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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Intern Dispute Turns into 1st Amendment Battle

About the only thing that Syracuse junior Naresh Vissa and investment advisor with Chapwood Investments Ed Butowsky agree on is that Vissa's internship with Butowsky over the summer wound up badly. Beyond that, there is little agreement. Butowsky viewed Vissa as lazy and incompetent while Vissa believes Butowsky pawned him off to colleagues, set him up for failure, and wound up not paying him what he was owed. Vissa and Butowsky were first introduced to each other by a mutual acquaintance, Dan Cofall, last spring. Cofall runs a Dallas radio show called Wall Street Shuffle. Dallas is where Butowsky's main office is located. Butowsky was a guest on Cofall's show and Vissa worked as a producer for Cofall. They agreed that spring to have Vissa work for Butowsky for four weeks during July. According to an email, they agreed to have Vissa get paid $500 at the end of week, though Butowsky now disputes that figure and says it was only $450 a week.

As July approached, Butowsky realized that he wouldn't have enough work for Vissa and suggested that Vissa do some for his office mate, Jeff Brady. While Vissa's internship was originally going to be financial in nature with Butowsky, Vissa would do some P.R. work for Brady. Brady and Vissa didn't speak until he arrived in July for his internship. Brady had Vissa produce a press release for a client, Dr. John Tebbetts, who wrote the book The Best Breast, about breast implants. After the press release, Vissa was to contact any and all relevant media to try and book Dr. Tebbetts to discuss the book. After two weeks, Vissa was unsuccessful in booking any appearances for Tebbetts.

Meanwhile, Butowsky had Vissa do some PR work for him on on new investment strategy Butowski devised called investment forensics. According to Vissa, Butowsky even told Vissa,

make me famous

(Butowsky has since denied saying that) After two weeks, none of Vissa's efforts materialized. Weeks later, Fox Business responded to one of Vissa's emails and Butowsky is now a regular on that network.

In the third week, Butowsky went on vacation. Vissa became frustrated and disillusioned by the experience and he called Butowsky on vacation after his fourth day of work in the third week. They agreed the internship should end there. At this point, the dispute turned to money. Vissa was paid $500 and that's the only thing both sides agree on. Butowsky believes he only owes Vissa $250 while Vissa believes he is owed $900. That dispute is now the subject of a small claims suit in Dallas.

If the story had ended there, it's likely I wouldn't be telling it. Naresh Vissa is also a columnist at the Syracuse University affiiliated newspaper, the Daily Orange. In September, he wrote a three part series on his internship experience. (they've since been taken down for reasons revealed in a minute) In that series, neither Butowsky, nor his company Chapwood Investments, were identified. The series was relatively well received by the student body at SU with little controversy.

Then, in December, Asher Adelman, who runs the site E Boss Watch, picked up the story. He wrote his first story on December 29th. In that story, E Boss Watch also linked to Vissa's original three stories along with identifying all appropriate parties by name. Three weeks later his blogging software, Wordpress, froze his account and wouldn't allow any new posts following complaints from Butowsky. Two weeks after that, the account was unfrozen and Adelman received this email message.

My apologies for the delay in replying. I am perfectly happy with what you say. Given their protracted complaints - which you can now see I could not have summarised - I needed you to be aware of just what they were saying. Thanks for
replaying so fully and again sorry for taking so long to get back to you.

Butowsky also reached out to the Daily Orange. Vissa's three articles were taken down shortly and not long after that the Daily Orange terminated its relationship with Vissa. When reached for comments, Daily Orange Editor in Chief Meredith Galante said this.

Naresh was a columnist for The Daily Orange and was released due to violations of our paper's policy. That is all I wish to say on this matter.

Like all articles, the three articles in question were originally reviewed and approved by a Daily Orange editor prior to first being published in the fall.

Vissa now works as a columnist for Minyanville where his work is syndicated at such financial websites as MSN Money. Butowsky maintains that the articles in the Daily Orange were inaccurate and thus smeared him. That's why he was moved to act he told me. Adelman has followed up with this piece and tells me he plans at least one more follow up. Adelman's follow ups are dealing with the manner in which he believes his own free speech rights have been squelched. One other newspaper in the Syracuse area has confirmed to me that they are considering doing a story as well. So, a dispute over an internship has turned into a battle over the limits and responsibilities of the first amendment.


AG said...

Mike, if I may ask, where do you find these stories?

mike volpe said...

This one I got from E Boss. Depending on the story, I may or may not be able to tell you. I ran across the Chacko story by accident.

lizabaker said...

The stories are really to go for. Ed Butowsky Personal Investing

lizabaker said...

This battle is surely comprehended by the main man itself, Sir Ed Butowsky. He just got to, you know. :)

Marky said...

He sure does know how to comprehend. Ed Butowsky is the guy! :)