After having his defamation claim against TDG/TREGNY denied in the New York State Appellate Court, Christakis Shiamili, a principal broker with ArdorNY, told The Real Deal that he intends to appeal the decision.
In a suit filed March 2008, Shiamili claimed that TDG/TREGNY — which, at the time, went by the name the Real Estate Group New York, or TREGNY — had financially-backed a now-defunct Web site ShittyHabitats.com. The site, Shiamili said, published defamatory comments about many of TDG/TREGNY’s competitors, including Manhattan Apartments, Citi Habitats (from which the site got its name, Shiamili said) and Ardor, Shiamili’s firm, which was previously known as Ardor Realty.
The lawsuit also names Ryan McCann, who currently works in TDG/TREGNY’s marketing group, and Daniel Baum, CEO of TDG/TREGNY, whose credit card number was allegedly used to register the domain name. McCann had operated the Web site, according to Robert Shapiro, Shiamili’s attorney. McCann was not available for comment by press time.
“[The Web site] was created solely, we allege, to harm their competitors,” Shapiro said.
Baum told The Real Deal that his firm did not financially-back the Web site. But, when asked whether his personal credit card had been used to register the site, Baum declined to comment.
Shapiro alleges that Baum’s credit card had been charged 15 times over the course of ShittyHabitats.com’s lifetime for Web hosting services. He also claims that TDG/TREGNY’s business address was used when the Shitty Habitats domain name was first purchased.
McCann and Shiamili exchanged e-mails, according to the complaint, in which McCann vehemently denied that TDG/TREGNY was associated with the site.
“[M]y company is in no way behind this,” McCann wrote in an e-mail to Shiamili dated Feb. 6, according to the complaint. “In fact, I will most certainly be fired immediately, if you should inform [the firm].”
Baum confirmed that McCann is a current employee to The Real Deal. One day after the correspondence between McCann and Shiamili, the site’s hosting company, Serverbeach, shut Shittyhabitats.com down “after being notified of the existence of the false and defamatory statements therein,” the complaint read.
In the appellate court’s decision handed down earlier this month, a state judge said that Shiamili’s claim violates the Federal Communications Decency Act, which states that providers of online content cannot “be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Shiamili told The Real Deal that the case is more serious because the site was allegedly run by TDG/TREGNY, rather than a civilian outside the industry.
“It’s more than just for fun because behind this was a real estate competitor,” Shiamili said. “The sole purpose of that site was to slander people in the industry.”