4:05 pm

    I tried googling “kisstrust.com” and it is now not found. Also, the wikipeida page is being considered for deletion. This article must be having a negative impact on that company. Best of luck to you MMM, you do what you have to do.

  • franky B March 12, 2014, 4:38 pm

    If you have umbrella insurance, you are covered in these libel cases. the insurance company covers legal costs and will even find a lawyer.

  • Patrick March 12, 2014, 4:41 pm

    Being an attorney (although one that practices estate planning and admittedly of little help to your situation), I would recommend filing a claim with the state bar association of the attorney representing the other party. As attorneys, we take an oath and agree to ethical obligations that forbid us from making frivolous claims or lawsuits.

    The result may be nothing, but at least it will put that state’s bar association on notice that he (or she) is misbehaving.

    As a “small firm” attorney, the hassle of dealing with my bar association’s ethics committee would be a large disincentive to ever pursue a case that doesn’t have merit.

    Best of luck, and if you ever need Estate Planning help, I’m here for you!

  • Tony March 12, 2014, 4:54 pm

    Has the MMM effect totally swamped The Kiss Trust? Their website appears to be down, at least from the UK, and their Wikipedia page says it may be taken down as it appears to be more an advert than a wiki page.

    Shot themselves in the foot, or what?

    In my opinion, that is….

  • Nate March 12, 2014, 5:09 pm

    David and Goliath story; this should be great! Too bad firms cannot stand on their own merits of good business. If they had 1000 satisfied customers and only one pissed off one who posted on your blog, then it would be unlikely they would have bothered with the post. My guess is you are right that they need to go on a suppression campaign to continue to do bad business.

    Good luck, I cannot wait to follow the outcomes.

  • Dee March 12, 2014, 5:30 pm

    What part of “badassity” do they not understand? They’ll need a PR guy not a lawyer. We’re on your side Mustache!

  • MH March 12, 2014, 6:30 pm


    two of my favorite blogs are MMM and a blog called popehat.com. Popehat deals with free speech issues. I am not a lawyer, but many of the topics on the blog seem similar to the one you now find yourself in. I suggest (and suggested in the forum topic on this issue) that you find the contact form on popehat.com and send them an email. A group that has handled many speech issues for the cases on popehat is Public Citizen (http://www.citizen.org). This issue of user posts an opinion on a forum and forum owner gets sued is not not unique. I think you will quickly find qualified counsel to aid you.

  • Daphne March 12, 2014, 6:43 pm

    Another devoted reader prepared to contribute to the cause. You know, MMM, after following your very excellent advice for some years, some of us are in a position to be able to help. Sort of paying tuition for all the lessons that paid off big- time.

  • Jeff March 12, 2014, 6:45 pm

    If that guy can get away with creating the website with the “alternative definition” of Santorum, I think they can’t touch you for this.

  • Wallace March 12, 2014, 7:35 pm

    Thanks for standing up! By the way, Google makes a practice out of publishing takedown notices at chillingeffects.org:

    It looks like the search feature at Chilling Effects is not working now as I tried to run a search for Kiss. Please consider submitting the notice you received to Chilling Effects, which amongst other things, compiles statistics on improper/abusive takedown notices.

  • Tom March 12, 2014, 8:08 pm

    http://www.kisstrust.com is down!

    Did ANONYMOUS see MMM’s SOS and destroy them?

  • Tom March 12, 2014, 8:40 pm

    This actually reminds me of some woman who was being sued by a company that she gave a bad Yelp review on. It’s disgusting to me how these companies would rather try to sue people to keep business going instead of focusing all of that energy on making their business better.

    Count me in as someone who would contribute to this fund to fight these turds.

  • anon March 12, 2014, 8:51 pm

    I love that the dirtbags finally picked on the wrong guy and are getting their comeuppance. Lawyers are frequently not the most tech saavy – I don’t think they realize that justice on the internet can be swift and overwhelming.

  • electriceagle March 12, 2014, 9:15 pm

    Dear MMM,

    Here are a couple of things to consider:

    1) If the comment regards a matter of public interest, any suit filed may be a SLAPP suit. Depending on your state laws, you may be able to have the suit dismissed out of hand and your attorneys fees billed to the plantiff.

    2) I dont know what kind of business insurance you have associated with the website, but you may want to consider blog liability insurance from the authors guild.

  • Cody Shorter March 12, 2014, 10:16 pm

    WIll be very interested to see how they respond! MMM well done on not just rolling over. Unfortunately there are people out there like this that will bully small business/individuals and it is great to see you and the community here sticking up for what you believe in.

    At the conclusion of all this it would be awesome if you (with the help of your many new legal buddies) could put together a couple page doco/guide on how to react if ever faced with similar circumstances. Unfortunately I don’t have a blog reaching millions and wouldn’t know where to begin.


  • PF March 12, 2014, 11:44 pm

    I went to the Kiss Trust website and sent them a comment. Essentially I told them that they were being short-sided douchebags (only in more polite language). They are alienating the exact people who are most likely to consider using their services. Fight the good fight Mr. Mustache!

  • Jef March 13, 2014, 5:41 am

    Haha wow, just wow, bluffing much.. I whole-hearetdly support your cause MMM and know that anyone that challenges this be that lawyers or another company is likely to lose..

    Keep the viewers posted and take them and their Oxford Dictionary using lawyers down :)

    Maybe we should stop talking about/giving them attention isn’t any publicity good publicity

  • JR March 13, 2014, 5:44 am

    I’m so glad you are taking the time to fight this and stand up for what is right. Companies get away with this nonsense because people can’t afford lawyers to defend themselves. Hats off to you for standing up to them!

  • No Nonsense Landlord March 13, 2014, 6:25 am

    I hate lawyers. The PirateBay has some interesting responses to the threats they receive.

    Good luck with the suit. maybe every member here, should repeat the offensive post all over the web blogs. get millions of posts out there.

  • Sarah March 13, 2014, 6:39 am

    Good luck MMM! Love your website. I look forward to hearing about your triumph over these people!

  • Daisy March 13, 2014, 7:31 am

    Wow. That’s a little ridiculous – perhaps the company should be taking that comment as feedback, instead of attacking a blogger legally about something they didn’t even post.

    I am somebody who reads blogs and trusts blogs with respect to product reviews, company complaints, etc. The reason that I trust them is because the blogger, or it’s readers in your case, have personal experiences with the companies in question. In my opinion, not that I’d ever use a company like KISS Trust, this is more damaging than the comment, and they should have left it alone.

  • Brian March 13, 2014, 8:09 am

    Thank you for posting this information. As with all your other information, it will definitely be helpful for people who may experience something similar. I would never knowingly support a business that would resort to these kind of bullying tactics. There certainly was nothing preventing the company from simply contacting you with a courteous request to delete the comment when they discovered it. That might have gone over much better than a threatening legal letter. Businesses and law firms like this need to go away – there’s no need for them. Thank you for sharing this information MMM. GOOD LUCK!

  • lentilman March 13, 2014, 8:53 am

    Would it help if we were to call their office on the phone and explain that one reason we are not interested in a KISS product is because they are trying to chill discussion on your website?

    Perhaps an organized calling campaign would demonstrate why it’s bad to have an irritated mustache?

  • Adria March 13, 2014, 9:07 am

    They even threat to go over everyone who said anything bad about their firm in the comments! Amazing! :)

  • chattanooga cheapster March 13, 2014, 9:53 am

    Imagine how much better it would have been for kisstrust if they had just joined the forum and provided some counterpoints to the poster’s comments.

    As a parent of a special needs child I’ve looked into kisstrust and trustegg for use as a special needs trust. These legal tactics just took kisstrust off my list.

  • Brian March 13, 2014, 11:07 am

    What fascinates me is this behavior. This blog has a massive audience and reaches millions of people. Instead of attacking it, they should have reached out to you and said “hey, someone on your site posted that we were a scam. We disagree and we’d love to tell you our story, explain why we’re not and help educated people on the topic.” Then they have a savvy business move, exposure to a new audience and no legal fees.

    I just don’t understand people sometimes. They can be so thick.

  • Nick @ PFDigest March 13, 2014, 11:13 am

    I blog at Saverocity… we received a threatening letter from a Capital One telling us we weren’t even allowed to mention their name since it was a trademark violation… we shamed them publicly, harassed their PR department, and they backed down.

  • Ryan March 13, 2014, 11:32 am

    This. Was. Awesome. I’m glad you were able to find an attorney. I know the folks at the First Amendment Center in Nashville do great work as well. Maybe for the next time you get a threat.

  • clamslammer March 13, 2014, 11:36 am

    What WAS the comment they were wanting taken down?

  • CincyCat March 13, 2014, 11:42 am

    Did anyone else but me notice that the first letter CC’s “George S. Robinson” and the third letter is signed by someone with the exact same name? Just an observation.

  • cptacek March 13, 2014, 11:55 am

    Your italicized note to KISS trust is so full of win I had to read it 3 times to absorb all of the awesomeness.

  • mary w March 13, 2014, 11:59 am

    They were upset that a negative forum posting showed up on the 2nd page of Google search. If they had left it alone it would have slowly dropped further down in the search. But nooooo….they had to poke at the wasp nest and now it’s the 4th listing in a Google search. Way to go!

  • Refinerr March 13, 2014, 12:38 pm

    I think you should change your name to Mr Trouble Mustache. Good luck dude!

  • Brian March 13, 2014, 12:50 pm

    I am really enjoying the frugal and yet effective defense of the First Amendment! It was pretty amazing how far down I had to scroll just to post this.
    Netizens (and especially frugal netizens) unite!

  • Ben G March 13, 2014, 1:09 pm

    I am so thankful for tough, smart people like MMM in the world. So many people would give in and pull the comments because it is easier than fighting – even though they are in the right. That, of course, is the hope of these types of letters, to scare people into submission – even though they are in the wrong. Your smart, strong approach -when you ultimately prevail – will cause Kiss and their lawyers to pause before harassing the next website. Ultimately, you are doing a service to all the other little guys out there that are too weak to stand up for themselves. Thanks for the awesomeness!

  • Dave March 13, 2014, 1:52 pm

    I’m in to defend, too! If a fund is set up I will help. They know what they can kiss.

  • tallgirl1204 March 13, 2014, 2:02 pm

    So, if you’re not allowed to allow your commenters to say bad things about companies they don’t like, how come Dave Ramsey gets to say that he “hates” Bank One?


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