Swiss lawyers threaten environmentalists

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By Gordon Dritschilo, STAFF WRITER | December 03,2016

A Swiss law firm claims Vermonters for a Clean Environment violated the rights of the owners of Omya by identifying them.

The organization received an email, dated Nov. 25, threatening legal action if two links regarding Omya were not removed from the VCE website.

“Omya Management AG is not a listed company, in which the ownership is legally disclosed by law,” the email read. “Omya Management AG, as well as Max André and Eric Schachenmann, are not interested in the fact that informations about the shareholders (ownership structure) are publicly accessible and visible on the Internet.”

The email demands a response by Nov. 30, threatens legal action otherwise and saying their “partner firm in the US” was aware of the situation.

The links remained in place as of Friday night, but VCE executive director Annette Smith said she had removed text identifying Max Andre Schachenmann and Eric Schachenmann as the owners of Omya.

Smith said that she saw no legal basis for the company to take action against her over naming its owners, and neither did two lawyers she consulted, but that she has been feeling “a little gun-shy” since she was investigated — and ultimately cleared — by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office earlier this year on charges some of her advocacy work had constituted practicing law without a license.

“Omya’s a big powerful corporation and I didn’t want to wrangle with them,” she said. “I don’t even know who their lawyer is. I didn’t think we should have to do anything.”

Smith has often been a thorn in Omya’s side, having organized local opposition to the mining company’s plans in Vermont at various points in time, but she said her relationship with the company has been positive for several years.

Omya did not respond to media inquiries Friday.

The email came from Battegay Dürr Wagner AG, a law firm based in Basel, Switzerland, whose website says they represent “companies, organizations and private individuals” and employ negotiating skills minimizing the need for litigation.

Lawyer David Hug signed the letter. According to the Battegay Dürr Wagner website, Hug was admitted to the Swiss bar earlier this year and specializes in “media and entertainment law,” among other subjects.

The firm’s website does not indicate whether Hug in particular or Battegay Dürr Wagner in general has any familiarity with American First Amendment protections.


Email from Omya’s attorney received by VCE

From: David Hug <>

Subject: Omya removal request

Date: November 25, 2016 at 10:06:13 AM EST

To: “” <>, “” <>

Cc: “” <>

Dear Sir or Madam,

In the name and on behalf of Omya Managment AG such as Max André and Eric Schachenmann we hereby ask you to remove the following links from your website:                                                                                                  

Omya Management AG is not a listed company, in which the ownership is legally disclosed by law. Omya Management AG, as well as Max André and Eric Schachenmann, are not interested in the fact that informations about the shareholders (ownership structure) are publicly accessible and visible on the Internet. Therefore the following part has to be removed: „privately-owned by Max Andre and Eric Schachenmann“. It is absolutely against their personal rights that these informations are published on your website. 

I await your reply untill Wednesday, November 30th 2016. Otherwise our claims must enforced by way of litigation. Our partner firm in the US is informed. 

Sincerely yours 

David Hug

Attorney at Law 

Anwälte, Notare / Attorneys at Law, Notaries Public 

Heuberg 7, Postfach 2032, CH-4001 Basel

Tel. +41 61 225 03 03, Fax +41 61 225 03 99 

Altmarktstrasse 96, CH-4410 Liestal

Tel. +41 61 921 00 95, Fax +41 61 225 03 99

This e-mail message and any attachments to it contain confidential information which are for the sole attention and use of the intended recipient.

Please notify us immediately if you think that it may not be intended for you, and delete it immediately. Thank you.

About vermontersforacleanenvironment

VCE's mission is to raise the voices of Vermonters and hold corporations accountable for their impacts on our people, our land, our air and our water. We are united in the belief that Vermont's future lies in conserving its clean, rural, small-town environment. We have joined together to pursue the common goals of encouraging economic development with minimal environmental impacts and preserving Vermont's natural beauty. VCE is committed to providing facts and information so that people can make informed decisions. We encourage your participation.
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8 Responses to Swiss lawyers threaten environmentalists

  1. dontblastgeorgiamtn says:

    Well at least they are calling you an environmentalist. Much better than other things you have been called.

    Melodie McLane

    Georgia Mountain



  2. Karen B. says:

    I think upon investigation you found the new names, posted them without permission and you’re offended now. So you reach out to the media and continue to post their names adding that they’re bullies and making threats.
    Truth is, you probably have a hidden agenda that could have an effect on business relations OMYA has with Vermont.
    If there was no hidden agenda, you would not have assisted with the media in reproducing the owners names, and the elementary choice of name calling like ‘bully’.

    • Well that’s an interesting theory but the two web pages that the Swiss lawyer referenced have been on the web and unchanged for more than a decade. VCE did not go looking for press on this topic, but immediately contacted the North American president who responded that he is no longer employed by the company. We shared the email with someone who had done a lot of investigation into Omya and that person sent it to the reporter who did the story. We have discussed this situation with Omya in Vermont and continue our good relationship. The only hidden agenda is whatever that Swiss lawyer was tasked to do, as that is unknown at this time. VCE is not calling anyone names. We had two goals in this instance: 1) to protect the organization and 2) to not damage our good relationship with Omya in Vermont. Hence, rather than invite trouble, we complied with the request to remove the names. I wonder how you would feel receiving an email from a wealthy and powerful company the day after Thanksgiving when most people were on holiday. What would you have done?

  3. Omya has apologized. VCE owes noone any apologies for posting publicly available information a decade ago.

  4. Thank you for sharing your opinion. You are welcome to contact Omya in Vermont to confirm. I am not looking for a fight with anyone including you. I did what Omya’s Swiss lawyer asked almost as soon as I got the email. I take responsibility for doing that, for which I have been accused of retreating in the media and told I didn’t have to do what I did. I cannot tell reporters what to write and have no control over the media.

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