A high-profile gaming defamation case has met its end…probably.
In 2012, self-made billionaire Kazuo Okada of Universal Entertainment sued Reuters over alleged casino bribery implications. But last week, Tokyo’s High Court deemed the claim “groundless,” citing accuracy.
Why Did Gaming Company Universal Sue Media Agency Reuters?
Four years ago, a few Reuters’ reporters were sniffing around Universal’s business dealings and stumbled upon, what they thought, was pay dirt: a questionable compensation, to a shadowy consultant with ties to a former Filipino gaming official.
Universal objected. In their opinion, Reuters didn’t connect the dots properly, which, they argued, led to flagrant defamation by implication. A Universal spokesperson explained:
“Their (Reuters) stories contain misrecognition of facts and biases that could have been easily avoided had Reuters engaged in fair and appropriate reporting. Reuters has reported that our corporate group has given the massive sum of US $40 million to the government and other related institutions between December 2009 and May 2010 in our Philippines’ business. This is a clear misrecognition of the facts.
“Reuters’ reporting is full of malice and our company firmly objects to this. We believe that Reuters should be fully held to account legally for the damage brought about through their biased reporting, and we are exploring the possibility of taking legal actions against them.”
Universal asked for $1.8 million in damages, and a round of apologies.
Court In Gaming Defamation Case: Repetitive Details Don’t Amount To Libel
Detailed, but not defamatory; that’s how Tokyo’s High Court ruled.
During proceedings, Universal argued that repetitious mentions of suggestive facts contributed to the overall impression of wrongdoing. But the court disagreed. In the judges’ eyes, the recurrences provided clarity and detail, not shade.
Judge Yoshihiro Toyosawa summed up the decision:
“The claims made in this case by the appellant are groundless and the rejection by the district court was justifiable.”
Would This Gaming Defamation Case Have Turned Out Differently In A U.S. Court?
This gaming defamation case played out in Japan, but someone asked, “Would a U.S. court likely return the same result?” In a word: yes.
For starters, the United States enjoys defendant friendly defamation laws. To win and American slander and libel lawsuit, plaintiffs must meet sky-high proof standards. Claimants must persuade judges and juries that:
- The defendants made false statements of fact about the plaintiffs. And we’re not talking small mistakes; you can’t win a slander or libel lawsuit because someone said you stole $100, when, in fact, you’d only stolen $77.
- The statement caused harm; not just bruised feelings or pangs of embarrassment, but actual, material harm. Plaintiffs can argue that reputation attacks led to job loss, but they must provide concrete evidence directly linking the actual utterance to a termination, business decline, or some other lost employment opportunity.
- The defendants acted negligently, with reckless disregard for the truth, or with actual malice. To put it another way: plaintiffs must prove that the accused didn’t properly fact check. In the case of public figures, the stakes are even higher; politicians and celebrities are required to show that the defendants knowingly lied.
Seeking Alpha is the TMZ of the trading industry — an online platform of gossip and speculation: some of which is accurate, some of which is planted public relations spin and some of which is false. So, what happens if you or your fund is defamed on Seeking Alpha? Can you sue for libel? Do you have a shot at winning?
We’ll answer these questions below and examine a pair of recent Seeking Alpha defamation lawsuits. If you have an urgent situation and need to speak with an attorney yesterday, get in touch with Aaron Kelly “ a top-rated finance defamation lawyer“ here.
Can You Sue For Defamation Over A Statement Posted On Seeking Alpha?
Yes, you can file a “seeking alpha defamation lawsuit” if someone lies about you or your business on the website. The main question is: What constitutes defamation?
Each state’s libel statutes vary slightly and have their own set of case law, but all jurisdictions must adhere to the four elements of federal defamation law:
- Falsity:The declaration at issue must be a false statement of fact. As the adage goes: It’s not defamation if it’s true. (Note: In rare circumstances, a true statement can be deemed legally defamatory. Talk to an attorney to find out if your situation qualifies.)
- Specificity: Plaintiffs in defamation lawsuits must prove they are the party being defamed. In some cases, the defendant may not name names, but give identifying information; the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the defendant was “talking about” the plaintiff.
- Multi-Party Communication: “ More than one person has to read or hear the statements under review for it to be defamatory.
- Negligence or Actual Malice: “To win a defamation lawsuit, proving that a person or business published inaccurate information is not enough. The plaintiff must also prove that the defendant knowingly lied with the intent to cause harm. Whether or not the standard of negligence or actual malice is applied depends on the facts of the case and the “public status” of the plaintiff. (Find out more about actual malice here.)
Seeking Alpha Defamation Lawsuit Case Studies
“Pump Terminator” Defamed Our Fund
Seeking Alpha user “Pump Terminator” cost NanoViricides Inc. — bio-pharma company “serious money.” Or, at least so says NanoViricides. How? After Pump Terminator took to Seeking Alpha and announced plans to short NanoViricides stock, it fell faster than Newton’s apple.
So, the company filed a defamation lawsuit.
The judge in the case, though sympathetic to the plaintiff, ruled that Pump Terminator’s anonymous quips on Seeking Alpha could not be deemed defamatory. She reasoned that Seeking Alpha is:
“a repository of a wide range of casual emotive and imprecise speech, and that users not attribute the same level of credence to the statements they would accord to statements made in another context.”
In other words: Don’t believe everything they read on Internet review websites.
Now, does the outcome of the Pump Terminator case mean that all Seeking Alpha defamation lawsuits will fail? To put it bluntly, “hell, no!” Internet libel is a nuanced area of law. Just because one case fails, doesn’t mean another will. Your best bet is always to consult a lawyer about the facts of your case.
Greenlight Complains, Then Refrains
Several months ago, hedge fund Greenlight Capital Inc. (CGI) requested a court order forcing SeekingAlpha.com to turn over identifying information about an anonymous user. Firm executives were fuming over a major merger leak that ultimately cost CGI lots of dough.
And though plaintiffs have succeeded in unearthing anonymous posters in the past for purposes of defamation lawsuits, Seeking Alpha pushed back and won. The website was not forced to hand over any personally identifying information about the user in question.
Interestingly, this case came in with a roar and went out with a whimper. Several months after commencement, CGI quietly withdrew the complaint. Case closed.
Speak With A Finance Libel Lawyer
Do you have Seeking Alpha defamation issues of your own? Get in touch with Aaron Kelly, founding partner at Kelly / Warner law. He’s effectively handled many finance defamation cases (even ones that seemed like an impossibility, at first) and has considerable experience with Internet defamation law.
Aaron’s forte is getting situations cleaned up quickly and quietly. The statute of limitations isn’t long, so get in touch today to begin the conversation.
The verdict in Obsidian Financial Group LLC v. Cox is in. Advantage: boutique investment firm. A judge ordered the self-styled “investigative blogger” Crystal Cox to fork over $2.5 million in damages. Financial analysts and bankers are thrilled; First Amendment advocates aren’t impressed.
The Crystal Cox Defamation Lawsuit Background
A self-described whistle blower, Cox is a real estate agent by day and Internet vigilante by night. Among her cadre of “investigative websites” was obsidianfinancialsucks.com, an outlet Ms. Cox used to accuse Kevin Padrick “one of Obsidian’s founding financial executives” of fraud, misappropriation of funds, lie telling, and a litany of other unscrupulous actions. Cox even insinuated Padrick may have hired an assassin to silence her.
As a result of her online accusations, Mr. Padrick decided to sue for defamation. He maintained his company lost considerable business thanks to Ms. Cox’s allegedly misleading statements. Padrick explained that the Internet was awash with disparaging claims that damaged him financially.
Defamation Pro Se Trial
In court, representing herself pro se, Cox argued that her blog posts were journalistic, of pubic concern, and that the Oregon retraction laws should apply to her situation (retraction laws allow journalists to correct or retract defamatory statements in lieu of compensatory damages.).
The Definition of Journalist When It Comes To Online Defamation Lawsuits
Judge, Marco A. Hernandez, however, rejected the assertion that Cox was a journalist.
By applying Oregon law, Hernandez ruled Cox could not be treated as a journalist because:
- She did not have a formal education in journalism
- She did not hold proof of affiliation with a recognized news entity
- She arguably didn’t adhere to journalistic standards such as editing and fact checking
- She did not keep notes of conversations and interviews conducted
- She could not produce evidence that she had a mutual understanding or an agreement between the defendant and his or her sources
- She did not contact the grieved party, before publishing, to get both sides of the story
Offering SEO Services Sunk Cox
In addition to the legal Oregon defamation elements noted above, perhaps the most damning piece of evidence against Cox was an email, presented as evidence by the defense, wherein Cox offered Padrick online reputation management services for $2,500 a month.
In the eyes of the court, the email helped to disqualify Cox for journalistic immunity. After all, the offending email framed Cox as someone who was actively looked to profit off her statements, and thanks to the presence of the email, the defense could argue that Cox was essentially holding Padrick’s business reputation hostage.
The Right Defamation Decision, But At What Cost?
Based on the above defamation definition elements — and the fact that Cox couldn’t prove wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Padrick, it’s no surprise that Obsidian Financial and its executive emerged victorious.
That being said, many people are concerned about the unintended First Amendment ramifications this decision may have on Internet bloggers in the future. Many folks wonder how well bloggers, who work for online magazines or news organizations, fit into the qualifying factors listed by Hernandez. For instance, not every blogger working for a news organization has a journalism degree.
The financial defamation lawsuit of Crystal Cox is sure to play a role in future blogger defamation lawsuits; it’s established legal precedence that is certain to be tested and challenged in the coming years.