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Facebook’s Mark Zuckerbeg Says Land Lawsuits In Connection With His Kauai Estate Were Made In Good Faith

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Facebook CEO Says Land Lawsuits In Connection With His Kauai Estate Were Made In Good Faith
PHOTOGRAPH: Mark Zuckerberg | Mark Zuckerberg is shown at Tsinghua University a few years ago.

Mark Zuckerberg is probably one of the most maligned high-profile personalities these days. A few weeks after showing to the world through Facebook his family photographs in the picturesque Hawaiian island of Kauai (teeming with wildlife that delighted his daughter Max), he remained under fire, and just clarified all the land issue stories that have swirled.

Mark’s lawyers filed lawsuits against hundreds of Hawaiians who may own an interest in small parcels traversing the boundaries of the Zuckerberg family’s 700-acre Kauai estate. “The land is made up of a few properties. In each case, we worked with the majority owners of each property and reached a deal they thought was fair and wanted to make on their own,” Mark reiterated in his recent post on Facebook.

The Plot (Of Land) Thickens

Mark had offered to pay off individuals with rights to land parcels on his Kauai property to establish legal title to the lands in question. “As with most transactions, the majority owners have the right to sell their land if they want, but we need to make sure smaller partial owners get paid for their fair share too,” he said.

An earlier report by a Honolulu publication quoted Zuckerberg as saying people will not be forced off their land.  Real estate lawyers who are not part of Zuckerberg case beg to disagree, maintaining that with quiet title actions, the land ownership of defendants is challenged.

Mark and his legal team sought to identify family members who co-share the land. The process is that a judge validates who the lawful owners are and their appropriate share of ownership, and who can then order that all the ownership shares be sold at auction because it would not be possible to physically divide the land amongst all owners.

Actions Governed by Rules & Norms

The Facebook CEO asserted that his lawsuits were made in good faith, emphasizing that he and his legal counsels wanted to find all those partial owners who may be paid “their fair share.” Partition by sale, however, has been noted as highly problematic for the Native Hawaiian community, being regarded as a form of severance of the land-owing family to the ancestral land.

Given these two sides of the coin, it becomes evident that cultural mechanisms (apart from the Hawaiian island’s history of conquest and deceit) may have aggravated the discord. Hawaii State Representative Kaniela Ing of Maui was among those critical of the Zuckerberg lawsuits.

Mark’s western style of negotiating behavior – speedy, direct and formal – had evidently rubbed some people the wrong way, sparking controversy. Kaniela Ing countered that if Mark Zuckerberg wanted to “respect the local culture and Hawaiian values,” he could have taken a different tack.

“I was always taught that if there was a dispute with somebody you go and knock on their door, sit down, and you kukakuka [discuss] and you hooponopono [make it right. You don’t initiate conversation by filing a lawsuit,” Ing stated. This approach is aligned with the Asian way of upholding traditional cultural attributes and going to great lengths to value relationship-building.

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