Landmark Education Corp., based in San Francisco with offices in 35 cities in the United States, filed a lawsuit today in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, according to Art Schreiber, General Counsel for Landmark.
The complaint states that Elle Magazine, and writer Rosemary Mahoney, damaged the business reputation of Landmark Education and defamed the reputation of Landmark Course Leader Beth Handel. Landmark is seeking $10,000,000 in actual and punitive damages.
According to Schreiber, Mahoney took The Landmark Forum, Landmark's primary educational program, and wrote an article for the September issue of Elle that asserted that The Landmark Forum was an elaborate pyramid scheme. The article also clearly implied that Landmark participants are hypnotized into believing that the results they have experienced are valid.
In its complaint, Landmark pointed out that neither Elle nor the writer ever contacted Landmark to check the accuracy of the proposed statements before going to print. The complaint goes on to point out that if they had, Landmark would have provided substantial documentation that would have made it abundantly clear that Landmark's business is not even remotely related to any kind of pyramid marketing scheme.
According to Schreiber, people pay tuition to participate in The Landmark Forum as they would for any adult education program, and that tuition is used by Landmark solely in the conduct of its business operations. No one is paid a commission or other form of payment, in cash or in kind, as a result of another person enrolling in The Landmark Forum.
Harvard Business School and the University of Southern California School of Business did extensive research on Landmark Education and extensively documented Landmark's business practices. Both present documentation in their case studies that refute Elle and Mahoney's comments.
Schreiber said that had Mahoney contacted Landmark she would have also been given documentation from experts including Dr. Ed Lowell, a specialist in understanding brainwashing, and Dr. Raymond Fowler, former CEO of the American Psychological Association, that would have clearly shown that her allegations regarding hypnosis were absurd.
Lowell, a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry and licensed to practice medicine since 1955 in New Jersey, New York and California stated in a November 1996 letter: "I am certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology since 1962 and have spent 39 years practicing general psychiatry and psychotherapy... My psychiatric training included a residency in a U.S. Army Hospital in 1955 during which time, in order to deal with American military men who were mentally manipulated by their Chinese captors, I was trained specifically about the technology and techniques of 'brainwashing,' 'mind control,' and 'thought reform.'
"I am familiar with The Landmark Forum and have personally experienced and examined closely the work and programs of Landmark... I have seen nothing at all that would lead me to the conclusion that The Landmark Forum or any other Landmark program or Landmark itself does or even attempts to engage in any sort of brainwashing, thought reform, hypnosis or thought modification whatsoever."
In a February 1995 letter, Fowler made the following comments about The Landmark Forum: "There is no coercion, no social isolation, no peer pressure toward conformity and no required modification of behavior... ."
In reference to Landmark's decision to sue Elle, Schreiber stated: "Although the Elle article made it clear that Landmark and its programs are not cult-like, the lack of research and the thoroughly evident intent of the writer to denigrate the reputation of Landmark and our employee Beth Handel with irresponsible statements and shoddy research require a legal response."