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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Omya removal request
Date: November 25, 2016 at 10:06:13 AM EST
To: “email@example.com” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “email@example.com” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: “email@example.com” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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.
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
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