Explaining the Hans Niemann Chess Lawsuit v. Magnus Carlsen [e320]

October 28, 2022

When one of the world’s most famous chess players is accused of cheating, everyone wants to know how it happened. Hans Niemann is suing Magnus Carlsen, Chess.com, and others for $100m in a defamation lawsuit. There are many layers to this lawsuit and Nasir breaks down the legal aspect of one of the biggest cheating scandals in chess history.

Full Podcast Transcript

NASIR: Finally, my two favorite worlds have collided – both the law and the chess – right here at Memorial Park in Houston, Texas. Windy day. We have some background noise – ambient noise.

What are the two worlds that collided? Well, Hans Neimann has sued Magnus Carlsen for defamation in one of the biggest chess scandals in history.

ZACHARY: And Chess.com, right?

NASIR: Chess.com and a streamer called Hikaru Nakamura.

ZACHARY: Oh. I didn’t know that.

NASIR: I actually watch him, too.

Anyway, these are my two worlds because, of course, I’m an attorney. Zach is a paralegal with us. Him and I – for those of you that don’t know – we play chess pretty much every Friday.

ZACHARY: Yes, certainly.

NASIR: I don’t know. What’s our win-lose ratio?

ZACHARY: You will be modest and say that I sometimes beat you more than I do, but you certainly beat me more often.

NASIR: Well, the problem is I’m the boss. I feel like that’s part of it because I hate to lose. I can’t stand it. Also, we also wager whether we leave early or not. Usually, it’s whether I win or lose, we leave early – on those days, at least.

Yes, biggest scandal probably to hit chess history.ZACHARY: I can’t think of anything else.

NASIR: There have been cheaters in the past – not that Hans Neimann’s a proven cheater yet because that’s part of the issue – but this has rocked the world because he’s such a high-profile chess player. Magnus Carlsen, debatably – it depends, but I would say – one of if not the best chess player in history.

ZACHARY: One of the top, yes.

NASIR: At least one of the top five.

Yes, Hans Niemann sued Magnus Carlsen, Chess.com, Hikaru Nakamura, and also Daniel Rensch – Danny, I think he’s a person at Chess.com, a prominent figure – for not only defamation but some other things that we’re going to get into as well.

We’re also out here in Memorial Park – in Houston, Texas – because we want to play some chess outdoors.

ZACHARY: It’s been a while since I’ve played chess outside.

NASIR: I can’t think that I have – at least in recent memory.

I have the complaint right here. This is all my paperwork flying around. Let’s just get started. What’s your first move? Perfect.

ZACHARY: Old standard.

NASIR: Let me give you some background here. Actually, this complaint does a pretty good job. Hans Niemann is a 19-year-old self-study chess prodigy. By the way, Hans Niemann attorneys wrote this, so it’s an interesting way to start it out.

ZACHARY: Okay.

NASIR: You get what I’m saying.

In 2014, Niemann became the youngest ever winner of the Tuesday Night Marathon at the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club. It goes on. There’s no doubt Hans Niemann has an incredible career. He’s part of this new generation of chess players that use computers to figure out what the best moves are. He also came through the pandemic which is mostly online and these kinds of things. They call this new generation – for whatever reason – somehow different.

Did we mix this up?

ZACHARY: Mine was.

NASIR: That was yours? Okay. Checking over to make sure the chessboard is correct. You move there? Okay. I’m going to move here.

Magnus Carlsen plays Hans Niemann in St Louis. He gets beaten badly by Hans Niemann – really badly – in a tournament. He was playing white, which is traditionally a favorable position, especially when it comes to that level. Zach, you had the advantage here, technically.

ZACHARY: Hopefully.

NASIR: Is it my turn?

ZACHARY: Yes, because I went here.

NASIR: I’m going to go here.

Check this out. He loses. The next day, he announces on Twitter that he’s quitting the tournament.

ZACHARY: Magnus?

NASIR: Magnus does, yes, in some kind of ambiguous, vague gesture. He references this video of some kind of sports coach basically saying he can’t say anything more. Otherwise, he’ll get in trouble. This is where it all starts because the whole chess world blows up.

They all understand that move to suggest that he thinks Hans Niemann cheated. That’s where Hikaru Nakamura comes in because he’s a grandmaster himself, by the way. I think he lives out in Florida. Him and many other streamers start speculating.

But, look, Hikaru is in the industry. He knows all the players. He’s played Hans Niemann plenty of times. He also alludes to a rumor – there’s a reputation that Hans Niemann has cheated in the past.

ZACHARY: Well, he’s admitted to that, right?

NASIR: That’s what’s interesting. The public didn’t find that out until later.

After this all came out, Hans Niemann gets interviewed and actually admits that he did in the past – on at least two occasions when he was in his teens, as recent as when he was 17 which would have been a few years ago – cheat online. That’s really the pivot point to where things happen because that’s where Chess.com gets involved.

The alleged cheating happened on Chess.com. The lawsuit describes Chess.com in a very unfavorable fashion – being this conglomerate monopoly of taking over the chess world which is partly true. The reason why he’s alleging that is because he’s also suing them with the Sherman Act which is basically an anti-trust violation.

One of the main things that you can relate this to – remember Colin Kaepernick? One of the allegations was that he was being blackballed basically from being able to play football. There’s other history of this. It’s basically, “Look, if you want to play professional football, there’s only one place to play.” Similarly, if you want to play chess online professionally, there’s one other competitor called Lichess.

ZACHARY: I didn’t even know that.

NASIR: It’s a non-profit. I don’t know what it stands for, but it’s an open-source software, non-profit. It’s definitely second place, but it’s a little bit of a far second place because Chess.com has spent the last decade or so consolidating other websites. What comes into play here too is Magnus Carlsen – again, top player in the world. That’s pretty undisputable – whether it’s in history or not, that’s probably debatable. He also owns another company called Play Magnus.

ZACHARY: I think Chess.com is going to buy that site or something like that.

NASIR: Right. But it was announced literally days or a week or so before this infamous tournament in St Louis. The plaintiff Hans Niemann alleges that Chess.com and Magnus Carlsen conspired together to basically blackball Hans Niemann because, apparently, any tournaments that he’s getting into, they’re cancelling on him because of this now scarlet letter that Hans Niemann has written. They were merging right at the same time as this tournament is going on. It’s not a coincidence.

To consolidate power, Magnus Carlsen and Chess.com basically got rid of their biggest competition. Hans Niemann’s attorneys reference this 120-something game winning streak that Magnus Carlsen had that he publicly stated he was trying to beat. When Hans Niemann beat Magnus Carlsen, Magnus Carlsen gets upset, blow up, and then accuses him of cheating. Or did he? Because he didn’t actually explicitly accuse him of cheating until a little bit later.

Is it my move?

ZACHARY: Yes, it is your move.

NASIR: All right. You moved there? First piece taken.

ZACHARY: First blood.

NASIR: This is probably where it gets even better, I think.

That was the St Louis tournament. The online world goes ballistic. They start speculating and looking at every single game that Hans Niemann has played. Chess.com very shortly after releases this statement. I remember when this came out, people were like, “That’s it. He cheated.”

It was basically Chess.com saying that Hans Niemann described some previous cheating. He’s not being accurate into the extent of his cheating with the implication that he has cheated more than he says. They worded it carefully. I can’t remember the exact words, but it was written carefully.

But that in itself and the timing with everything solidified what everyone was thinking – that Magnus Carlsen had some kind of inside knowledge that Hans Niemann cheated in the past, and he believes he cheated at St Louis, and Chess.com – this very prominent company that frankly has very high trust value within the community – now says that Hans Niemann is also a cheater.

If anyone’s played on Chess.com, I don’t know if you have this, but you’ll get a message days later after a game if they suspect that your opponent violated the fair play rules. They’ll actually give your ranking back. I’ve had that a couple of times. Sometimes, you lose badly. It’s like, “This doesn’t make sense. How could this person be so good in that ranking?” It may be because they’re cheating. It’s so easy, and it goes to the next question.

St Louis was over the board like we’re playing. If I wanted to cheat now, there’s only one way to do it. I have to have some kind of third-party accomplice – like, Trang sitting next to us, controlling the board. She’d have to somehow communicate to me what the computer is saying is the best move.

Now, how do you do that over the board? Well, I could go to the bathroom, and someone could tell me, or I could look at my phone. I could do that, or I could have some kind of device on me.

They even reference that in the complaint – that conspiracy theories started going off on how Hans Niemann cheated and even got into pop culture with late night shows because people were speculating that there was some device being inserted within an orifice that is not to be named. You can use your imagination which is possible, but…

ZACHARY: It’s pretty absurd, though.

NASIR: It’s pretty absurd, yes.

These over-the-board chess tournaments do have metal detectors and things like that. But, interesting enough, after Magnus Carlsen quits the tournament, the tournament is still going on, they put the stream of the tournament on a 15-minute delay, and they started doing extra metal detection things. I remember in a video, Hans Niemann comes in, and they start scanning him like you’re at the airport or what-have-you.

ZACHARY: I’ve seen that one, yes.

NASIR: Let me go again. It’s a lot harder to play while you’re talking. Let me go here.

Let’s speed through here a little bit because I want to get to the law. We’re just giving the facts here. Oh, yes, one more item – there’s another tournament that’s pre-arranged. It’s an online tournament. I think it was by Chess24. I can’t remember who did it.

They play this tournament online. Hans Niemann and Magnus Carlsen play each other again. Then, of course, everyone’s watching. Magnus Carlsen hasn’t spoken to the press. Hans Niemann did speak to the press before the allegation. In fact, that was one of the things that came out. When Hans Niemann played, he basically described it as being a miracle in that he prepared for whatever Magnus played. He almost described it as “I just happened to study it this morning” or the day before, and that raised more suspicion. Looking at it retroactively, it raised more suspicions.

Anyway, Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann play online.

ZACHARY: They didn’t even get very far in the game, did they?

NASIR: Far.

ZACHARY: Didn’t he make one move?

NASIR: I believe Magnus Carlsen was playing black, and he resigned after two moves. You know what’s funny about this whole thing is that both Hans Niemann and Magnus Carlsen are chess players, obviously, but I feel like they’re also handling the same thing in the same way. They’re handling this life as chess which, of course, there are so many analogies in chess. People compare it to warfare, you know.

Where’d you go? Oh. You castled.

I’m going to the end a little bit. You have Chess.com, Hikaru Nakamura, the whole chess world basically accusing Hans Niemann – outrightly now – of cheating. What does Hans Niemann do? He reacts in the same way he plays chess – very aggressively. He goes on the offensive instead of the defense. That’s something that is well-known about him. He tends to play the counterattack pretty well. That’s exactly what he did.

Now, we’re going to talk about whether that’s going to backfire or not.

ZACHARY: I have to imagine it’s going to backfire, but what do I know?

NASIR: Well, let’s first talk about defamation.

Oh. I forgot one important thing! This was two weeks ago. If you’re in the chess world, you’re watching this like some kind of soap opera – watching it every day, watching the streamers. I know I was, but it’s probably too much.

Basically, Chess.com releases this 100-page report – something like that – basically saying that Hans Niemann likely cheated. If you search in the PDF, this word “likely cheated” appears a bunch of times. He likely cheated, I think, over a hundred times.

ZACHARY: Wow.

NASIR: They analyze a bunch of games and paid tournaments – tournaments where Hans Niemann gets money, and the winners get money – where they believe he likely cheated. It’s based upon the algorithm. There are certain things that people don’t understand. No one can beat a computer. It’s impossible. Maybe I can.

ZACHARY: He was making perfect moves or something like that, right?

NASIR: That’s what they say. The thing is it’s not only perfect moves. A human being – even the best players – can only see a certain number of moves ahead. A subtle move like this one – no, I don’t want to do that – this move may be bad or good, but I may not be able to see that until 10 moves from now, but a computer can, of course. They can see 10 to 20 – depending on how far you go – the implications of that move. Of course, if certain moves are made in a certain order too many times, then suspicions can arise.

Hans Niemann is said to have likely cheated by Chess.com. Those are appropriate words because no one knows for certain unless you catch them in the act. It’s the same way with the over-the-board tournament. I can’t prove that you’re cheating unless I actually catch you cheating, especially after the game. It’s impossible. I think that’s what happened here. They tried to be very careful with their words, but that didn’t stop Hans Niemann from filing a lawsuit.

Let’s talk about the law here. Do you remember the elements of defamation?

ZACHARY: No.

NASIR: Okay. That’s okay.

The elements of defamation – first, it has to be a statement of fact that is not true and that is damaging to the person’s reputation. There are more subtle elements, but that’s the essence of the point. In this case, what’s the statement of fact?

ZACHARY: He cheated.

NASIR: What is the statement that is not true? Allegedly.

ZACHARY: That he did not cheat.

NASIR: Of course, it’s obvious that that ruins his reputation.

ZACHARY: Yes.

NASIR: But the problem here is – and I went through very carefully to see what they allege – I can’t find an explicit statement of fact that he cheated.

ZACHARY: Because they say “likely”?

NASIR: Yes. Also, for example, if I say, “I think you cheated,” is that a statement of fact? Well, maybe.

ZACHARY: It’s an opinion.

NASIR: Right, and opinions – by definition – can’t be defamatory. If I said you did cheat—

ZACHARY: That’s a statement.

NASIR: That’s how Hikaru Nakamura may have gotten in trouble – because he’s streaming online on Twitch and things like that – off the cuff, as I am. It’s very easy.

He says some things. “It’s certain now.” Again, he could have easily made a reference. I remember he actually received a cease-and-desist letter from Hans Niemann. He referenced it during this whole thing to basically stop talking about it.

But the plaintiffs in this case, the attorneys actually do a pretty decent job of connecting. By alleging that someone cheated or having certain actions like quitting a tournament, putting this tweet, and doing all these things collectively, you might as well have said that person cheated.

It may not be the same, but how people are interpreting your language is such that Magnus Carlsen accused Hans Niemann of cheating because Magnus Carlsen knows he’s cheating as a statement of fact. In that case, they may have a decent shot at proving something. Normally, I don’t think this case would go that far.

My turn?

ZACHARY: Yes, I went here.

I honestly didn’t think this case was going to go that far.

NASIR: I tend to agree with you – mainly because, for example, when Hans Niemann’s attorneys reference the Chess.com report, they pull a quote. It’s a very well-drafted complaint, but it’s completely contrived in the sense that there are things in here that the attorneys may lose a little credibility.

For example, they reference the Chess.com report which, instead of saying, “likely cheated,” it starts off the quote with “cheated.” It’s like, “Chess.com releases a report that Hans Niemann cheated,” and then it goes on with the sentence. That’s a little disingenuous, right? It’s a correct quote, but it’s out of context.

The problem with defamation, though – and this is where I think this case doesn’t get too far – in discovery, both parties get to ask each other questions, request documents, ask other people questions, and ask for other documents, but you can only ask things that are relevant or that are going to lead to evidence that are designed or are most likely going to lead to evidence that is relevant.

Of course, Magnus Carlsen can’t ask about Hans Niemann’s private affairs or whatever – relationships. But, if he starts digging into whether he cheated or not, if he starts looking at his past history in Chess.com, to what extent did you cheat? Putting him and his friends under oath.

Because, look, if he is a cheater – which, again, he is a cheater, and he has admitted to the fact – whether he still is or not, that is the question. It’d be weird that it’s just contained to him. Again, if he cheated over the board, he needs some kind of—

ZACHARY: Accomplice.

NASIR: Accomplice, no?

ZACHARY: You know, I can see that. How rampant do you think cheating is in general on Chess.com? Do you think he is an outlier?

NASIR: There are definitely people that suggest that it’s a lot. It’s very rampant. That’s what Magnus Carlsen suggested. In fact, when he released a statement to the press, he was like, “We should take cheating more seriously.” He said he believes that Hans Nieman cheated in the past – much more and many more times than he has admitted in the past – and the community should be doing much more to crack down on it.

Now, Chess.com actually disagrees. In their report, they actually suggest that the amount of cheating is less than what people think it is which is interesting because, again, it’s so easy to cheat. If I’m playing on my phone, if I have a second phone or my computer in front of me, I can just duplicate moves or whatever. It’s typically so easy.

Have you ever cheated in video games before – like, back in the day?

ZACHARY: Yes.

NASIR: You put in a code or whatever?

ZACHARY: Yes.

NASIR: Do you ever notice that the entertainment value of playing that video game just goes all the way down? It lasts for five minutes then the game becomes boring. Why? Because there’s no challenge in it. You’re not testing yourself.

Similarly, it’s not completely unusual that not as many people cheat on chess because it’s the nature of the sport. Why would you cheat?

Oh, no. Does anyone see what I see?

ZACHARY: Is my queen open?

NASIR: No, but you just lost your rook, I think. Let me see.

Sometimes, over the board, it’s harder to visualize because I’m at a lower angle.

ZACHARY: Yes.

NASIR: I feel like the one person that I feel bad for that may have the worst shot or the biggest chance of losing is Hikaru Nakamura because Magnus Carlsen has given very little. He hasn’t spoken orally about it.

ZACHARY: He’s been very quiet about it.

NASIR: Very quiet. The one time he did talk about it, it was in writing – in a press release. It was very well-designed. It was the same with Chess.com. They had this long report. They had this “likely cheated” thing and so forth. They were very careful.

That’s why there’s a difference between libel and slander. Effectively, it’s the same. From a legal perspective, there’s subtlety in how you prove it. The only difference is libel is in writing, and slander is when you’re speaking orally but, effectively, it’s the same.

ZACHARY: Sorry.

NASIR: Now, I’m ahead a rook. What I’ve been taught is let’s just trade pieces, but I shouldn’t give away my strategy.

ZACHARY: No, I know that.

NASIR: We talked about defamation. If I were to bet, as all these cases go, they usually end up settling. When things die down, when no one is paying attention – one year, two years from now.

ZACHARY: Two year s? Wow.

NASIR: Yes, things are delayed. This was filed in Missouri. Hans Niemann is from California, but I think he now lives in Connecticut or the east coast somewhere. Nakamura is in Florida. Magnus Carlsen – I think he lives in Norway, but he’s Norwegian, right?

ZACHARY: I have no idea.

NASIR: I’m pretty sure. Chess.com – I don’t know where they’re based out of, but St Louis is where the tournament was where the initial defamatory statements occurred. Let’s see.

There was all these factual allegations that a lot of people don’t know about it in the public until now. This is where that Danny character comes in from Chess.com. They suggest that as soon as Magnus Carlsen lost starts communicating to Chess.com and basically coordinates this blackballing. He even gets the tournament to get a 15-minute delay, extra security measures. Chess.com releases their press release. The timing is such.

This is important. Chess.com actually defend and justify their release of the timing of that public statement because, apparently, if you read some of the email exchanges between Hans Niemann and Chess.com, specifically Danny – which is what was released in the report – it seems like they went too easy on a known cheater – an admitted cheater.

ZACHARY: I don’t know if there’s much I can do.

NASIR: I make mistakes all the time. That’s part of the game, especially the end game that we’re approaching. What was I talking about? Do you remember? I forgot.

ZACHARY: I forgot what you were talking about.

NASIR: It’s hard to do two things at once.

ZACHARY: It is hard to do two things at once.

NASIR: Which makes sense, especially chess.

ZACHARY: You said that they were going too easy on him.

NASIR: Yes. Apparently, Chess.com – they allege this in the report – there are other grandmasters and top players that have been caught cheating before that are playing right now that no one knows about. It’s because Chess.com has a policy that they handle these things really discreetly.

They approach the person. If you write an email that you admit it, your account will be suspended, and they will give you some kind of pathway to come back, basically. This is what they did with Hans Niemann – except I don’t know if he wrote an email admitting it. I can’t remember, but they kept asking him to do certain things. This happens twice. After this, Magnus Carlsen comes out with his allegations. Then, Hans Niemann basically talks about Chess.com.

Chess.com felt obligated. It’s like, “Look, we still believe he’s cheating online, or he’s cheated online after we’ve dealt with him. Now, he’s being accused of over-the-board cheating, and he’s basically talking about his past dealings with cheating which are not entirely accurate.”

Hans Niemann said that whatever he said, he wasn’t lying. He was telling the truth. I haven’t looked it up, but I have a feeling Hans Niemann may have chosen his words carefully. He says, “Yes, I cheated once at this time and this time.” He did say only. Maybe he didn’t use the word “only” or whatever that restricted it somehow. Somehow, that’s why they’re able to make that allegation that he did not cheat.

Let’s see. It’s actually when I’m ahead that I really never know what to do. I feel like the whole chess community is judging me right now.

ZACHARY: If anyone’s getting judged, it’s me.

NASIR: This is the statement from Chess.com. This is the original one back after the tournament. “We have shared detailed evidence with him concerning our decision, including information that contradicts his statements regarding the amount and seriousness of his cheating on Chess.com.” That statement is what Hans Niemann believes has gotten them in trouble.

There’s also this claim of tortious interference. Let’s see. Violation of the Sherman Act – we’ve talked about. Tortious interference with contract and business expectation – that’s usually a throw-in. I always talk about that because, basically, if you know someone has a contractual relationship with two parties and you interfere with that contract – maliciously, improperly, and things like that – then you can be opening yourself up to liability.

Now, whether or not he can prove that or not, it’s just one of those annoying lawsuits. It’s kind of a catch-all. A lot of people describe this as a hundred-million-dollar lawsuit which I think is funny because, yes, Hans Niemann sued him for $100 million, but it’s a made-up number. He might as well put $100 trillion. It doesn’t mean anything. There’s not a real basis for how that all works.

This is interesting. I know where I would go if I were you. That was good! I totally missed that, actually. Now, my queen is under attack.

Yes, $100 million. That’s it. What do you think?

ZACHARY: I think, honestly, it’s the most exciting thing to happen to chess in a long time – as strange and as odd as it is.

NASIR: That’s not a good reason.

ZACHARY: It’s not a good reason, but I saw people that would never ever talk about chess talking about this insane scandal.

NASIR: That’s true.

ZACHARY: It’s funny. Entertaining.

NASIR: Do you think he cheated?

ZACHARY: Statistically?

NASIR: Over the board.

ZACHARY: I’ve seen some people that did analyses on his moves.

NASIR: The problem is that each of those statistical analyses have been debunked by another statistician.

ZACHARY: Really?

NASIR: No one understands data science unless you’re a data scientist. How is anyone supposed to? Who do you trust more? There are grandmasters that are very critical of Magnus Carlsen for doing what he did. There are grandmasters that are defending Hans Niemann.

But, look, Maguns Carlsen is not just any grandmaster. That’s what’s interesting about this whole thing. If it was anybody else accusing the same thing, first of all, they probably wouldn’t have done it because it’s too risky to their reputation.

That’s a good move, too. Hmm. I don’t particularly like that move, but I don’t know if I have a choice.

Because I watched those videos on YouTube, he most likely cheated over the board because they would take a look at how perfect his games were when streaming versus non-streaming or compared to other grandmasters. But then, I keep going back and forth. I think no one will know, but I do think that what Magnus Carlsen is doing is fair.

He’s saying, “I don’t want to play with people that have a history of cheating.” That’s a fair statement –from a moral ground or so forth. At the same time, the argument is like, “Well, if someone makes a mistake, what’s the path to redemption to get them back and play?” Someone argued that there has to be some path.

ZACHARY: Yes, I have no idea what to do.

NASIR: I feel like this is getting heated.

ZACHARY: What does it mean for the sport of chess if it’s just possible for anyone to cheat all the time?

NASIR: I think, over the board, they could do things that makes that very difficult.

Chess.com said that he likely cheated in certain games that were streamed live where both Hans Niemann’s face and screen can be shown basically implying, “How could he have cheated?” It’s like, look, there are plenty of ways to do that. It seems strange. Someone could have been behind his computer holding signs. It could have been as simple as that. Or had another device underneath his monitor. There’s some really simple stuff.

Again, the credibility of the complaint and how much it praises Hans Niemann.

ZACHARY: Comical.

NASIR: They put Magnus Carlsen as the “king of chess” in quotes. Very sarcastic. Again, it’s well-written. They did a good job of what they were supposed to do.

We’ve got to finish this game. Hmm. Check.

ZACHARY: Let’s see. Check.

NASIR: You’re actually one move from check mating me. I didn’t realize that. That’s so crazy. People online are screaming at me. “What are you doing?!”

ZACHARY: We’ll see.

NASIR: I can’t believe that. Check.

ZACHARY: Should we just force that and film it?

NASIR: That’s what you should do. Or I should.

ZACHARY: You should.

NASIR: Man, this sucks. See, that’s what happens. Wait. There should be a way to get out of this. Let’s trade queens then. That’s my only choice. Check. Still, that was crazy. That was real good.

ZACHARY: Not good enough. My turn, right? Where did you go?

NASIR: You went here. I went here. What’s so funny?

ZACHARY: This cluster at the end of the game.

NASIR: I know. That’s the game.

I went there, then he pushed that there, and then I took that. We’ll go a little slower. Okay. Check. Let’s make it easy. I knew you were going to move there. We have an extra queen in here. All right. Now what? I’m trying to make sure you don’t escape.

ZACHARY: I’m not trying to.

NASIR: If you escape there, that’s fine. Check. I think this is mate. Is that right? Yes.

ZACHARY: Game.

NASIR: Thanks for joining us. Next time on – what are we calling this? Chess with Zach and Nasir.

MATT: Keep it sound and keep it smart.

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Legally Sound Smart Business is a podcast by Pasha Law PC covering different topics in business advice and news with a legal twist with attorneys Nasir Pasha and Matt Staub.
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Latest Episodes

October 28, 2022

Full Podcast Transcript NASIR: Finally, my two favorite worlds have collided – both the law and the chess – right here at Memorial Park in Houston, Texas. Windy day. We have some background noise – ambient noise. What are the two worlds that collided? Well, Hans Neimann has sued Magnus Carlsen for defamation in one…

September 26, 2022

Through a five-round championship bout, Matt travels to Texas from California to determine which state is better for business. Will it be a knockout with a clear winner or will it go to the scorecards?

July 7, 2022

Whether you are buying or selling a business, the transaction goes through the same steps. However, they are viewed from different perspectives. Sellers may not want to fully disclose all the blind spots while Buyers will want otherwise. Nasir and Matt battle it out in this Buyer vs. Seller to determine who has the advantage!…

May 12, 2022

When it comes to Restrictive Covenants, employers are fighting to keep their company safe while employees may use them to their advantage. Keep listening to find out if the Employer or the Employee wins this battle. Round 1: Trade Secrets A company’s trade secrets encompass a whole range of information and are one of the…

February 14, 2022

The Supreme Court rejected the nation’s vaccine mandate. Businesses with 100 or more employees are NOT required to have their employees vaccinated or go through weekly testings. However, this policy remains in effect for health care facilities. In this episode of Legally Sound | Smart Business, the team sat down to discuss their thoughts on this ruling.

December 1, 2021

In this episode of Legally Sound | Smart Business by Pasha Law PC, Nasir and Matt cover the Business of Healthcare. There is more to the healthcare industry than just doctors and nurses. Many Americans have health insurance to cover their yearly needs, but most Americans are not aware of what really goes on behind…

October 12, 2021

In our latest episode, Nasir and Matt are covering the legal issues on Social Media. The average person spends most of their day on social media, whether they are scrolling for hours or publishing their own content. However, just because you publish your own content on Instagram does not equate to you owning that image….

September 28, 2021

What is a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and when do I need one? In this episode, Nasir and Matt shares why you need to use Non-Disclosure Agreements, basic facts about NDA’s, and discuss about the infamous Jenner-Woods story. Having the right Non-Disclosure Agreement in place not only protects you and your business, but it also makes the…

June 16, 2021

Covered in this episode of Legally Sound Smart Business are some typical business mistakes blunders small businesses often make and how to avoid them. Blunder #1: Copying and pasting agreements It may sound like a good idea at the time, but this blunder comes with hidden pitfalls. Having an attorney draft terms that are specific…

February 4, 2021

How you terminate an employee can make the difference between a graceful transition to avoidable negative outcomes like a dramatic exit or even a lawsuit. We gathered a panel of experts and asked them – is there a “right way” to fire an employee? We would like to thank our guests for this episode: Amr…

December 2, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned nearly every aspect of life on its head, and that certainly holds true for the business world. In this episode, Matt and Nasir explain how the early days of the pandemic felt like the Wild West and how the shifting legal playing field left a lot open to interpretation and…

November 16, 2020

After plenty of ups and downs, our buyer has finally closed on the purchase of their business. While we’re marking this down in the ‘wins’ column, it never hurts to review the game tape. In this final episode, our hosts, Matt Staub and Nasir Pasha, return to the deal almost a year later to reflect…

September 15, 2020

The ink is drying on the signature line and things are looking great for our buyer. After so much hard work, the finish line is in sight and the cheering within ear shot.   Though the landlord is still serving friction, things seem safe to move forward and for now, our buyer will be keeping…

July 31, 2020

Though things are coming along well, the journey would not be interesting if it was purely smooth sailing. After our buyer opens escrow, they are forced to push the closing date back when suddenly a letter from an attorney was received claiming the business, we are buying has a trade mark on the name!  Now…

June 12, 2020

With frustration at an all-time high and professionalism at an all-time low, our friend the Buyer has “had it” with the Seller and quite frankly their lack of knowledge. At present our Buyer is rightfully concerned that the latest misstep from our loose-lipped Seller will threaten not only the entire operation of the businesses but…

May 11, 2020

As we go deeper into the buying process, we start to uncover more challenges from our seller and encounter some of the wrenches they are tossing our way. When we last left off in episode three our team was knee deep in due diligence for our buyer, had already penned and signed the Letter of…

April 4, 2020

One word–interloper! When a new mysterious broker enters the transaction and starts to kick up dust, Nasir and Matt take the reins. The seller signed off on the letter of intent (see episode 2), yet this “business broker” serves only friction and challenges by refusing to send financials, whilst demanding more of a firm commitment…

April 4, 2020

Just as most stories and deals start out, everyone is optimistic, idealistic and full of hope for clear skies. It’s a perfect outlook with a perfect setup for the ups and downs yet to come. Peek further behind the curtain and into the first steps of buying a business: the letter of intent. After the…

April 4, 2020

When a savvy buyer hears opportunity knocking to purchase a prime positioned business, she decides not to go it alone and taps in the professionals to help navigate what could potentially be a fruitful acquisition. “Behind the Buy” is a truly rare and exclusive peak into the actual process, dangers, pitfalls and achievements, that can…

August 7, 2019

GrubHub is subject to two “matters of controversy” that have likely become common knowledge to business owners: “fake” orders and unfriendly microsites.

May 28, 2019

In this podcast episode, Matt and Nasir breakdown the legal issues of the subscription industry’s business on the internet. Resources A good 50-state survey for data breach notifications as of July 2018. California Auto-Renewal Law (July 2018) Privacy Policies Law by State Why Users of Ashley Madison May Not Sue for Data Breach [e210] Ultimate…

March 12, 2019

In recording this episode’s topic on the business buying process, Matt’s metaphor, in comparing the process to getting married probably went too far, but they do resemble one another. Listen to the episode for legal advice on buying a business.

December 3, 2018

Nasir and Matt return to discuss the different options available to companies looking to raise funds through general solicitation and crowdfunding. They discuss the rules associated with the various offerings under SEC regulations and state laws, as well as more informal arrangements. The two also discuss the intriguing story about a couple who raised over…

July 24, 2018

Flight Sim Labs, a software add-on creator for flight simulators, stepped into a PR disaster and possibly some substantial legal issues when it allegedly included a Trojan horse of sorts as malware to combat pirating of its $100 Airbus A320 software. The hidden test.exe file triggered anti-virus software for good reason as it was actually…

April 17, 2018

Attorneys Matt Staub and Nasir Pasha examine Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings about the state of Facebook. The two also discuss Cambridge Analytica and the series of events that led to the congressional hearings, the former and current versions of Facebook’s Terms of Service, and how businesses should be handling data privacy. Full Podcast Transcript NASIR:…

March 10, 2018

The Trump presidency has led to a major increase in ICE immigration enforcement. It’s critical for business owners to both comply with and know their rights when it comes to an ICE audit or raid. Nasir, Matt, and Pasha Law attorney Karen McConville discuss how businesses can prepare for potential ICE action and how to…

February 5, 2018

New years always bring new laws. Effective January 1, 2018, California has made general contractors jointly liable for the unpaid wages, fringe benefits, and other benefit payments of a subcontractor. Nasir and Matt discuss who the new law applies to and how this affects all tiers in the general contractor-subcontractor relationship. Click here to learn…

January 2, 2018

With a seemingly endless amount of new mattress options becoming available, it is unsurprising that the market has become increasingly aggressive. As companies invest in more innovative solutions to get in front of customers, review sites, blogs and YouTube videos have moved to the forefront of how customers are deciding on their mattresses and how…

December 7, 2017

In recent months explosive amounts of high profile allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and varying acts of inappropriate behavior have transcended every sector of our professional world. With a deluge from Hollywood and politics, and the private workforce, accusations have inundated our feeds and mass media. This harassment watershed has not only been felt within…

November 16, 2017

If you are not familiar with the EB-5 program started in 1990 to give green cards to certain qualified investors in the United States, then you may not have been alone a few years ago. Currently, the EB-5 program has since exploded since its inception and now hits its quotas consistently each year. The program…

October 10, 2017

Government requests come in multiple forms. They can come in as requests for client information or even in the form of investigating your company or your employees. Requests for Client Information General Rule to Follow Without understanding the nuances of criminal and constitutional law and having to cite Supreme Court cases, any government requests for…

August 24, 2017

Nasir and Matt suit up to talk about everything pertaining to employee dress codes. They discuss the Federal laws that govern many rules for employers, as well as state specific nuances in California and other states. The two also emphasize the difficulty in identifyingreligious expression in dress and appearance, how gender-related dress codes have evolved…

June 28, 2017

Nasir and Matt discuss the life cycle of a negative online review. They talk about how businesses should properly respond, how to determine if the review is defamatory, the options available to seek removal of the review, how to identify anonymous reviewers, whether businesses can require clients to agree not to write negative reviews, and…

June 7, 2017

On this episode of the Ultimate Legal Breakdown, Nasir and Mattbreak down social media marketing withguests Tyler Sickmeyer and Kyle Weberof Fidelitas Development. They first discuss contests and promotionsand talk about where social media promotions can go wrong,when businesses are actually running an illegal lottery, and the importance of a soundterms and conditions. Next, they…

April 3, 2017

On this episode of the Ultimate Legal Breakdown, Nasir and Matt go in depth with the subscription box business. They discuss where subscription box companies have gone wrong(4:30), the importance of a specifically tailored terms and conditions(6:30), how to structure return policies (11:45), product liability concerns (14:45),the offensive and defensive side of intellectual property (19:00),…

February 1, 2017

Nasir and Matt discuss the suit against Apple that resultedfrom a car crashed caused by the use of FaceTime while driving. They also discuss howforeseeable use of apps can increase liability for companies. Full Podcast Transcript NASIR: Hi and welcome to Legally Sound Smart Business! I’m Nasir Pasha. MATT: And I’m Matt Staub. Two attorneys…

January 5, 2017

The guys kick in the new year by first discussing Cinnabon’s portrayal of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia soon after her death, as well as other gaffes involving Prince and David Bowie. They alsotalk about right of publicity claims companies could be held liable for based on using someone’s name or likeness for commercial gain.

December 22, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the recent incidentat a Victoria’s Secret store where the store manager kicked out all black women after one black woman was caught shoplifting. They then each present dueling steps businesses should take when employees are accused of harassment.

December 8, 2016

Nasir and Matt return to talk about the different types of clients that may have outstanding invoices and how businesses can convert unpaid bills to getting paid.

November 10, 2016

After a long break, Nasir and Matt are back to discuss a Milwaukee frozen custard stand that is now revising it’s English only policy for employees. The guys also discuss how similar policies could be grounds for discrimination and what employers can do to revise their policies.

October 6, 2016

The guys discuss the new California law that allows actors to request the removal of their date of birth and birthdays on their IMDB page and why they think the law won’t last. They also discuss how age discrimination claims arise for business owner.

September 29, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the racial discrimination claims surroundingAirbnb and how it’s handled the situation. They also discuss some practical tips for businesses experiencing similar issues.

September 8, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss whyAmazon seller accounts are getting suspended and banned without notice and how business owners can rectify this situation through a Corrective Action Plan.

August 25, 2016

Nasir and Matt talk about the accusations surroundingfashion giant Zararipping off the designs of independent artists like Tuesday Bassen and howsmaller companies can battle the industry giants.

August 18, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss Brave Software’s ad replacing technology that has caught the eye of almost every national newspaper and has a potential copyright infringement claim looming. They also welcome digital marketing expert Matt Michaelree to speak on the specifics of what Brave is attempting to do and whether it has the answers moving forward.

July 28, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Gretchen Carlson against Fox CEO Roger Ailes. They also talk aboutthe importance of sexual harassment training and properly handling such allegations in the office.

July 15, 2016

Nasir and Matt talk about the changes at Starbucks that have led to many disgruntled employees and customers.

June 23, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the criminal charges facing FedExinvolving the alleged transportation of illegal drugs. They also talk about how business owners should address working with customers that may be breaking the law.

June 15, 2016

The guys return after a long break to discuss why Yahoo is auctioning off over 3,000 patents and how this decision will affect the longevity of the company.

May 25, 2016

Nasir and Matt discuss the increase in the salary thresholdfor exempt employees and how employerscan try to avoid paying overtime as a result.

We represent businesses.
That’s all we do.

Oh, and we love it.

We love our work. We love reviewing that lease for your new location. We thrive on closing that acquisition that nearly fell through. We’re fulfilled when we structure a business to grow, raise capital, and be legally protected.

We focus on developing close relationships with our clients by being like business partners. A partner who provides essential, personalized, proactive legal support.

We do all of this without utilizing the traditional billable hour model. You pay for the value we bring, not the time spent on calls, emails, and meetings.

Our team is made up of attorneys and staff that share these values and we are retained by clients who want the same.

Pasha Law PC operates in the states of California, Illinois, New York, and Texas.

Meet Our Team

Fractional General Counsel Services

Pasha Law Select offers the expertise of a high-end general counsel legal team for every aspect of your business at a fixed monthly rate. Pasha Law Select is deliberately designed to allow our legal team to be proactive, to anticipate, and to be comprehensive in serving our clients. To be great lawyers, we need to know our clients. We can’t know our clients unless we represent a select number of clients in the long-term. This is Pasha Law Select.

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