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Stupid Legal Watch: The Sheer Idiocy Behind Yahoo!'s Court Win

12/13/11

By Ken Magill

And this year’s award for biggest waste of corporate and court resources goes to … drum roll please … Yahoo! Yay, Yahoo!

The late 90s’ favorite portal was awarded $610 million last week in a default judgment against a bunch of offshore 419 spammers—default because they never showed up in court.

Why didn’t they show up? Because they’re reportedly located in Nigeria, Thailand and Taiwan. The name of the suit itself indicates how ridiculous it was from the get go: Yahoo! Inc. V. XYZ Companies.

May as well have been Yahoo! Inc. V. Man on the Moon’s Boxer Shorts.

To be fair, there are some individuals named in the body of the ruling, but that doesn’t make the effort any less ridiculous.

The scammers reportedly sent 11,660,790 emails to Yahoo! address holders between December 2006 and May 2009 claiming they had won a lottery sponsored by the company.

As is often the case with 419 scams—named after the corresponding Nigerian legal code—those foolish enough to bite on the scam were told some upfront fees were necessary to claim their prize.

And, of course, there was no prize.

Citing various Can Spam and trademark violations, Yahoo! sought just under $3.5 billion—yep, that’s billion with a “b.” Why they didn’t ask for $173 squagillion plus a few rounds of bamboo canings is anyone’s guess.

In any case, Southern-New-York-District-Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain decided a multi-billion dollar award would be a tad excessive.

However, she agreed a large award was called for. The most ridiculous sentence in her ruling spelled out why: “Finally, a large damages award would have a deterrent effect on both Defendants and other would-be perpetrators of a similar scheme.”

Oh, yes. The whole 419 scamming community is trembling in its collective boots over a ruling handed down by a judge in another country thousands of miles away that they’ll never visit.

Judge Swain has apparently never been on the Interwebs. She also apparently has a grotesquely inflated perception of what her rulings can accomplish.

Her judgment will have no deterrent effect on any of the criminals and gangsters scamming gullible Internet users from overseas accounts.

What is more, Yahoo! wasted its lawyers’ time and American taxpayers’ money tying up a court for three and a half years pursuing a case that has accomplished nothing.

The only thing missing from this case is a press release containing a Monty Python’s Holy Grail-esque line where Yahoo! says—in a French accent of course—“Now go away or I’ll taunt you a second time” or “I wave my privates at your aunties.”

And the thing is, Yahoo! has the resources to put a serious dent in 419 and other scams. So does Gmail, Hotmail, AOL and every other entity providing email addresses. Where is the mass campaign to consumers explaining how email scams work and how to avoid them?

I have yet to receive a single email from any of my multiple inbox providers addressing 419 scams.

And it’s probably the same legal team who pursued this ridiculous action who came up with the convoluted logic behind the decision not to launch an educational email campaign to Yahoo! email address holders explaining how 419 scams work.

Congratulations on your imaginary victory, Yahoo!. That snickering sound you hear is coming from Thailand, Taiwan and Nigeria.

Author’s note: I’m willing to concede that Yahoo!’s lawyers can’t be complete barnyard morons and must have had some reason to see this lawsuit through. If anyone out there has any idea what that reason might be, I’d love to hear it.

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