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SmileDirectClub turns up the heat on NBC News' investigative report

Brian Sozzi

SmileDirectClub (SDC) is taking off the gloves in a budding battle against NBC News.

The firestorm comes in the wake of an investigative story run by NBC News on Thursday that called into question the safety of SmileDirectClub’s trademark clear aligners. Shares of SmileDirectClub plunged 16.3% on Friday even as the newly minted public company issued a strongly worded rebuke of the report’s claims.

In a February 14 letter addressed to NBC News legal counsel Kimberley Harris and the producer on the story Lauren Dunn from SmileDirectClub’s litigation counsel obtained by Yahoo Finance, SmileDirectClub alleges the sole purpose of the story was to “scare patients away” from seeking treatment by the company and to “adversely affect” the company’s market value. The letter lists more than 20 concerns that SmileDirectClub has with NBC News’ reporting, most of which allege NBC News omitted certain facts from its story and questions the validity of several sources.

The letter goes on to demand NBC News “immediately” retract the reports and publish a correction on its evening news program and online.

Ms. Harris and Ms. Dunn did not immediately return a request for comment by Yahoo Finance.

“We stand by our reporting,” a spokesperson for NBC News told Yahoo Finance via email.

A source close to the matter tells Yahoo Finance that SmileDirectClub has not decided on whether to pursue legal action against NBC News.

NBC News’ story triggered a fierce response by SmileDirectClub Chairman and CEO David Katzman.

“NBC Nightly News ran an incredibly one-sided and distorted report on SmileDirectClub. Given the way in which it portrayed the company, I want to address this story directly. We cannot stand for one-sided, biased journalism that stems from a coordinated attack by trade organizations to limit our success. We also won’t stand by when efforts are being made to limit consumers’ ability to have a real alternative in getting a safe and affordable smile they deserve,” Katzman wrote Friday in a LinkedIn post.

Dental assistant Jessica Buendia looks at a scanned image of patient's teeth in SmileDirectClub's SmileShop located inside a CVS store Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in Downey, Calif. CVS Health is venturing into dental care with plans to offer the relatively new teeth-straightening service. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Added Katzman, “We worked with the NBC Nightly News team starting in December, spending hours in interviews and making all efforts to be completely transparent, communicative and available. We provided interviews with our Chief Clinical Officer as well as a treating dentist who uses our platform. SmileDirectClub’s network of dentists and orthodontists have treated more than 750,000 happy customers, yet this story ran without interviewing a single one of them. With their approval, we provided NBC a list of satisfied client contacts who have had great results, and even some who had problems with their treatment but with whom we worked to get to a happy result. Reporting on how SmileDirectClub increases access to convenient, affordable care was not what this reporter was interested in doing. She came to us with a story, shaped by unnamed sources and interviews with “experts” with no first-hand experience with our platform, and any response she received from us or our experts needed to fit into that narrative. In order to produce the angle she had already decided on, she had to ignore all of the positive outcomes and other information she discovered, regardless of where the real facts led her.”

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Watch The First Trade each day here at 9:00 a.m. ET or on Verizon FIOS channel 604. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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