Earlier this year, Kaylee Zhu, a portfolio manager at Actuarial Management Corporation (AMC), was pouring over documents when she noticed that Black Rifle Coffee, a corporation both AMC and many of their investment clients are stakeholders in, was in breach of contract. She brought the matter to AMC Holdings CEO Jonathan Wallentine who decided to file a lawsuit against Black Rifle Coffee in May, accusing the coffee company of securities fraud.
It was, however, only after AMC had spent $100,000 on lawyers and countless hours drafting the lawsuit, that Zhu learned there was a similar lawsuit, from a different company, already in the works. “It was the first time we realized that, oh, it's actually hard for people to find a complaint,” said Zhu.
So Wallentine wondered, “Why did we just pay $100,000 to draft this when we have the same exact complaint? We could have saved a pile of money, because it's just a copy and paste.”
That’s when he and Zhu decided to create a public platform that houses information about legal complaints in one place. Or, Google for lawsuits. That’s the best way to describe laWow, a digital search engine designed to serve the public by providing access to records of lawsuits and legal complaints. Earlier this month, laWow closed a $1.75 million funding round to continue bettering their platform.
“What we're building is we're putting all the information out there that doesn't exist online,” said Wallentine.
Wallentine and Zhu hope that laWow will help others avoid the headache of redoing work that already exists. By presenting all of the legal facts about a corporation including any existing legal actions brought against it, laWow helps people decide how they want to structure their own lawsuit.
“So, the real big idea is, 'why does this still have to be such a shadowy black market, when the public is entitled to this information, and it would actually do a lot more to benefit society, if [people] could actually read other complaints that are similar and be more knowledgeable?'” Wallentine said.
laWow works in the same way Google does — by prioritizing the information the user is searching for as the top results. Users can search lawsuits by corporation name or by using keywords, and the site will present all of the claims against that company in a growing database of more than 260,000 lawsuits.
“So when you search, like, ‘McDonald's sexual harassment,’ for example, you're going to get the top read result,” Wallentine explained comparing laWow to a micro internet. He added that, “Each complaint has its own website.”
Beyond the practical applications for journalists, civilians, and courts, Wallentine also thinks laWow will be immensely helpful to investors.
“So right now you have a situation where stock investors — they're buying into companies that have massive litigation and lawsuits against them and don't even disclose to their own owners that they exist,” he said. “So a lot of the [laWow site] traffic is like stock investors saying, ‘I'm not going to buy into this company unless I can at least go through laWow and check to see how many lawsuits are filed against them.’”
So, the next time you are interested in investing in a company, or curious about their morals, maybe check laWow. The evidence you find might surprise you.
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