By Peter Gothard
17 Dec 2015
An accusation that analyst house Gartner's "Magic Quadrant" technology market positioning reports are corrupt and run on a "pay for play" model has been allowed by a US court, paving the way for further legal activity between Gartner and network management vendor NetScout, who made the accusation.
NetScout also accused Gartner of defaming it by placing the vendor in a deliberately low position in the Magic Quadrant as a result of "malice".
On the accusations both of corruption and defamation, Gartner had previously tried to strike (i.e. dismiss) the allegations. Hon Charles T. Lee, of the Judicial District of Stamford and Norwalk, however, denied the attempt to strike "in its entirety".
"As the Court explained, the first count of NetScout's Revised Complaint against Gartner, for violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, was based on NetScout's allegation that Gartner's Magic Quadrant ratings were ‘corrupted by favoritism shown to Gartner's major customers' and that ‘its ranking system is based not on objective facts, but rather on Gartner's 'pay-to-play' business model', said NetScout, in a statement released today.
"The second count, for corporate defamation, alleged that the rating and statements about NetScout in Gartner's 2014 Magic Quadrant report for Network Performance Monitoring and Diagnostics were defamatory and untrue," continues NetScout's release.
The court found that "Gartner has not met its burden of showing," among other things, "that the statements in the Magic Quadrant are protected opinions". It also decided to "strike the revised complaint in its entirety".
Gartner had tried to make out that NetScout was "a public figure", which would make it harder to prove that defamation or malice had taken place. This reasoning was also not accepted by the court.
One choice quote from the court document shows NetScout accusing a Gartner analyst of telling NetScout's president and CEO that NetScout "is not going anywhere because it does not spend enough on marketing". The document specifying NetScout's subsequent accusation that damage to NetScout from appearing in the Magic Quadrant "stem from NetScout's failure to pay Gartner".
While NetScout has so far merely achieved recognition that its complaints about Gartner are strong enough for the case to proceed in court, a progression of this case could shake one of the IT industry's most celebrated reports to its very foundations if Gartner can't successfully shake off such graphic accusations.
Gartner has provided Computing with a statement on the matter:
"We continue to believe this case is without merit and intend to defend ourselves and the integrity of our research processes vigorously," said Andrew Spencer, VP of Gartner's global corporate communications.
"We remain committed to providing our clients with independent research and advice about the products and services that we cover and upon which they have relied for decades."
Computing has also reached out to NetScout for direct comment, and will update this story in the near future.