In its legal altercation with poultry processor Wayne Farms, LinkedIn gets its wings clipped.

Ignoring complaints of a fake LinkedIn profile turned out to be a costly miscalculation.

We hear a lot about fake Facebook profiles and fake Twitter accounts.  We don’t hear so much about fake LinkedIn accounts – but they can be just as problematic. 

In fact, it may be that the potential financial implications of faux LinkedIn accounts are sometimes more consequential.  The revelation last week that LinkedIn has settled a lawsuit brought by Wayne Farms, a multi-billion dollar poultry company with 13 U.S. processing facilities, helps paint the picture.

The facts of the case are interesting.  In the summer of 2020, a sales manager for Wayne Farms noticed that someone had created a fake LinkedIn profile of him.  The sales manager also determined pretty quickly that the faux persona was using the profile to reach out to customers and set up deals. 

More specifically, the imposter was attempting to engage one customer in the United States and another in Italy in phony product purchase transactions.

As David Brezina, a Chicago-based attorney representing Wayne Farms, explained, “LinkedIn was used to make more credible some scams that were basically to buy a container load of product.  It was a great deal – but you had to submit 20% down.” 

“The fraudster was looking to collect $5,000 or $10,000 from potential customers of my client upfront,” Brezina continued.  “LinkedIn was a valuable tool to make the scam more credible.”

What did LinkedIn do to address the problem?  It took the correct action – at first.  Contacted by the Wayne Farms sales manager about the fake profile, the social platform took down the offending account.

But barely a month later another fake profile of the same sales manager reappeared on LinkedIn.  Wayne Farms promptly submitted two notifications to LinkedIn asking for the account to be removed once again.

This time around, LinkedIn’s response was … crickets. 

It was only after Wayne Farms filed a federal lawsuit against LinkedIn in early December, seeking compensatory damages for trademark counterfeiting, federal trademark infringement and reputational harm, that the fake profile was removed.

David Brezina (Ladas & Parry LLP)

Regarding LinkedIn’s failure to act in the second occurrence, Brezina pointed out, “You need to be responsible; you need to have procedures where if fraud is being committed … victims can contact you.” 

In this case, LinkedIn chose to ignore such entreaties – or the request got hung up in its internal bureaucracy.  Either way, it turned out to be a costly blunder for the social platform.  This past week, LinkedIn settled the Wayne Farms lawsuit out of court.  Financial terms of the settlement are confidential, but you can be sure that the costs involved are more than merely symbolic.

Interestingly, during the discovery phase of the lawsuit, LinkedIn let it be known that it restricted more than two million fake accounts in just a six-month period last year, so this isn’t an isolated occurrence.

But what it also means is that users of LinkedIn need to be as vigilant in policing that platform as they are with any other social media outlet.  That revelation came as a bit of a surprise to me, frankly.

What about you?  Have you or someone you know ever been the victim of any monkey business or questionable activity pertaining to your LinkedIn profile?  If so, please share your experiences with other readers here.

One thought on “In its legal altercation with poultry processor Wayne Farms, LinkedIn gets its wings clipped.

  1. I am the only “fake” in my LinkedIn account, it seems.

    What I mean is this: LinkedIn keeps suggesting me for flatteringly important jobs but does not seem to notice that I am almost 74 years old and retired! I suppose I could “unsubscribe”, but it’s fun to see what people I know are doing.

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