The Rosenfarb Law Firm seeks to recover damages on behalf of class members which would include anyone who sold shares of AOL, Inc. (NYSE: AOL) stock between August 11, 2011, and April 9, 2012. The suit alleges "AOL misled investors about its financial condition" and by doing so drove down the price of the companie's stock after which AOL purchased millions of shares, then sold off part of the company's patent portfolio for $1 Billion, which then drove up the price of the shares AOL had purchased
In a 47 page complaint filed in the UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT for the DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS a woman who used AOL for years and was very careful to delete "cookies" and opt out of other features that could track her online habits has filed a $5 Million lawsuit against Patch.com parent company AOL (now controlled by Arianna Huffington and Huffington Post Media Group).
The suit alleges that Patch.com parent company AOL, conspired with other companies to unknowingly "track her every move" online and off. The suit arose from an incident where the woman had purchased chair cushions and used the computer checkout swiping her credit card and store loyalty card. She then checked her email when she got home and found she had received an email ad for the exact same cushions.
The 259 point complaint outlines exactly how Patch.com parent company AOL circumvented her browser preferences to track her via Adobe Flash Local Stored Objects (LSOs).
It seems AOL probably wanted Ariana Huffington more than her poli-trash-rag-blog Huffington Post.
AOL, a company built on the idea that "you can fool most of the people most of the time", is now in the hands of Ariana Huffington... sort of. She still needs to answer to stock-holders, a Board of Directors and a few other AOL execs.
AOL's Patch is targetting women primarily, and The Big Huff is more than willing to sell out her sisters for bottom-line ad bucks. Here's how Jon Brod, (President of AOL Ventures), put it in an interview with Denver's Westword News, "we're really focused on the '80-80-80 strategy.' That means roughly 80 percent of commerce is done locally, roughly 80 percent is done by women and roughly 80 percent has an influencer in the purchase path. So influencers and celebrities are very big for us."
Celebrities and influencers -- that makes Patch sites sound all local and neighborly, huh?
This month, (May 2011), Patch has shifted gears from paid local writers, (something they've promised the pblic and their overworked editors they'd hire more of), to begging the general public to start a blog on Patch and write the not-so-local startup's content for free.
In the same interview Brod said, "The mission of AOL is to be the largest producer, distributor and monetizer of high-quality content at scale."
For those not in the online publishing business, "monetize content" means get paid the money from the ads on a web page. Women -- be warned, AOL and Patch are target marketing YOU!
NOTE: the class action suit has just been filed for $105 Million against AOL, Ms. Huffington and the newly formed media group she heads up which controls Patch and all other AOL content mills. The suit alleges unjust enrichment and unfair business practices by Huffington and AOL and filed on behalf of bloggers who created massive amounts of content on the Huffington Post blog she sold to AOL for $315 Million.
*** The National Writers Union has urged writers to boycott the sites. The Newspaper Guild of America and the AFL-CIO have endorsed the boycott. ***
The Huffington Post, a shoot-from-the-hip super-blog run by Ariana Huffington, (the same wacky former politico flip-flopper who could not win an election as a Republican or Democrat), was purchased recently by AOL. The sale put $315M in Ms. Huff's pocket -- and she was also made queen of content for AOL's new sorta-local website network "Patch".
The only problem was, 99.99% percent of the content on the HuffPost site was created by others -- and they are feeling cheated under the concept of unjust enrichment, non-payment of services, and other employment and equity legal concepts.
Just like former legal actions against AOL, (e.g.- the "AOL Community Leader" class action lawsuits, see below), the true owners of the content, the writers weren't paid a dime. Here's a the links:
Joe Pompeo, a reporter at The Business Insider has written several articles about AOL's Patch, and had contact with several people in the organization -- including overworked local editors, underpaid writers, and those who have inside knowledge of the sales and marketing practices the company is developing.
Pompeo's articles contains direct quotes like, "I ended up quitting at the get-go because I found their contract to be completely inappropriate if not against fair labor practices.", and responses from Patch justifying their business practices.
Local Waltham, MA daily deal website "Wow What Savings" owner says AOL / Patch stole his business model and is trying to capitalize on the the name and business he's built, and to cut him out of profits.
It seems by his account that Patch started using "wow.com" with his business model (and in same market confusing customers), and that AOL had previously used "wow.com" for World of Warcraft content.
The lawsuit which has been bumped up from Middlesex Superior to Boston Federal Court claims AOL / Patch began using "wow" after executive level discussions of a deal with "Wow What Savings" after which AOL said it wasn't interested in a daily deal type site.
In the early days on online computing, people had to "dial up" AOL and pay hourly fees to chat, play games, send email or read news. Some heavy users spent $500-$800 a month. To induce some users to monitor chat rooms, moderate online communities, add content, and otherwise contribute to the service the company would give certain "community leaders" free access. By 1993, the cost of using AOL came down to $19.95/mo for unlimited access. Realizing they were working for free, half of the early community leaders quit, (or simply paid for their own account so they didn't have to "work for it", others continued to work at AOL, albeit, unpaid.
By 1999 several realized they were "unpaid employees", (and working for a company that had a growing backlog of consumer complaints), and sued the company for back wages. The settlement checks started being paid in July of 2010.
In what is known as the "AOL Footer Class Action Lawsuit", the company was sued for inserting ads after a user completed typing the email, and before it was sent. Paid users compalined that they were entitled to a share of the millions of dollars in excess profits AOL made, using their contacts as marketing targets.
AOL, in a planned marketing move, AOL released 20 Million records from approximately 658,000 of its members to marketing companies resulting the class action lawsuit, Doe v. AOL L.L.C., No. 06-5866.
The company was sued by investors over the takeover of AOL by Time Warner in 2001, (and subsequent financial losses due to management and accounting practices which lead to class action fraud and securities lawsuits by stock-holders -- institutional investors had "opted out" of that class-action suit).
The company settles with investors for $2.65 Billion in 2005 after fraud and federal securities violations were alleged. For years the company fraudently accounted for advertising transactions by shifting money back and forth between accounts, falsly inflating the company's value by $1.7 billion. Also pays $150 million settlement to Department of Justice (DOJ) and $300 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
On behalf of Ohio consumers, the Ohio AG's office settled with AOL, obtaining full refunds for inappropriate charges to their accounts.
Faced with mounting complaints from users, AOL agreed to a settlement with FTC that obligates it to process subscriber cancellations promptly and ensure that billing ceased.
Patch didn't start out as the next incarnation of AOL, but in 2009, AOL saw it as the answer to how to make a buck off a new generation of suckers.
Since its earliest corporate days AOL has systematically taken advantage of its employees, investors, stock-holders and customers.
AOL's Patch is the latest incarnation of "Digital City", "Hometown AOL", and other branding they have put on their pursuit of local markets.
To the left you will find the history of a corporation that repeats the same pattern of unfair labor practices, fraudulent business practices, and thousands and thousands of documented consumer complaints.
Today, AOL is hoping a new generation of online users will fall for their Patch pitch.