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 user 2010-03-08 at 2:02:39 pm Views: 123
  • #23423
    Memphis advocate takes on Xerox in Latin-American legal dispute
    Garland Reed, the African-American president of the Mid-South Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, finds himself in the middle of a legal dispute between a business executive in Costa Rica and the company whose name is synonymous with copying machines.Reed has attached himself to the cause of Ricardo Gomez, who says his printing business has been hurt so severely by the actions of Xerox LatinAmerican Holding, Inc., that he is faced with “no business and now no inheritance to leave my children.”

    Reed, who speaks Spanish fluently, once owned several businesses in Latin America. In September, Gomez, who doesn’t speak English, retained Reed to advocate on his behalf in the United States.Advocacy by Reed on Gomez’s behalf brings into the picture Ursula M. Burns – Xerox’s first African-American chief executive officer and the 14th most powerful female in the world, according to Forbes magazine. Reed has penned a pointed letter to Burns asking her to bring an end to the legal dispute and Gomez’s angst.

    In her response, Burns said the litigation in Costa Rica “is still an ongoing matter,” referring further inquiries to the Xerox attorney in charge. The Tri-State Defender’s call to that attorney’s New York office yielded this written response from the director of public relations: “According to our legal department, the case between R.G.M. Createc S.A. and Xerox LatinAmerican Holdings is still pending in Costa Rica. We strongly disagree with the plaintiff’s portrayal of the facts; however, it is Xerox’s policy not to comment on pending litigation.”Final answer, said Xerox’s attorney in charge, Flor Colon.

    Undaunted, Reed has committed to push forward.
    “This is more than a legal issue,” he said. “This is a human rights issue. Burns is front and center of a storm that is blowing across Third World countries.”The 21 Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America have been exploited too many times by U.S. companies, said Reed, adding, “Xerox is a giant company that took advantage of a small businessman and has prolonged the legal process until he (Gomez) exhausted all of his funds.”Even though the abuses didn’t happen under Burns’ watch, Reed said, “She’s thefigurehead and could be detained or banned from traveling to these countries.”

    ‘Put it in a vault’
    In a battle of lawsuits, Gomez (R.G.M. Createc S.A.) is 2-0 against Xerox LatinAmerican Holding Inc., one of nearly 300 Xerox subsidiaries worldwide. He sued Xerox, charging that the company’s actions led to the ruin of his printing business.In September, Ricardo Gomez (right) and his attorneys came to Memphis from Costa Rica to discuss his legal case with Garland Reed, an international businessman who lived in Latin America and owned businesses there. Gomez and the attorneys gave Reed the power of attorney to advocate for Gomez, who has been embroiled in a nearly decade-long court battle with Xerox LatinAmerican Holding Inc. (Photo by Wiley Henry)

    Xerox sued Gomez, charging that he didn’t pay his monthly payment on a lease agreement. On Sept. 16, 2007, the First Civil Court of San Jose ruled in favor of Gomez, stating, in part, that, “This type of existing contract lacks legal discipline, even though the lease exists and is used within the commercial trade.”And on Aug. 1, 2008, Magistrate Anabelle León Feoli of the First Division of the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica determined that Xerox had failed – just as Gomez asserted in his lawsuit – to provide supplies for a Docucolor 12 machine that Gomez had been leasing from Xerox.The case, said Gomez, was certified, disposed of, and “put it in a vault” – a Costa Rican legal term for “the case is officially closed.”Gomez was awarded $8 million in punitive damages. Xerox has balked at paying that amount. Now Gomez is seeking $20 million.

    Gomez has also asked the court to embargo (place a lien on) the property and assets of Xerox’s four subsidiaries in Costa Rica – Xerox LatinAmerican Holding, Xerox Costa Rica, Xerox Corp., and Grupo Di Foto.“I asked for the embargo because Xerox destroyed my business and my children’sinheritance,” said Gomez, who is represented by attorneys Rolando Guardiola and Juan Luis Guardiola.Meanwhile, Judge Luis Urena Monge of the Sixth Civil Court of San Jose ordered attorney Yuri Herrera Ulate, Xerox’s legal representative in Costa Rica, to surrender the company’s accounting books.“The court has to look at the books to determine the value of the company’s stocks and shares,” said Rolando Guardiola.Ulate, managing partner at the law firm of Daremblum and Herrera Abogados, filed an appeal in the First Civil Court of San Jose, but judges Gerardo Parajeles, Alvaro Hernandez and Jorge Lopez denied his appeal on Dec. 2.

    Ulate could not be reached for comment.
    “He (Ulate) said he didn’t have sufficient authority to turn over the books,” Gomez said.On Jan. 11, three judges – Juan Carlos Brenes, Abel Jimenez and Jorge Olaso – denied Ulate’s second appeal, this one filed in the Second Civil Court of San Jose.“The second time in court, the man said he didn’t have the books,” Gomez said.On Feb. 3, Judge Monge noted in writing that Ulate “could be criminally charged,” if he fails to comply with the court’s order to turn over Xerox’s accounting books.Gomez said he and attorney Rolando Guardiola, a court official and a police officer made an unannounced – and unsuccessful – visit to Ulate’s office on Feb. 15 to serve court papers in an attempt to obtain Xerox’s accounting books.Guardiola said the next attempt to serve court papers will be to Ulate’s home. And if Ulate doesn’t comply within five to 10 days, the court will consider him a fugitive of the law, Guardiola said.

    Making the Memphis connection
    Last September, Gomez and his attorneys flew to Memphis to meet with Reed, who had invited Gomez to participate in the 2009 Mid-South International Business Expo. Reed was spearheading the expo initiative.“In our conversation about the expo, Don Ricardo told me he had a problem and asked if I could help. He said he was in a legal dispute in Costa Rica with Xerox,” said Reed, who canceled the expo because of the uncertain economy.

    Since Xerox is a Fortune 500 company and headquartered in the United States, Reed reasoned that it might be possible to use his influence to end the stalemate. His letter to Burns soon followed.

    Reed translated during the Tri-State Defender’s interview with Gomez, who said his problems began in 2000 after he could no longer get toner and spare parts for the Docucolor 12 copier that he was leasing from Xerox.“They guaranteed me the supplies of toner and spare parts, because they were the only ones selling them,” Gomez said in September at Reed’s office in the Clark Tower building.

    Gomez had been in business for more than two decades prior to leasing the copier from Xerox, which increased his customer base significantly and grew his printing business twofold, he said.Gomez said business started tapering off toward the end of 2001 and his company, R.G.M. Createc, started dying.“We could no longer do the work for our clients because Xerox failed to provide toner and supplies,” he said.Gomez employed more than 20 people, including his wife, Lucila, and their two children, Gabriela and Esteban.

    According to court documents obtained by the Tri-State Defender, testimony from Ana Cristina Leon Blanco, a Xerox salesperson, backed up Gomez’s claim that Xerox had failed to honor its agreement.“Sometimes the client ordered the supply and Xerox didn’t have it available,” Blanco testified in court. “Then the client had to wait until the supply arrived to Costa Rica. The time period could be weeks or months, depending on the supply.”Reed said Gomez wanted to leave something for his children.“Now his dreams have been deferred.”