JONATHAN FORTMAN: Corporate Bullying Part 3

Attorney Jonathan Fortman contributed this third part of a three-part series on the unsuccessful corporate bullying tactics of Beautiful Brands International (BBI) against UnhappyFranchisee.Com publisher Sean Kelly.

You can read the Parts 1 & 2 here:

BEAUTIFUL BRANDS: Standing Up to Corporate Bullies

JONATHAN FORTMAN: Corporate Bullying Part 2

Corporate Bullying – Part 3 – The Finale

By Jonathan Fortman        April 28, 2013

Welcome to Part 3 of my blog series about corporate bullies.

I did not intend on making this into a series.   Ongoing events in the underlying case have just naturally led me along the path.  In this finale, I’ll talk about how the bully, after being challenged in the legal system, will then revert back to an adolescent playground bully thereby completing the circle.

I have three children.  The youngest is my 10 year-old son.  He thinks the old man can do no wrong.  Everything I say is right and he looks up to me.  It’s a very special time in the life of a parent.

My middle child is my 14 year-old daughter.  She’s at that stage in life where she thinks she’s always right and her parents are dorks who don’t know anything.  Don’t get me wrong,  I think she’s a great kid.  However, I think our Creator makes us all go through that stage so that we can undergo a few lessons in the school of hard knocks.

My third child is my stepson who will turn 21 in a few weeks.  He has matured to the point where he has gone through a few of life’s lessons and is seeing that the old man knows what he’s talking about, at least some of the time.  I must admit those moments are very gratifying.  In the case I spoke about in Part 1 of this series, I made certain statements concerning the effect of standing up to a bully.  As that case has unfolded, everything I said in Part 1 has proven to be true.  The old man was right.

Consider yourselves all my children coming of age as I explain to you exactly why the old man was right.

In BEAUTIFUL BRANDS: Standing Up to Corporate Bullies, I talked about the case of Beautiful Brands International (“BBI”) v. John Doe.  I told you that if you stand up to a bully, 99% of the time the bully will back down.  In the BBI case, my client, Sean Kelly, stood up to that bully.  At the time Part 1 was published, we had no idea if the bully would be among the 99% who back down or the 1% who keep coming because they’re too stupid to realize they’ve lost their power.

In JONATHAN FORTMAN: Corporate Bullying Part 2 of the series, I talked about the bully blinking first.

Basically, the bully responded by publicly crying about how it was so mistreated and stating that its victim was really the bully.   When Part 2 was published, the case against John Doe was still pending.  We disclosed Sean Kelly’s identity and basically dared the bully to replace Sean Kelly for “John Doe.”  Since part 2 was published, the case against “John Doe” has been dismissed.  There was no substitution of Sean Kelly for Mr. Doe.  The bully has backed completely down.

In this finale of the series, I wanted to discuss the way in which these disputes can turn full circle from corporate bullying through perverted use of the courts to simple adolescent playground antics.  BBI was founded by a man named David Rutkauskas.  I don’t know Mr. Rutkauskas.  However, reviewing his twitter account, blog, and the glowing PR materials his company throws out, I get the distinct impression that Mr. Rutkauskas thinks very highly of himself.  After all, what kind of business executive sends out a tweet showing off his $100,000 Mercedes?

There’s nothing wrong with thinking highly of yourself or flaunting your material possessions if you are legitimate.  The problem is that if your business is based solely on fluff and no real substance, it will eventually bring you down.  You might as well put a big, huge red target on yourself.

I contrast Mr. Rutkauskas’ behavior with that of Warren Buffett and Sam Walton, two of the most successful people in history.  By all accounts, both men came from humble beginnings, worked hard, and became giants in the business world.  However, neither of them ever flaunted their wealth.  They stayed true to their core values.  Those successful in business can do that because they know that their success never depended on fluff.  Rather, their success was directly tied to their work ethic.  Their values drive them, not their material possessions or the need for self-promotion.

If there’s any doubt about the difference between Mr. Rutkauskas and the real business tycoons, one need only look at several tweets Mr. Rutkauskas sent after his business practices were questioned.  After the case was filed against John Doe, Mr Rutkauskas made a series of tweets directed to Sean Kelly that were, to put it mildly, crude and offensive.  This is a family-oriented blog so I won’t set out the contents of the tweets.  Interestingly, the day after the tweets were made, Mr. Rutkauskas removed them from his twitter account.  However, I had screen shots of the tweets and made sure to include those in my letter to the BBI attorney when I disclosed Sean Kelly’s identity.

(Here’s a side-lesson, my children, never tweet while under the influence of a mood-altering substance).

David RutkauskasI thought that dismissal of the case against Mr. Doe would be the end of this saga.

I was wrong.

Yesterday, Mr. Rutkauskas tweeted, and I quote:  ”hey there Sean Kelly, why don’t u travel to Tulsa and say all this Bull S@*t to my face?”

The first thing I need to point out to Mr. Rutkauskas is that “bulls@*t” is a single word.  If you’re going to act tough in a tweet, try to be grammatically correct.  This tweet is comical.  It shows that the old man was more right than he even knew.

The corporate bully has now reverted to middle school tactics of daring its victim to a fight on the playground.

We have come full circle to the days of our youth.  Would Warren Buffett or Sam Walton had sent such a tweet had Twitter been around during their primes?  Obviously not.  In my opinion, Mr. Rutkauskas has now shown himself to be nothing more than an egotistical, self-absorbed peddler of fish oil.

As my daughter would say, he now has no relevance.

Thanks for reading the conclusion to this series.  Call us if you need help standing up to corporate bullies like this.  We’d be happy to help.

Jonathan E. Fortman

For more information on Jonathan Fortman and Fortman Law, visit the Jonathan Fortman profile page in our franchise attorney directory.

This article was originally published at the Fortman Law Blog and is reprinted here by permission of the author.

Related Reading:

Beautiful Brands: Why Franchise Bullying Backfires




TAGS: Jonathan Fortman, Attorney Jonathan Fortman, Jon Fortman, Sean Kelly, UnhappyFranchisee.Com, Beautiful Brands, BBI, David Rutkauskas, corporate bullying, bullying, franchise bullying

5 thoughts on “JONATHAN FORTMAN: Corporate Bullying Part 3

  • SanFranDan

    Congratulations to Sean Kelly and Jonathan Fortman for a job well done.

    You see that you have over 2,000 posts about the bullying that many of us have experienced over at Liberty Tax Service. Hope some of these tactics can work on that corporate bully too. The experience we encountered is nothing short of a “lynching” even though we were paying good money for the privilege of being a franchisee with that “company”. The most horrific experience of our lives. We desperately want that company’s bullying tactics exposed and for the leader to go down, down, down.

    Thank you for what you do and for starting this great website. It has been a real stress reducer just getting words on paper.

  • Thanks SanFranDan!

    Thanks to those of you who take the time to share your experiences & views so that others can make more informed decisions.

  • SanFranDan, thanks for the kind words. We are investigating numerous franchise bullies. As you can imagine, we have no shortage of work. By running this site, Sean Kelly has helped us even the playing field. Information from franchisees is critical to our success. The franchisor has a lot more money and resources than we have. This site helps us neutralize their advantage. I can’t say enough good things about Sean. I can tell you that neither Sean nor I do this for the money. We do it because it’s the right thing to do. Thanks again.

  • TexasTea

    My hat is off to all of you!I know from personal experience that Liberty Tax is definitely the bully type of franchise that you describe. SanFran knows what we have experienced with this company first hand, as do a lot of us. Sean and Jon, keep up the good work!

  • Over and Out

    It seems the West Point boys over at 7-Eleven act the same way……the rules are for the little people to abide by…

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