During these tough economic times, businesses are looking for new and inventive ways to keep ahead of the competition. Here's a quick tip (free of charge!) for businesses that want to increase their profit margins: don't arbitrarily accuse your rival of being a secret Taliban agent.
That's exactly what employees at Bob Tyler Toyota of Pensacola, FL., did. They accused Shawn Esfahani, the owner of Eastern Shore Toyota in Daphne, AL., of being a covert Taliban agent and they were subsequently sued for millions.
Fred Kenner, a sales manager at Bob Tyler, told at least one couple who were considering buying from Eastern Shore Toyota that they shouldn't support the Alabama dealership because the Iranian-born owner was "helping fund the insurgents [in Iran] and is also laundering money for them," reports Reuters.
Bob Tyler employees also told the same couple that "Esfahani was from Iraq and [called] him a 'terrorist' who put soldiers including the salesman's brother in harm's way," Reuters added.
"I have a brother over there and what you're doing is helping kill my brother," a salesman told the couple, according to the suit.
Bob Tyler employees also commonly referred to Esfahani's dealership as “Middle Eastern Shore Toyota” and “Taliban Toyota.”
And just in case customers weren't convinced, Bob Tyler employees actually accused Esfahani of "funneling money back to his family and other terrorists" on more than one occasion.
Really? He works for the Taliban? That's shocking! Well, it would be shocking if there were any sort of evidence to back up these claims.
Turns out that the Bob Tyler employees didn't have any.
Esfahani, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, fled his native Iran (not Iraq) in 1980 following the Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah and swept Shi'ite Muslim clergy to power. Although he couldn't speak English when he arrived in America, Esfahani claims he got ahead by “sleeping less, working harder and reading more” than his colleagues, reports the Pensacola News Journal.
Also, it should be noted that the Taliban (the terror organization Bob Tyler employees accused Esfahani of aiding) are hardcore radical jihadists primarily located in Afghanistan and Pakistan (as many Blaze readers are well aware). Although there is an argument to be made for some collaboration between Iran and the Taliban, it would probably be best not to accuse a rival dealership of being involved unless there is hard evidence.
Needless to say, Esfahani brought a slander lawsuit against the rival dealership and sought $28 million in damages. Although he won the lawsuit (it only took the jury three hours to decide), he was awarded a much smaller amount: $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.
"The feeling I received in the courtroom for the truth to come out was worth a lot more than any money anybody can give me," Esfahani said.
"This case didn't take aim at just Mr. Tyler," he said. "It was intended to address any other business that resorts to those kinds of actions to win at their game unfairly."