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How Do Craig Tractenberg’s Irresponsible Tactics Benefit Clients?

Craig Tractenberg, a partner at Philadelphia law firm Fox Rothschild, claims that he’s a “Super Lawyer.”  Web publisher Sean Kelly has been on the receiving end of Tractenberg’s bizarre threats and bullying twice.  Both times Tractenberg’s clients wound up with additional bad press, and the last time Tractenberg wound up with an ethics complaint filed with the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.  Kelly reaches out to the franchise and legal community to explain if there’s method to this madness.

(UnhappyFranchisee.Comby Sean Kelly   I am going to suppress my urge to mock litigation attorney Craig Tractenberg’s professional bio (which is filled with accolades along the lines “named Best Lawyer by BestLawyer.Com” or “named Super Lawyer by Super Lawyer” and even includes his prestigious entry into the “Who’s Who of International Attorneys”)

Assuming we use the definition of success as getting paid lots and lots of money, I will even acknowledge that Craig Tractenberg is a highly successful attorney.

Franchisors are obviously willing to pay him obscene amounts of money, and my sincere question, based on the two dealings I have had with him, is:  Why?

Both times he threatened me his threats were, on their face, puzzlingly ludicrous.

Both times he persisted, even after it should have been clear that his tactic wasn’t going to work.

Both times he doubled down on statements that were not only false, but were easily disproven.

Both times he represented clients who were upset about negative posts, and both times Tractenberg’s tactic’s earned his clients even more negative attention… and still, I assume, they paid his fat invoices and continued to retain him.

I don’t get it.  I hope someone can help me understand.

Read my complaint to the Discliplinary Board here:  Craig Tractenberg Ethics Complaint

Read additional information submitted to the Disciplinary Board:  Tractenberg Complaint Additional Information

In 2014, Tractenberg claimed that my direct quotes from a U.S. Attorney’s press release constituted defamation

My first email from Craig Tractenberg was back in July, 2014, when he was with Nixon Peabody,.  I had posted a press release from the U.S. Attorney in NJ announcing the conviction of Nick Papanier, Sr.*, owner of the Primohoagies sub chain and the independent food supplier Nellie’s Provisions.

The press release stated that Primohoagie’s franchisees (and other restaurant owners) had purchased meats and cheeses from Nellie’s Provisions, sometimes paying in cash.

Nick Papanier, Sr., as part of his plea deal,  had admitted that he owned Nellie’s Provisions and that he had diverted over $500,000 in cash for his personal use, which he hadn’t declared nor paid taxes on.

Tractenberg sent us a bizarre email addressed “Dear Mr. Gardner.”

Tractenberg apparently thought franchisee attorney Ron Gardner (who has no connection to the site) published the site and planted the article.

Tractenberg stated the post was defamatory because “The only connection between the crime and PrimoHoagie is that Nick Papanier [Sr.] founded Primohoagies. No franchisee funds were paid in cash. No franchisee funds were taken and not reported.”

Tractenberg continued his threats of a defamation suit even after he was informed Gardner had no connection to the site.

We contacted the U.S. Attorney’s office and they affirmed that Tractenberg’s statements were contradicted by court record and his client’s testimony.

Nick Papanier, Sr. owned both companies.  Franchisees had paid in cash.  Some franchisee funds were diverted by Papanier, Sr. to his personal accounts.

Tractenberg, strangely, called the U.S. Attorney’s statements “reckless,” but offered no indication as why.

Tractenberg looked pretty foolish, earned his client an additional post or to, and didn’t help his relationship with the U.S. Attorney.

I sent him a final email with some advice:

Just so you’re clear, we don’t delete posts or comments and we don’t get intimidated by threats and nasty emails, even from big firms like Nixon Peabody.  We know our rights and we are familiar with defamation law.  We have been hit by two unfounded lawsuits and have prevailed both times.  Both the Plaintiffs and their attorneys received much more negative publicity than they had in the first place.

So I would like to extend a couple of invitations.

The first invitation is that, in the future, you contact us with concerns in a respectful and cooperative manner. It will be better for you if you don’t tell your clients that you might be able to intimidate us into removing posts.  That’s not going to happen.  However, you are free to tell your clients that you have the ability to provide corrections and their side of the story, and that UF is professional, responsible and responsive.

My second invitation was to man-up and apologize to us.  We didn’t hold our breath.

Tractenberg returned with outrageous threats… and created unwanted publicity & legal exposure for his client.

Tractenberg not only didn’t heed my advice he upped the ante.

He called on behalf of his clients School of Rock & Sterling Partners, demanding that I remove all content mentioning them (mostly consisting of bullying complaints by their own franchisees).

If I refused, he stated he would ruin my reputation by releasing embarrassing financial, litigation and divorce records he had compiled on me… plus his clients would sue me.

Craig Tractenberg made a number of false statements of fact:

  • He stated that he had my divorce records. I have never been divorced.
  • He stated that he had written proof that I recommended a royalty strike. No such document exists.
  • He stated that the Code of Conduct for attorneys does not prohibit making extortion-like threats against an unrepresented non-attorney. I don’t believe that’s true.
  • He threatened to go through with his threat to spread these false statements to my detriment if I do not meet these demands… which seems like extorion to this non-attorney.

I filed a complaint against Tractenberg with the board that oversees attorney ethics in PA.

I have published a barrage of posts about his and his client’s bullying threats, and have a lot more to say on the subject.

One attorney has already told me Tractenberg has put Sterling Partners and School of Rock at risk for a defamation suit.

I warned Tractenberg three years ago that bullying me would backfire… and so it has.

Is there any logic to his actions, any legal strategy here that I am missing?

I haven’t reviewed his litigation track record, but from my experience Craig Tractenberg acts recklessly and with disregard for the best interest of his clients.

Can someone please explain to me what is so super about this super lawyer?

Because I’m just not seeing it.

Read Kelly’s letter to the Disciplinary Committee here:  Craig Tractenberg Ethics Complaint.

* Note that references here are to Nick Papanier, Sr., not Jr., who is currently involved in the company.

Further reading on the School of Rock / Sterling Partners Controversy:

Craig Tractenberg Complaint Submitted to Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of PA

School of Rock Attorney Craig Tractenberg Threatens Unhappy Franchisee Publisher

Attorney Craig Tractenberg Threatens Web Publisher (Press Release)

Open Letter to Rick Elfman and Sterling Partners

SCHOOL OF ROCK Franchise, Sterling Partners Controversy: It’s All About Dzana (Topic Index)

SCHOOL OF ROCK Franchise Complaints
Is Dzana Homan an Abusive CEO? School of Rock, Sterling Partners Controversy Grows

SCHOOL OF ROCK Dzana Homan Responds to Franchise Complaints

SCHOOL OF ROCK Franchise CEO Dzana Homan Faces Tough Questions

Craig Tractenberg also threatened UnhappyFranchisee in 2014:

PRIMOHOAGIES & Nick Papanier Sr. Tax Evasion: A Clarification

PRIMOHOAGIES Owner of Nellie’s Provisions Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud [Updated]

PRIMOHOAGIES Franchise Complaints [REVISED]



TAGS: Craig Tractenberg, Craig Tractenberg complaints, Craig Tractenberg Ethics Violation, Fox Rothschild law firm, Rick Elfman, Sterling Partners Rick Elfman, Sterling Partners, Dzana Homan, CEO Dzana Homan, School of Rock, School of Rock franchise, School of Rock franchise opportunity, School of Rock franchise complaints, School of Rock unhappy franchisees, School of Rock franchise, Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of PA

One thought on “How Do Craig Tractenberg’s Irresponsible Tactics Benefit Clients?

  • None of this surprises me. I faced Craig Tractenberg in two arbitrations involving a franchisor who was ethically challenged. In the first case, a former contractor for the franchisor was identified by me in discovery as a potential witness for my client, the former franchisee. Mr. Tractenberg launched into an attack on the witness and threated to sue him on behalf of his client for alleged violation of his confidentiality agreement, conversion of trade secrets and defamation arising out of events a few years earlier if the witness. He sent the following e-mail to the witness (names redacted):

    “I am counsel to *********. The purpose of this email is to demand that you cease and desist communications with the business colleagues of ******************* as you have no legitimate purpose for such communications. This is also to advise you that you have defamed **********************, which I will more formally advise you about in a later communication.

    We have collected your emails sent to our clients’ business partners regarding the public records of *******************.
    Your commentary to some of these emails contain false information regarding *****************. Other of the emails which purport to simply forward public information maliciously cast **********in a false light. Both are actionable as you are motivated to achieve an unlawful result from this targeted communication.

    Our investigation shows that you maintain both a **** and **** address; accordingly, I will send the demand letter to both addresses. Please have your counsel contact me regarding a protocol for collecting the emails sent and prohibiting future communications, and the availability of your counsel for a hearing in federal court if we cannot agree to a proper protocol.”

    I responded:

    “Craig: I just got the e-mail chain below from Mr. *******. First, I am very concerned by the threats made by you to Mr. ****** in the e-mails. You never identified the false statements that Mr. *******supposedly made. Therefore I will assume there were no defamatory statements. Otherwise, I do not see how you can prevent Mr. ****** from discussing what he apparently discussed with other persons who contacted him and what he will testify to at trial.. Your e-mails were clearly meant to intimidate Mr. ******* I trust that you will not seek to intimidate him from testifying truthfully at the arbitration. Second, it is apparent that you have a ******* address for Mr. *** which is more than I have so please don’t play games with me. Send me his address, as should have been included in your interrogatory answers and I will verify that it is still current.

    Frankly, I continue to be appalled at your repeated conduct. It is clear that you are doing what you can through threats and intimidation to keep people from talking about ***********and **********how far they can go. Remember, litigation is not a game and it is certainly not a situation where all is fair and anything goes. ”

    He went ahead and sued this witness who was intimidated and ended up not testifying. The allegations included violation of the computer abuse and fraud act, breach of fiduciary duty, tortious interference with contract, conversion of confidential information, breach of contract and conversion, After my arbitration was over, the suit was dismissed. Mission accomplished.

    As alluded to in this e-mail, there were other instances where I found Mr. Tractenberg’s conduct to be inappropriate but this suffices for now.

    I do not wish ill against any lawyer. I understand the pressures he is under to produce for his clients and his firm and to prove his worth to them. However, we lawyers are supposed to be professionals and held to a higher standard than others by the Rules of Professional Conduct.

    Harry Rifkin

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