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The Hamilton Spectator
Tuesday, July 14, 1998
page A1

Philip takes aim at critics

by David Akin, David Akin

Philip Services Corp. expects to finger as many as six Canadians as defendants in a defamation lawsuit filed in a Hamilton court.

The Spectator has learned that a lawsuit has been filed in Ontario Court (general division) in Hamilton seeking unspecified damages for defamation, threats, and improper release of confidential financial information.

The suit is similar to one Philip filed June 4 in a California court.

As with the California suit, Philip has only identified the defendants as John Does. But where the California lawsuit named as many as 100 John Does as defendants, the Ontario lawsuit names a few dozen John Does and links each to a specific alias used by an anonymous critic.

Philip believes each critic may have used between two and eight aliases.

Philip has used the courts in Ontario and California to force as many as eight Internet service providers and Yahoo Inc. to identify the anonymous critics. Those Internet service providers are Weslink Datalink Corp. of Hamilton, AOL Canada Inc., PSINet Ltd. subsidiary iStar Internet Inc. of Ottawa, at least one other Hamilton-area Internet service, and other providers in southern Ontario.

Based on the information from those companies, Philip believes it will name about six Canadians in its lawsuit.

"We can confirm we're talking about less than a dozen individuals in both countries", said Lynda Kuhn, Philip's vice-president of communications.

The company, though, is remaining tight-lipped about other details, for fear it will spark another round of the kinds of messages it seeks to stop.

When a story about the California lawsuit was published Saturday, the Yahoo message board lit up with more messages, criticism, and attacks. The company hopes that staying out of the limelight will make it less of a target.

Philip says the messages go beyond the bounds of criticizing company policy and they contain ethnic slurs directed at co-founders Allen and Philip Fracassi; threats of violence against several senior Philip executives; and denigrate senior female executives.

The company says many messages also accuse Philip executives, including the Fracassis, of connections to organized crime.

'SCURRILOUS'

"As the (Yahoo message) board got more scurrilous, it attracted more attention among employees", Kuhn said. "Many thought 'Why can't the company defend itself against this?' When word got out about the actions we had taken, the reaction among employees was one of elation."

Details about the lawsuit, including the names of the other Internet service providers, are part of a court file as thick as three telephone books. The file has been sealed by the court at Philip's request.

Nonetheless, details about Philip's court action are coming to light from a variety of sources, including the company and those accused by Philip of publishing defamatory messages.

In its lawsuit, Philip also says that not only were it and company officials defamed, but that the anonymous posters -- using such names as CountBuster and Sceptic666 -- defamed regional chairman Terry Cooke, other Hamilton-area politicians, and employees of The Hamilton Spectator.

Philip also confirmed yesterday it believes at least one of the anonymous critics it seeks to unmask is an employee of the company who worked for a U.S. unit of the firm.

Philip employs about 14,000 people in Canada, the U.S., and Europe in industrial services and metals recovery.

It stunned the investment world earlier this year with news that a series of unauthorized trades in copper futures by an employee cost it millions of dollars and forced it to restate its earnings for the last three years. Its stock has slid from $28 last fall to less than $5.


Copyright © 1998 by The Hamilton Spectator. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.