Offerpal Media mess gets stickier

The company is involved in at least two suits with upcoming developments. In one, it sues a competitor. In another, a plaintiff alleges he was ousted as a co-founder.

It looks like the brouhaha surrounding social-app moneymaker Offerpal Media is bigger than founder Anu Shukla's "sh*t, double sh*t, and bullsh*t" response to the accusation that its business is built on scamming consumers. It's got upcoming developments in two lawsuits, one in which it's the plaintiff and one in which Shukla is a defendant.

VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi reported Thursday that a lawsuit was filed in an Alameda County, Calif., superior court against Shukla and co-founder Michael Liu on behalf of Kevin Halpern, who alleges that he helped found the company and was then shut out. In a court complaint, Halpert says that in exchange for offering his social-networking expertise to what would become Offerpal, Shukla promised him a 15 to 20 percent stake in the company that never came to fruition.

The defendant's motion to dismiss the breach-of-contract suit is scheduled for November 24, according to public court documents. On Wednesday, Offerpal had announced that Shukla would be leaving her post as CEO and would be replaced by digital-ad veteran George Garrick.

But that's not the only legal dispute that Offerpal is in. There's a judicial settlement conference scheduled for Friday in the trademark infringement lawsuit that Offerpal filed against Kickflip, a former customer that went on to create a competing business, called Gambit, according to a person familiar with the court details. The suit was originally filed in April, and the status of a potential settlement is currently unclear because most of the events thus far, as well as Friday's scheduled meeting, have been behind closed doors.

But the reason why Offerpal has been in the news so much as of late has been because of Shukla's public altercation with TechCrunch's Michael Arrington at last month's Virtual Goods Summit in San Francisco. In response to Arrington's allegations that Offerpal's profitable business, used by many social-gaming companies as a way for users to earn virtual goods in-game, actually misleads players into signing up for paid offers and subscriptions .

Following the Arrington-Shukla spat, a number of high-profile names in the gaming and social-networking world came out against developer-app scams and misleading ads . Offerpal maintains that it runs a legitimate business. But it's clear that this company's issues run quite a bit deeper than a single PR fiasco.

About the author

Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.

 

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