Lawsuit: U.S. Legal Support Managers Illegally Underpaid Commissions and Diverted Sales…

As reported by the New York Law Journal and Emily Saul, and shared by Paul Lucido publicly on LinkedIn, a suit has been filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, the state’s highest trial court, alleging that U.S. Legal Support managers would game software to “underpay commissions owed to salespeople and divert sales to certain friends or favored coworkers.”

Executives are charged with creating a “fake employee” in order to illegally retain profits for themselves, reports Saul. It boils down to a claim that the founder, Charles Schugart, undermined Lucido’s earnings and lied about stock options. The claim further alleges that managers Amy Williamson and Carrie Cosenza would divert sales by gaming the HubSpot tracking software. It’s claimed that over $150,000 in commissionable revenue was lost, according to the report.

Lucido’s lawyer is quoted, in part, as saying “only discovery will reveal how widespread US Legal’s fraudulent practices were…” As of writing I could not locate the case on WebCivil Supreme, so I have no idea whether a Request for Judicial Intervention or Answer has been filed.

Needless to say, I emailed Emily Saul. We’ll see if anything comes of that.

This comes over a year after my public complaints that US Legal was part of a scheme to defraud jobseekers and consumers by supporting the Speech-to-Text Institute’s bogus claims that the stenographer shortage was impossible to solve, and the post where I revealed U.S. Legal Rep Peter Giammanco’s comment, “does it really matter if done legally and ethically…?” This is how these people think. They don’t care about ethics. They care about winning money.

Christopher Day (Stenonymous) poking fun at how non-litigious our society really is when you call out corporate fraudsters.
Christopher Day (Stenonymous) poking fun at current events in court reporting.

That leads me to my next ask. If you disagree with the corporate fraud rampant in our field, please consider funding media like mine that supports exposing and purging it if you haven’t already. My donation box is right on the front page of Stenonymous.com. I can also receive Venmo @Stenonymous or PayPal at ChristopherDay227@gmail.com. I promise that once we’ve defeated the foul play, we can turn to what truly matters, enhancing stenographic education and expanding opportunities for stenographers. Serving the public through production of the legal record. How long do you think the shortage would last if a guy like me had a fraction of the money all these other players have? That’s what I bring to the table.

Alternatively, to the corporations of the STTI Bloc, you have a chance to buy the blog for $10 million. That way I get to ride off into the sunset and you get to continue your fraud completely unopposed by anybody with any kind of power in this business and the government. I feel bad selling out for so little, but I have to be realistic about the amount of work it’s taking to take you guys down with my current bank balance of $59.95. If you do buy it, I hope you will still consider the points I’ve made in the past about potential harm to minority speakers. I would never even do what I’m doing if not for that unexplored harm. Also, if you buy me out, consider making Joshua Edwards an offer on creating a corporate training arm for stenographers. With the right resources, he could revolutionize stenographic education and breathe new life into the realtime initiatives we have fought so hard for. We could train stenographers in sales, marketing, and steno, set them loose on the market, and watch them produce revenue streams that never existed before. EVERYONE wants to be heard. Who better to listen than your local stenographer? Even if it’s an upper middle class hobby, shouldn’t those dollars be captured, shouldn’t those voices be heard? If any of you care, my math says $360 an hour will obtain, retain, and retrain talent.

A posse ad esse. I can be a neoliberal too.

Addendum:

I was later informed that the legal claims between US Legal and Lucido go both ways. Pretty interesting, no?

TransAtlantic & Stenograph Partner

Had the pleasure of viewing this interview between Stenograph and TransAtlantic about their new partnership. TransAtlantic’s David Ross, Secretary/Treasurer of the Speech-to-Text Institute, mentions during the interview that a machine will “never, ever, ever” replace the reporter. I found the interview to be seeded with more generalities about the shortage. It came across to me as trying to sell the idea of shortage.

Mr. Ross did have a lot of positives to say about stenographers, “And we’re very proud of them and honored to have them and I just wish there were more.” But the direction of the company seems clear, it’s going to be about digital court reporter integration. He even mentions the possibility of stenographers switching over to “try something new.” Towards the close of the interview he notes we should never be threatened by technology and keep an open mind. But those of us that dispute the severity of shortage are open minded. Most of us had to be convinced by math and science that there was a problem with the numbers and narrative being distributed to the public. Why has there been a push to get stenographers to go digital if digital is so easy to recruit and train for?

It’s tough for me. I personally see many companies coming and saying they have a shortage, but I see little in the way of communication. They’re largely not on our Facebook groups, not using PRO Link, not using recruiters on LinkedIn, and not asking our associations for help. This is why I am generally suspicious of the narrative being sold at every turn: “The shortage is insurmountable, you must change, or else.” It’s fear appeal propaganda. I do it too, but for truth.

This comes after US Legal Support’s partnership with Stenograph in October.

Addendum:

Stenograph and Project Steno partnered soon after.

U.S. Legal Support Posts for Stenographic Court Reporter

Happy to report that months after being accused of fraud by me and days after the Law360 article broke on the debate about the shortage, U.S. Legal (USL) posted an advertisement for a stenographic court reporter. While I do feel my blogging played a part in all of this, Dineen Squillante’s contact with journalist Steven Lerner is likely what tipped the scale. Dineen’s a role model, and if every stenographer put in effort like her, I doubt the corporate types would ever try to walk on our profession again.

I hope our friend Nick Mahurin is watching, for his sake.

Stenographers, by the way, are the people who did that.

I am happy about this. I am hopeful that it will be a change in direction for USL. I am wary of heaping on praise because companies in our field often do symbolic little gestures to appease us, only to turn around and continue to try to tread on the stenographic legion. It’s kind of like if someone smacked you every day for about half a year and then on day 181 apologized. Sorry doesn’t cut it. Continued recruitment and support of our existing profession is the only thing that will really mend US Legal’s image in the eyes of court reporters. The only court reporters I’ve met that disagree with me are friends of Rick Levy or among the precious few that USL treats well, and I’m not about to let the opinions of two people dictate the future of 30,000.

In many ways I feel vindicated. A few have balked about my methods or beliefs. But we have all collectively shown each other that we have the power to change things. If you follow me on social media, I said as much yesterday:

Achievement Unlocked: Money Isn’t Everything

I remind every court reporter that while U.S. Legal, according to Owler, controls an estimated $100 million annually, court reporters control an estimated $1.7 billion. Over the course of my blogging and ads, you’ve all chipped in about $15,000 (guesstimate). About 0.0009% of stenographers’ annual revenue was able to meet the threshold for change. If you’d like the fight and my media work to continue, then I have to ask for donations at the Stenonymous.com home page.

My personal feelings are that we should turn our attention toward our treatment and end disparity in treatment. For example, if we look at USL’s cancellation policy, canceling a court reporter can be done at 5:00 p.m. the day before. Canceling an interpreter must be done 24 to 48 business hours ahead of time, which I’m going to take to mean 1 to 2 business days, since 24 business hours is a whopping 3 days.

*Confirmation of scheduling does not guarantee coverage — that’s comforting.

Why does such disparity exist? Because we allow it to. Another example? Videographers, interpreters, and captioners all operate on a two-hour minimum. Court reporters are the only ones that have yet to figure out the value of their time and demand it. But it’s not long before people estimate how many pages they usually get in an hour multiplied by their page rate and realize that that is the true value of their time. Once stenographers know the true value of their time, they will start asking for it, and the shortage will take care of itself.

For anyone that hates math, as a young reporter that was being taken advantage of, I made about $3.25 per page and the layouts at that time gave me about 40 pages per hour. That’s $130 in 2011 money. That’s about $164 in December 2021 money. That would be $328 on a two-hour minimum. I was making $75 bust fees. This is simple economics. When we are busted on, we’re often scheduled at the exclusion of being elsewhere. We cannot have a functional field when people are being paid 22% of what they should be making, and this has arguably driven our shortage more than the games being played by USL and Veritext. Less money in our pockets means we cut expenses, like associations, and then our associations are in famine mode. A vicious cycle ensues and our death as a profession becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The only way out of that is to break the cycle and admit to ourselves that we have a problem with pricing. Our race to the bottom comes at a cost, the loss of integrity of the legal record. Are we willing to accept such a loss simply because corporate entities claim we are not worth more? And do not give me the false narrative that we would price ourselves out of the market. The rapacious behavior of multiple companies has not priced them out. It is a lie sold for one purpose: To keep the working reporter down.

A dozen years in the industry have given me the courage to stand up and say enough is enough. Demand more of the companies. Where they refuse to do better, compete with them. That is the way forward now that everyone knows that they can be beat.

But what do I know? I’m just a stenographer.

U.S. Legal Support Continues Its Attack On Minority Speakers

With the extremely public release of information confirming that automatic speech recognition and digital court reporting services are inadequate for court reporting at best and actively harmful to consumers at worst, U.S. Legal Support has decided to continue its recruitment of digital reporters and transcribers instead of stenographers.

For years in my industry it has been claimed that digital reporting expansion was only for emergency use due to stenographer shortage. It was only for jobs stenographers allegedly would not accept. That was largely a lie. In reality, these companies with millions in revenue are utilizing their market share to push stenographers out of the market, despite consumers’ preference for stenographers, which is reflected in the Court Reporting Industry Outlook 2013-2014.

As a reminder, U.S. Legal’s Chief Strategy Officer, Peter Giammanco, was kind enough to put in a Summer 2021 email, “does it really matter if done legally or ethically…” [if the products are the same, which they are not.]

Why is this a question? Corporations have a duty to follow the law.

Who does this hurt? African American Vernacular English speakers. How do we know? The Testifying While Black (2019) pilot studies told us stenographic court reporters understand the dialect at a rate twice as good as the average person and 1.5x as good as the average lawyer. The Racial Disparities in Automatic Speech Recognition study (2020) showed us that automatic speech recognition has 80% accuracy for white speakers, 65% accuracy for black speakers, and as low as 25 to 50% accuracy for AAVE speakers. This is something stenographic court reporters have been painstakingly fighting to bring to courts and lawyers since at least earlier this year. Nonprofits like Protect Your Record have been educating on the inappropriate substitution of digital in place of machine shorthand stenography for over two years. There is no good reason to believe USL is unaware of the data or my claims. If they are unaware, then we would all like to know exactly why the legal record should be entrusted to a company that can’t be bothered to keep current in the industry that was 70% of its business as of 2013.

After all, if you look at their public-facing materials, they consider the stenographer shortage to be a big deal. They must care about our industry (sarcasm font).

Yes, let’s see what they think.
Using numbers from an 8-year-old report and disregarding all the recruitment, nonprofits, and projects stenography has created since, USL is attempting to artificially boost demand for digital.

And yet in the face of an ongoing national consumer awareness campaign, they still cannot be bothered to attempt to recruit stenographers. But they know how to recruit digitals. They’ve got that down to a science. I get alerts on my phone to become a digital court reporter!

High priority, unlike the shortage we have been fighting for eight years.

But they must promote stenography in some way to avoid being accused of not making good faith efforts to find a stenographer in accordance with consumer preference. Right?

Remember, your Legal Records Assembly Specialist will understand AAVE at roughly half the rate of stenographic court reporters if the audio is perfect. Imagine all the dialects and accents we have no data on.

So I can get recruitment notifications for digital court reporting, but by the admission of US Legal rep Rick Levy, the company was not using Sourcebook to recruit people. NCRA Sourcebook / PRO Link is a national directory of stenographers. It’s been in this field for over a decade. About one third of our field holds membership in NCRA and a large percentage of them are in that directory. It’s a great way to find stenographers. Rick Levy, a reporter of over 25 years and said to have been on the board of the National Court Reporters Association, asked me what it was!

For some reason, I genuinely believed he did not know at the time.

But this politeness from Levy was a ruse and excuse to spend more time obfuscating the fact that USL was doing effectively nothing to build interest in stenography, as I later realized and called him out on.

This was after several comments, messages, and emails between me and Rick. At this point, I knew his MO was to kill with kindness and talk about having a dialogue, but never actually have a dialogue. He’s the poster child of passive aggressive when it comes to my industry.

It gets worse. Thanks to one brave person’s response to our national ad campaign, we know that digital reporters and transcribers are not being paid enough to care and they are being trained to obfuscate.

Digital court reporters and transcribers, triple your money and go steno.
“We were trained to obfuscate…” I am so sorry that was done to you, Stephanie. This is what digital court reporting companies are doing to people.

Meanwhile, stenographers are paid enough to care not just about our own jobs, but digital reporters’ jobs. I’m no longer willing to participate in any delusion that digital court reporting is an adequate solution to shortage. Remember, we got a glimpse of the digital court reporting future when Verbit posted a transcription template to the internet where they spelled “point” with a zero, spelled “court reporter” as “core reporter,” and spelled “state your appearances” as “state your up here.” That’s just three errors. How many can you count?

The redactions are mine by the way. I’m trying to communicate this problem without destroying the privacy of the litigants. Verbit didn’t bother.

We also know that USL is not the only company committed to lowering the standards of court reporting. Naegeli, Veritext, and Planet Depos are all in on expanding digital reporting and transcribing at the expense of the consumer. The only question is whether they are actively working together, illegally colluding to screw the consumer, or whether they just happen to all be doing the same exact thing and using similar language (sarcasm font). If nothing else, investors are being misled to believe digital court reporting is the future when it is a clear regression and a rollback of the industry standards we’ve been shaping for over a century.

I am not denying the shortage. I have spent unsung hours writing and posting about ways people can get into steno or help stenographers, including Open Steno, Project Steno, NCRA A to Z, StarTran Online, Simply Steno, CRAH, StenoKey, PAF Steno, Paying It Forward, and association mentoring. I have made a compelling case for how our shortage is being exaggerated and exacerbated by companies that may not even be profitable. I have simply advocated for students to make more money and have a better career than I did. I have simply advocated for a future where the working court reporter is not abused and where the public gets the best legal records possible. Anybody against that can get out of my way.

Tired of bad news? I’ve got some great news coming Friday. Stay tuned.