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Could an Email Cost You Half Your Business?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 15, 2011 6:47 AM

Just as Mark Zuckerburg declares victory in one lawsuit seeking a stake in Facebook, he's faced with another.

Paul Ceglia, who is suing Zuckerburg for a 50% share in the social networking site, amended his complaint yesterday, providing the court with new evidence that he says proves his case.

This new evidence has come in the form of 7-year-old emails, which were purportedly exchanged by a young Zuckerburg and Paul Ceglia, who was an investor in the budding startup.

Ceglia alleges that the two formed a general partnership in 2003 after an agreement was struck via email, reports Bloomberg.

In one of the email exchanges, Zuckerburg had challenged the current status of their agreement. Ceglia was entitled to a 1% stake in the company per day, which Zuckerburg pointed out would net him 80% of the company because of launch delays.

The email goes on to state that the 20/80 breakdown was unfair, and that the two should enact a 50/50 partnership. Paul Ceglia agreed.

Obviously Facebook is going to investigate the veracity of these emails, but, even if they are fake, they serve as an important lesson for those of you who negotiate contracts.

At times, it may seem wise to conduct negotiations over email, but it's not necessarily the best idea in the world given the fact that emails are easily forged.

You should always conduct your negotiations and discuss contracts in person and take handwritten notes. At the end of the session, you should memorialize what you have discussed and decided upon, having both parties sign the document.

It's much easier to prove handwritten documents are false, and it's also much easier to keep statements from coming back and biting you.

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