Cochlear webmaster resigns for defaming Mark Hobratschk

On January 25, 2000, Mark Hobratschk uncovered over 50 pages of emails that had been sent over several months in 1998 from an email account at Cochlear Americas to one of their cochlear implant users in New Zealand named Robyn Carter. 

The email account belonged to Jon Ponder, Cochlear's webmaster.  He had instructed Ms. Carter that he had "hot information" from a "Cochlear insider" that she should repost on the York University cochlear implant Internet forum.  He specifically told her to falsely post that Mark Hobratschk and Kevin Gaudette, who had left Cochlear to start a billing and consulting service contracted with Med El Corporation, were "fired" from Cochlear and thus anything they post on the forum regarding proper billing practices should not be believed.    His emails were littered with further derogatory comments not only about Mark and Kevin, but about the moderator of the forum whom he called a "menace" for not acceding to Cochlear demands to block posts by either individual. 

Hobratschk promptly emailed Ponder a copy of the favorable decision he received from the Colorado Department of Labor (and hearing transcripts) documenting that he had resigned in response to very serious harassment from a coworker that had reached the point of criminally soliciting a third party to threaten him physical harm.   Hobratschk demanded an immediate apology and retraction in order to avoid further litigation that none of the parties desired.  Faced with transcripts proving that not only was Hobratschk never fired but Cochlear management were trying to keep him from leaving, Ponder issued the above email within 24 hours admitting to his "misstatements" and immediately resigning. 

It is hard to imagine any more indisputable proof of Ponder's libel then his immediate resignation.  Yet Ponder's defamation remarkably survived the better part of two decades, forcing the publication of these documents on this website. 

Ponder did not know either Mark and Kevin and arrived long after they resigned (six months apart).  Thus, he was merely imparting what he was directed by others to pass on.  His libelous emails were sent during the height of multi-party litigation over Cochlear's interference with Hobratschk's consulting contract with Med El (that Hobratschk dismissed after receiving a financial settlement).  As a result, they were clearly intended to influence consumer opinion about that lawsuit without making it appear that Cochlear was the source. 

Ponder's willful defamation represents a pattern of conduct by Cochlear Americas that routinely sought to block Hobratschk's employment with Med El (and later the American Speech Language Hearing Association) by similarly using third parties like Ms. Carter.   On or about April 25, 2000, a similar call was placed from an audiologist to ASHA insisting Cochlear would no longer contribute to the ASHA Foundation if Hobratschk remain employed there (a threat Hobratschk's ASHA supervisor immediately rejected and informed Hobratschk).  Cochlear also had earlier threatened to no longer contribute to a charity called HearNow if they promoted Mark and Kevin's billing and consulting service and sent an email threatening to pull their financial support of a cochlear implant magazine called CONTACT if the editors published any advertisement or article by Mark or Kevin.  They even refused to transfer patient insurance appeal records to Mark and Kevin's service even with the patient's express written consent.