Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Federal Trade Commission v. Innovative Marketing, Inc. (Maryland U.S.D.C.)

Filed September 16, 2009
Opinion by Judge Richard D. Bennett

Held: Under the recently articulated Iqbal "plausibility" standard, the FTC sufficiently pleaded a cause of action against a corporate officer for personal liability for deceptive marketing practices.

Facts: The FTC sued multiple companies and their officers for marketing software using misleading "scareware" tactics. One officer moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim against him in his individual capacity. Under the FTC Act, upon establishment of corporate liability for deceptive marketing, individual defendants may be held personally liable upon proof that they "participated directly" in the acts or "had authority to control them." In addition, the FTC must prove the individual had some knowledge of the conduct.

Regarding the individual, the FTC alleged that 1) he was a corporate officer, 2) he handled the company's finances and merchant accounts, 3) this was important because of the difficulty maintaining payment processors due to a high rate of chargebacks and complaints, and 4) his credit card was used by another defendant to buy advertising. The court held that these allegations were sufficient to support a claim for personal liability under the Act.

*Concerning the knowledge requirement, the court relied on the defendant's degree of participation in business affairs, the small size of the enterprise, and the breadth of the scheme to infer that he had knowledge.

The full opinion is available in PDF.

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