DENVER — More Armstrong Steel customers are coming forward to say the Colorado-based building manufacturer made an offer they felt they had to refuse.
"I'm going to speak my truth," said Michelle Swarvar, who said she thought she was the only one who refused a settlement offer from Armstrong Steel. "I'm so glad that there are more people that are not signing these releases and sticking by their guns."
Denver7 Investigates previously reported on certain Armstrong Steel offers to give some customers their money back, but only if they retract statements made to the media. This came in the wake of multiple customers coming forward to report delays and price hikes. More than two dozen plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit against the Centennial-based building manufacturer.
Denver7 | Investigates
Armstrong Steel customers offered refunds with unusual condition
Last week, Mai Samhouri spoke about her contract.
"It's basically a gag order. Take this money, be quiet, and send this lie to the news," said Samhouri, who refused to sign the agreement, which would have meant a refund of more than $4,000.
Now, in South Carolina, Swarvar is another unhappy customer who has documents showing Armstrong Steel offered a more than $5,000 refund "contingent upon the withdrawal of all complaints filed against Armstrong."
Swarvar said the company also wanted her to send a letter stating she had made false claims to a local TV station that had published a story earlier this year.
"I didn't sign the settlement offer because it would make me more liable for more money than I've already paid them. I'm not stupid," she said. "And it was the truth."
Swarvar said she was part of the class action lawsuit that has since been stayed pending the outcome of individual arbitration proceedings.
While Armstrong Steel would not comment on Swarvar's offer, a spokesperson referred us to previous statements, which said in part that the company "would never ask a customer to retract an honest statement."
Denver7 Investigates has also heard from customers who wished to remain anonymous, saying they signed agreements requiring that they take down negative social media posts, online reviews and Better Business Bureau complaints.
Conrad Ciccotello, director of the Reiman School of Finance at the University of Denver, called a retraction requirement "unusual" for a settlement agreement.
"If you're asking someone to say what they said before was a lie, as a term of settlement, and in that person's view, it was not a lie, then that is an aggressive settlement posture," Ciccotello said. "I don't know how those types of demands and settlement agreements help businesses to continue to attract customers and interact with the public."