I’m Mark Bennett. I Solve Problems.
When an old client came to me this afternoon with the story of how a former acquaintance of his had turned up demanding $15,000 not to disclose some years-ago alleged malfeasance to the government, I gave him my best legal advice: whether you have a guilty conscience or not, whether the threat of exposure is real or not, never pay a blackmailer a dime.
I know it’s hard advice to take. When the bad guy comes knocking with a threat to expose secrets that might harm you and hurt your family, it’s tempting to pay him off and hope for the best. But the truth is that it’ll only encourage him, and there is nothing to stop him (blackmailers not being noted for their sense of honor) from returning to the well for more. Further, it’s illegal to make an agreement to pay someone not to report something to the police. So, all in all, the best response to a blackmailer’s demand is “go to Hell.” That’s what I told the client to say.
The client thought the message might have more force coming from me. As he and his family have been good and faithful clients, I consented. (Something they never tell you in law school: often what we do in this glorious business of ours involves extralegal problem-solving; sometimes we get to play Winston Wolfe.)
I got suited up and drove through rain and rush hour traffic to his office. I set up video, formulated a plan, and settled in to await the bad guy’s arrival. As it turned out, the bad guy failed to post. I gave the client further advice: if the extortionist appears again, refer him to me with the suggestion that I need to draw up the papers to make the whole thing legal. Then I’ll have the pleasure of telling him to go to Hell.
I wrote about extortion six months ago today, and now I’m dealing with another extortionist. Am I the only one that has this issue come up?
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