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It probably never occurred to Samuel B. Kellett Jr. that he would become the subject of an Internet soap opera when he founded eAttorney in 1996. But that’s what happened after eAttorney twice laid off staff and shelved its application service provider (ASP) product. Lately, eAttorney has been targeted on an irreverent Web site that uses the “F” word as its URL. The faint of heart can use an alternative URL, www.F—edCompany.com. The popular site, which has developed a nationwide following, shines a harsh light on what it views as dying dot-coms. The site’s open message board invites dot.com employees and others to say virtually anything about their companies, bosses and fellow employees. MESSAGE BOARD GETS NASTY With no rules, the message board can get pretty nasty, as eAttorney has learned to its dismay. Messages name executives and take them to task for everything from purported $15,000 leather couches in their offices to having personal relationships with employees. So what does a company do when it finds itself on such a Web site? CEO Sam Kellett says he doesn’t want to talk about it. “I have no comment about that Web site because it’s a bunch of disgruntled employees,” he says. Responding to the message board, says Kellett, would make “the psychos start writing more.” Blake Dexter, an employee at the company, says it’s “primarily one person writing it all. That’s why we don’t care to comment. … Because it’s baseless.” Nonetheless, the company should resign itself to potential investors seeing the site, says Evelyn A. Ashley, managing partner of Red Hot Law Group. While analysts and investors are smart enough not to believe everything they read, she says they’ll almost definitely come across F—edCompany.com’s Web site presence in the course of research. “The reality is that people will look at this and say, ‘Here’s a situation where you have very young people who raise money very easily,’ ” says Ashley. “ You’re going to always have disgruntled employees.” Ashley says eAttorney will be judged more by its performance than the Web site. If that’s the case, “then ultimately, who cares what’s on that Web site,” she says. “Does it mean that Sam Kellett will never get funding again? Not necessarily.” David A. Lee, senior vice president and manager of Robinson Humphrey’s research service center, says his team only looks at reliable Web sites and can distinguish between fact and fiction. “Most people look at the Web site chat rooms of Yahoo if they are trying to ferret out some speculation,” says Lee. “You have to start with a reliable Web site that is likely to have a high number of participants.” One of Lee’s objectives, he says, is to find legitimate company issues on the Web. “Slander does not help us,” he says, “so we would avoid a site that sought slanderous comments.” While the Web site may be slanderous, eAttorney does have problems. Kellett launched the company in 1996 with University of Georgia classmate Peter L. Sinden after writing the business plan as part of a business school project. At first, eAttorney ran an online recruiting site. At one point, more than 40 law schools and 300 law firms had signed up to pay a monthly fee of $40 to $75 for the use of eAttorney’s software. The company has some big names to lend weight to the young management team. Board members include Kellett’s father, investor Samuel B. Kellett Sr., and Robert P. Guyton, managing partner of Monarch Capital Partners, a venture capital company that finances Internet and high-tech startup companies. R. William Ide III, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary of Monsanto Corp., is a board member. Ide is a former senior partner with Long, Aldridge & Norman and is a past president of the American Bar Association. Last June the company hired Mary Madden, a co-founder of Information America, as president and chief operating officer. Despite its connections, the company faltered. Two rounds of layoffs late last year cut the staff from 50 to 60 down to 10 or 11, says Kevin L. Kitchens, the former lead developer for the shelved ASP. Kitchens says he resigned “for personal reasons” before the first round of layoffs. The company then shelved its ASP that was supposed to provide billing and document management services to law firms. Such developments no doubt brought eAttorney to the attention of F—edCompany.com. According to the Australian newspaper, the Canberra Times, “Pud,” the Web site’s administrator is Philip Kaplan. Canberra Timesalso says Kaplan created the site as a dot-com deadpool game. The message board, called the “Happy Fun Slander Corner,” is a forum for anonymous postings about the dying dot-com picks. Such irreverence has given the site a bit of an underground following. PC Data, an online provider of sales information for the computer industry estimates that F—edCompany.com receives 2.6 million hits per week. eAttorney can take some solace in that it’s not the only Atlanta dot-com being raked over the coals on the Web site. iXL Enterprises, which laid off 35 percent of its workforce in September and has seen its stock plummet, also has become a favorite target on the Web site. In November, iXL filed suit against an anonymous message poster on the Yahoo finance message board, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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