Over the final three months, the Instagram influencer Emily Gellis has transfixed her followers by posting accusations in regards to the high-fiber F-Factor weight loss program and its creator Tanya Zuckerbrot.
In hundreds of Instagram posts, which have included video monologues and screenshots of messages between Ms. Gellis and infrequently nameless dieters who adopted the F-Factor plan or purchased merchandise from the corporate, Ms. Gellis asserted that F-Factor merchandise have been inflicting rashes and different illnesses. She additionally accused Ms. Zuckerbrot of encouraging disordered consuming habits, each by means of the dietary recommendation she disbursed and the corporate tradition she cultivated.
Ms. Gellis additionally advised her followers that she had been contacted by sources who linked their miscarriages to the F-factor weight loss program and merchandise. One of these sources advised The New York Times in August that she fabricated the story.
Today, attorneys for Ms. Zuckerbrot mentioned they filed a lawsuit in New York, saying that Ms. Gellis has value her enterprise hundreds of thousands of in income due to greater than four,500 “false, defamatory, and/or harassing statements.” F-Factor was making $1 million a month earlier than Ms. Gellis started posting in regards to the firm in July 2020, in accordance with the lawsuit. Now the corporate’s month-to-month income is lower than $90,000.
Ms. Gellis mentioned she plans to countersue Ms. Zuckerbrot. “I have not defamed her and I will do everything I need to do to assert my innocence,” she mentioned in an interview.
F-Factor is a weight loss program consulting enterprise; registered dietitians will be employed to teach shoppers on Ms. Zuckerbrot’s high-fiber consuming plan. It requires its adherents to initially comply with a 1200-calorie-a-day meal plan. Clients who labored immediately with Ms. Zuckerbrot, who has written two books in regards to the weight loss program, have included high-profile figures equivalent to Megyn Kelly. Some shoppers have paid as a lot as $25,000 for Ms. Zuckerbrot’s companies. In 2018, F-Factor started promoting snack bars and powders as effectively.
“Gellis’s illegal, abusive, and harassing social media misconduct has caused, and continues to cause, devastating financial damages and enormous emotional distress,” the lawsuit says.
Ms. Zuckerbrot is represented by Dan Okay. Webb, a former United States legal professional who has constructed a non-public observe targeted partly on suing media entities for defamation against companies that sell food. Last summer, Mr. Webb was named as a special prosecutor tasked with investigating the Jussie Smollet case.
The F-Factor products, Mr. Webb said in an interview, “are completely safe and the diet is safe. Ms. Gellis went on a vendetta to try to destroy this company — and she did succeed.”
Ms. Gellis learned of the lawsuit when she received a message on Instagram from a New York Post reporter asking for her to comment.
She addressed Ms. Zuckerbrot directly on Instagram, saying in a video today: “Tanya, you are the devil, you’re the devil, and you are going to get what’s coming to you.” Ms. Gellis criticized Ms. Zuckerbrot for revealing Ms. Gellis’s home address in the lawsuit when the filing was posted on the F-Factor website.
Mr. Webb says that it was Ms. Gellis, and not the pandemic and attendant economic consequences, which has zapped F-Factor’s revenue and growth. A spokesman for F-Factor said that in May the company’s gross revenue from product sales were $1.2 million but that in August sales dropped to $254,000 before hitting last month’s low of about $90,000.
Early this year, Evolution V.C. Partners was poised to make a $2 million investment in F-factor, which it valued at $40 million. “That capital investor has completely withdrawn his commitment to make his investment in F-Factor,” the lawsuit says.
Gregg Smith, the principal of Evolution V.C. Partners, said in an interview that he walked away from the deal with F-Factor without being aware of any internet criticism of the brand from Ms. Gellis or others. “I was exploring an active investment in the company in the spring and became distracted with family health issues,” he said.
While Ms. Gellis is the only defendant named in the lawsuit, Ms. Zuckerbrot also blames her company’s problems on Instagram and on Facebook, its parent company, as well. “Gellis’s conduct was facilitated and made possible by Facebook and Instagram, which were repeatedly and comprehensively notified about Gellis’s gross abuse of their platforms,” the lawsuit states. “Nevertheless, Facebook and Instagram knowingly and intentionally refused to take any action.”
Mr. Webb said he is considering future legal action that might include the platforms. “Those companies are not named because of the immunity Congress gave them but I am looking at certain legal theories and we will see where this goes,” he said.
A spokesman for Facebook did not immediately return a request for comment.
In addition to the lawsuit filed by Ms. Zuckerbrot, three sources say that they have been interviewed by a representative of the Department of Justice about their knowledge of the F-Factor’s company practices.
A representative of that office declined to comment.