Class No. 5 (Lies and Deception)

When was the last time you were lied to, or when was the last time you told a lie? In our next class, we will study the law and ethics of deception. Generally speaking, it is morally wrong to tell a lie, but when does deceit in our daily interactions or in our business affairs cross the line of legal liability? Specifically, when does deception constitute the tort of deceit or fraudulent misrepresentation? (After all, most business deals and arms-length contract negotiations often involve some level of bluster and bluffing.) For example, in the movie “The Social Network,” does the fictional version of Mark Zuckerberg engage in unfair competition or commit business fraud (i.e. the tort of fraudulent misrepresentation) by pretending to be working on the Harvard Connection website when, in fact, he is really working on his own new facebook website? For what it’s worth, the common law defines the tort of deceit/fraud rather narrowly–see below for a complete listing of all the legal elements a plaintiff must prove in order to establish a case for fraud.

Credit: Steven Yang

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Excerpt from “The Social Network”
GAGE (Plaintiff’s Attorney)
You sent my clients 16 emails. In the first 15, you didn’t raise any concerns.
MARK (Deponent)
Is that a question?
GAGE
In the 16th email you raised concerns about the site’s functionality. Were you leading them on for six weeks?
MARK
No.
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