June 15, 2009

"A network of 30 'phantom' companies, some complete with logos and websites, to obscure the true nature of the movie he was making."

Assuming you're a lawyer, wouldn't you love to do the legal work that supports Sacha Baron Cohen?

The nature of the challenging and complicated work has come to light in the course of a lawsuit that may or may not be trumped up:
The court documents say the comedian has established “greater than 30 fraudulent corporations that set-up websites and mission statements to mislead individuals form (sic) discovering the true identity and purpose of the requested appearance by... Sacha Baron Cohen”.

At least 29 company name registrations linked to the film have been filed with the LA County Clerk, all in 2007. Many of them give the appearance of being German or Swiss broadcasting firms, such as Deutsches Modefernsehen and Deutsches Unterhaltungsfernsehen.

Among the firms that seems to have been most used as a front for the film is Amesbury Chase.
Its website is now blank, but before being removed, it described Amesbury Chase as a production company offering “world class facilities, and state-of-the art equipment to help you create dynamic and compelling content”.

Its address was a mailbox on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. At least three other “front companies” – Chromium Films, Cold Stream Productions and Coral Blue Productions – used the same address and phone number and had identical websites.

Production staff working on the film used the companies as fronts to contact several organisations and individuals to persuade them to take part in the documentary they were filming, often pretending it was a European production looking at American culture.

Among those taken in were the Alabama National Guard, which was contacted by staff from Amesbury Chase to say they were an affiliate of a German TV station shooting a documentary on what it was like to be in officer recruitment school. Baron Cohen was allowed to train alongside new recruits and was filmed changing into uniform, exposing a thong he was wearing.
Or would you hate to use your legal skills to trick people like this? Come on, I said assuming you're a lawyer.


MadisonMan said...

Those who look to the web to validate contacts should not be surprised when all is not as it seems. I wonder how long it would have taken for, say, the Alabama National Guard to verify the contacts. Half a day? So put me in the I-hope-this-lawsuit-fails camp as well.

If I were a lawyer, I think it would be fun to support SBCohen -- lots of practice for the real world, I think.

DKWalser said...

Sounds like a lot of billable hours. Isn't that the be all and end all of being an attorney?

rocketeer67 said...


Triangle Man said...


ironrailsironweights said...

I like to watch girls make toilet.


Lem said...

Never before have have so many known so little about so much.

Given this inherent and insidious limitation in knowledge and the fact that this ignorance may be getting worst by the hour, I say we ought to give the lie a chance.

Maybe by welcoming it we may become better at spotting it and defeating it.
Build up an immunity, yea yea that's the ticket.

Sheepman said...

I wonder how long it would have taken for, say, the Alabama National Guard to verify the contacts. Half a day?

You can't spend a half a day verifying all potential interviewers. The task here is made more difficult because it is coming from a foreign company operating in a foreign language.

I'm surprised that the DOD doesn't have resources in place to assist the National Guard with such things.

Leland said...

Professor, when you use the tag "lawsuits I hope fail", are you hoping the lawsuit which lead to the discovery of Cohen's deception fails?

Lem said...

Assume that everything is a lie from the start.

MadisonMan said...

You can't spend a half a day verifying all potential interviewers.

Sure you can. Or, you can cut corners and then bitch about getting caught with your pants down.

(Not that I say the Alabama National Guard is bitching -- they certainly don't appear to be; Ms. Olson, however, certainly is)

Fred4Pres said...

Sounds like excellent training for working in a national election campaign.

Lem said...

What is the ratio of “accurate/inaccurate” information we consume everyday?

Lies are such a part of our lives we try them on all the time. We lie to ourselves all the time.
Or so I’ve been told at my meetings – for all I know that’s a lie too.

traditionalguy said...

The hard part of doing Cohen's legal work is not that Deception is involved. All "Corporations" are inherently deceptions upon us that they are Persons, when in fact they are real people in hiding that have been granted the Legal Authority by a State to pretend that they are other fictional persons that never die. Anyway, The hard part for Cohen's atty is fighting the confusion that deception creates for yourself. If an attorney charges Cohen $1000 for creating one entity, does he charge him $30,000 for 30 entities? His client may ask for a volumn discount, but the experienced atty says "no, that will be $60000 to pay for fighting the confusion caused by he and his staff doing the work on 30 similar, but slightly different, entities all at once. Our saying is that "Legal work is easy, but it's hard as hell to do it right!" Lawyers think of the use of corporate entity deceptions as what the Army uses its camoflage paints for in time of war.

Salamandyr said...

Sascha Baron Cohen may be many things; he may be funny, he may be transgressive. But let's face it, he's kind of a dick.

He makes money off of being a dick.

Lem said...

If you take into account the transitory, impermanent, incontinent nature of our lives, the lie is the true representation of everything.

JohnSteele said...

in case you're interested, i've linked to this and posted about it at Legal Ethics Forum, because it presents the issue of "undisclosed principals." Representing an undisclosed principal isn't unethical per se, but even when you do it correctly you're never too far from the line.


PatCA said...

Cohen sounds kind of nuts. Andy Kaufman nuts.

scinfinity said...

You'd think people would've learned lessons after the Glass incident. This is the exact thing he did.

Why does anybody assume anything online is correct or legitimate?

blake said...

You know, real people--real society--functions on the basis of a clear understanding of intentions. A "meeting of the minds", right?

It's easy for Cohen--who is essentially a narcissistic neo-Funt--to fool people because people assume he's a reasonably good person expressing an honest interest.

That's also why it's easy for you to drive down the street without worrying too much that the guy coming the other direction isn't going to swerve into your lane. You know, as a joke.

Captain Ned said...

Leave the heavy lifting to Tuttle over at Berlinische Polyteshnicus.

al said...

If I were a lawyer I would hope I didn't need the money so I wouldn't have to work for a piece of crap like SBCohen.

PatHMV said...

That sure starts to seem like a highly orchestrated fraud. He's taking active steps to hide the true nature of what he's doing, in order to obtain something of value from his victims (their consent to participating in the interview, their signatures on the releases).

Personally, I think Cohen is beneath pond scum, and if I were, God forbid, forced to do legal work for him because of economic necessity, I would feel a great need to take a couple dozen showers every day.

He is a bully, pure and simple, no better than the bully at school who liked to go around "pantsing" other kids. And the people who watch his movies are the same kids who laughed hard at those victim kids in order to keep the bully from turning on them.

PatHMV said...

Oh, and MadisonMan, I would consider it a pretty wasteful use of taxpayer dollars, for the DOD or the Alabama National Guard to spend half a day doing background checks and full vetting on every single self-proclaimed reporter wanting to do some interviews on base. This is a free country, and the rest of us shouldn't have to be subjected to such scrutiny just because some asshole like Cohen likes to screw people.

One day, perhaps not until his death bed, he's going to look back at the pathetic use he's made of his talents and cry in despair at how he's wasted his life and the number of people he's hurt, all to make himself money.

halojones-fan said...

blake: Tell me about it.

This is the thing that these "Punk'd / Gotcha / Ironic-Humor" people don't understand. They aren't pulling off some kind of masterful subterfuge to expose the innate idiocy of the American public. They're just taking advantage of the general assumption that the person they're talking to isn't a dick.


I have to say, the first people lining up to hate on Cohen should be documentary filmmakers, who will now have to put up with everyone in America saying "Oh, hey, you want me to sign this form so I can appear in a movie? This is one of those things where you're going to make me look like a total asshole on camera, right? Get fucked."

But then, I guess it's the attitude of the times, that you can't be sure of anything until you've pushed on it so hard that it breaks.