Allstate, the insurance firm, lost a multi-million-dollar employee defamation claim. Yes, an appeal is in the works; this case is far from over. However, let’s review the suit to see what lessons it reveals, thus far.
An SEC-Related Employee Defamation Lawsuit: A Play In Seven Bullet Points
- Plaintiffs: A group of employees fired from Allstate’s pension plan equity division.
- Defendants: Allstate Corporation
- Background Information: Apparently, Allstate accused four employees of manipulating stock trades and amassing bonuses that ultimately shorted the company over $200 million. The workers, however, insisted they executed their trades well within bounds, merely sticking to the age-old trading adage — “buy low, sell high.” Ultimately, Allstate fired the four employees and filed and SEC complaint.
- Legal Claim: The employees felt the SEC complaint was erroneous and played a big part in “ruining their careers.” In turn, they filed an employee defamation lawsuit.
- Defense: In its defense, Allstate said the SEC complaint was accurate and didn’t harm the plaintiffs.
- Court Ruling: In the end, the jury sided with the employees, ordering Allstate to pay about $27 million.
- Main Takeaway: Be careful with post-termination paperwork and reporting. If you plan to file an SEC complaint or U-5 [LINK], make sure you have substantial supporting evidence. Play it safe and run them by an employment defamation lawyer before submitting.
5 Things To Know Before Pursuing An Employee Defamation Lawsuit
It’s true: winning a libel or slander case, in a U.S. court, isn’t easy. Plaintiffs must have rock solid arguments to walk away the winner. So, what constitutes a “rock solid” defamation case in the United States?
- Truth. United States defamation laws are defendant-friendly (as opposed, to, say, Canada, which has plaintiff-friendly standards [LINK]). So, to win a slander or libel claim, proof is essential! Have enough to convince a judge or jury that the defendant is lying.
- Prove It’s You. Believe it or not, many people lose defamation claims because they can’t prove they’re the person being referenced. This is especially prevalent in literary defamation lawsuits involving fiction works based on real life events.
- Harm. Harm is a primary pillar of U.S. defamation law. (The exception? Defamation per se cases, which you can read about here.) Plaintiffs must prove material harm to win a slander or libel claims. Legally speaking, “harm” isn’t just hurt feelings or a bruised reputation. Typically, defamation plaintiffs must provide evidence that their business or bank account took a hit because of the contested statements.
- Negligence. And lastly, to win a U.S. slander or libel lawsuit, plaintiffs must demonstrate that the defendants acted either negligently or with actual malice [LINK].
Consult With An Employee Defamation Attorney
Are you dealing with a work-related slander or libel issue? To do more research, on your own, check out additional resources here, here and here. If you’re ready to consult with a lawyer about an employee defamation issue, please get in touch.
Good luck, and may the legal force be with you.
The finance industry is cut-throat. No, it’s worse. It’s a blood sport. And part of the game is the “Uniform Termination Notice for Securities Industry Registration” – a.k.a., the U5 form. Often the bane of traders, analysts and advisors everywhere, the U5 form is a document that explains why a “registered representative” leaves or is fired from a finance firm. It’s mandatory and must be filed within 30 days of departure.
U5 forms are regularly at the center of industry-related defamation claims. Typically, finance firms emerge victorious in U5 libel claims.
But not always.
Financial Advisor Wins U5 Defamation Claim
In fact, recently, a FINRA arbitration panel sided with a lone advisor against mega-firm JPMorgan in a U5 defamation case. What happened? Here’s the scoop (in bullet points, for brevity’s sake).
- Two JPMorgan employees regularly set out on the road together for prospective client presentations; one would talk about investment opportunities, the other banking products.
- Even though the pair talked to the same groups on the same days, one wasn’t always in the room when the other person pitched.
- JPMorgan investigated and eventually sacked the advisor who talked on investments for allegedly misrepresenting investor risks during client presentations.
- JPMorgan also fired the second advisor who focused on bank products. She got canned for allegedly failing to report the supposed misstatements of her colleague. (Regulations dictate that certain financial advisors are required to, “say something if they hear something.”)
- According to one of the dismissed employees, JPMorgan allegedly changed her U5 form to indicate illicit activity by way of not reporting her colleague.
- The advisor with the inaccurate U5 form filed a U5 defamation FINRA arbitration complaint.
- After considering both sides, the FINRA panel sided with the ousted advisor over JPMorgan and awarded her about $350,000.
Beating a big firm is not impossible; being a behemoth doesn’t automatically translate into legal superiority.
Speak With A Defamation Lawyer About Your U5 Dilemma
If you’re competing against an inaccurate U5 or termination document, speak with a business defamation attorney. Several lawyers at Kelly / Warner are well versed in finance-related slander and libel.
A boutique law firm, we work closely with our clients to ensure the best possible outcome – and we don’t always take the most traveled path. Devising unorthodox solutions is one our strong-points – and it often lands our clients in the winner’s circle.
It’s time to find a solution that benefits you. Let’s talk about your U5 defamation issue.
Doctoring is intensely stressful. When medical professionals flub, people lose limbs, contract diseases or die. In the life- and-death heat of an emergency room operation, doctors have been known to fling invectives like monkeys fling food at safari vehicles. Sometimes apologies are exchanged, and all is forgotten. Other times, the arguments result in defamation lawsuits.
Recently, one such doctor defamation claim made its way through the Virginia courts.
Emergency Room Surgery Leads To Doctor Defamation Lawsuit
Several years ago, two doctors lost a patient after a failed emergency operation. In the wake of the unsuccessful lifesaving attempt, one doctor criticized the other. Support staff heard the fight, which included carps like:
- He could have made it with better resuscitation;
- This was a very poor effort;
- You didn’t really try;
- You gave up on him;
- You just euthanized my patient.
- You determined from the beginning that he wasn’t going to make it and purposefully didn’t resuscitate him.
Ultimately, the chastised doctor filed a $2 million doctor v. doctor defamation lawsuit.
Courts Disagree On What Is and Is Not Potentially Defamatory
A trial judge initially dismissed the case due to qualified privilege. The qualified privilege defense applies to “communications between persons on a subject in which the persons have an interest or duty.” An opinion espoused by a medical professional about a given case can sometimes be considered qualified privilege.
The Supreme Court of Virginia, however, partially reversed the trial court. First, it determined that two of the statements – “he could have made it with better resuscitation” and “you determined from the beginning that he wasn’t going to make it and purposefully didn’t resuscitate him” – weren’t opinions, and, as such, could be considered in a defamation trial.
Ultimately, the State’s Supreme Court remanded the doctor defamation case back to a trial court.
As to the privilege defense, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that good faith intentions don’t always factor into qualified immunity cases; malice, however, usually does.
Shortly after the court issued its ruling, the two doctors issued a joint statement.
It read (in part):
“The parties have settled the case amicably and confidentially. All parties agree that no one did anything medically wrong or improper during or in connection with the medical procedure or treatment in question. The parties also agree that the events since that medical procedure should have been handled differently.”
This Doctor Defamation Ruling Is Significant
Why is this ruling significant in terms of “qualified privilege” as it relates to doctor defamation cases? It proves that not everything said about a medical situation is protected speech. Physicians, nurses and medical assistants do need to be careful.
Chat With A Doctor Defamation Lawyer About Your Situation
Attorneys at Kelly / Warner have worked with both patients and doctors on slander and libel lawsuits. Our lawyers have a clear understanding between acceptable, protected speech and defamation. We can probably tell you, after hearing all the facts of your situation, whether or not you have a viable claim.
Ignoring a bad situation doesn’t make it go away. Speak with an experienced doctor defamation lawyer; tell them your situation.
Let’s chat. It may ease your mind – and you may just discover that the solution is easier than you imagined.
In the not too distant past, a woman named Hanna Bouveng and her then-boss Benjamin Wey crossed a professional line. Gifts were given; apartments were allegedly financed; then things changed, and corporeal advances were supposedly spurned. In the end, Wey fired Bouveng.
Soon, disparaging statements about Bouveng started showing up on Wey’s blog. In retaliation, Bouveng filed a lawsuit – claiming various defamation and harassment violations. In the end, a jury awarded Bouveng $18 million.
Bouveng v. Wey Defamation Case Basics
Plaintiff: Hanna Bouveng, who describes herself on LinkedIn as being in “Corporate Communications, Marketing, PR”
Defendant: Benjamin Wey, CEO New York Global Group
Venue: Manhattan Federal Court
Why did Bouveng sue Wey: Essentially, Bouveng believed her firing was a product of sexual harassment and retaliation. She also argued that Wey’s blog posts – which allegedly referred to her as a “street walker” and a “loose woman” who engaged in “mafia style shakedowns” – were defamatory. Her side also argued that Wey used his position of power to coerce Bouveng into a prurient relationship.
Wey’s Defense: In response to Bouveng’s charges, Wey claimed that Bouveng’s lawsuit was an extortion attempt and insisted she was fired for substandard work. During the trial, Wey’s lawyer admonished that “both sides behaved badly.” Team Wey also acquiesced that the finance boss had “diarrhea of the keyboard” and acted inappropriately, but maintained that his actions did not amount to the charges.
Jury Decision: Though Bouveng had originally asked for over $500 million, the jurors awarded her $18 million, as they only granted the defamation and retaliation claims.
Interesting Post Script: Wey is currently being sued for defamation by another party in an unrelated lawsuit. Georgetown University law professor Christopher Brummer says, “Wey waged an online smear campaign against him in retaliation for an adverse ruling from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.” ( Bouveng v. NYG Capital LLC et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 14-cv-5474.)
Update: After losing the defamation case against Bouveng, Wey once again took to his online outlet to share views on the decision. In his rant, Wey allegedly called Bouveng’s attorneys “crooks” and deemed one of them a “midget.” So, now the two lawyers are suing Wey. You can read more about it here.
Consult With A Professional Defamation Lawsuit
Kelly Warner maintains an active professional defamation legal practice and routinely handles cases involving former employees and partnership disputes. To learn more about our firm, please visit our primary website, here. If you’re ready to speak with an attorney, contact us.
Badia, E., & Slattery, D. (2015, June 26). Wall Street CEO behaved badly but isn’t stalker, lawyer says. Retrieved July 27, 2015, from http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/wall-street-ceo-behaved-badly-isn-stalker-lawyer-article-1.2273087
Khan, M. (2015, June 30). US: Wall Street investment banker wins £11m in sexual harassment case. Retrieved July 27, 2015, from http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/us-wall-street-investment-banker-wins-11m-sexual-harassment-case-1508706
Ax, J. (2015, June 29). UPDATE 2-N.Y. financier ordered to pay ex-employee $18 mln in harassment case. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
A court ordered a brokerage house to pay a trader $2.7 million in defamation damages, proving that when the circumstances are just right, defamation lawsuit plaintiffs can sometimes prevail — big time.
How This Finance Trader Defamation Lawsuit Got Started
Few details are available for public consumption regarding this business defamation lawsuit. It seems, however, that the origin of this finance-related defamation lawsuit is a phone call.
The Phone Call That Led To A Trader Defamation Lawsuit
One evening, allegedly, a trader named Sean Horrigan accidentally picked up the wrong phone at the trader’s desk. On the other end, another trader was supposedly talking disparagingly about Horrigan’s wife, a fellow Stifel Nicolaus employee.
Apparently, the overheard conversation allegedly caused Sean Horrigan to react — largely after hours and at his trading desk.
The Phone Call, Led To An Outburst, Which Led To Trader’s Ouster — Sans Bonus
The exact nature of his outburst is unknown, but it must have been noticeable, because he was fired tout suite. Superiors cited his outburst as the main factor behind the ouster, claiming he “engaged in unprofessional conduct that was detrimental to management and co-workers.” The finance firm also averred that Horrigan “was not in parity with management’s new strategy.”
Adding insult to injury, Stifel Nicolaus also withheld Sean Horrigan 2011 bonus.
No Bonus? Thems Fighting Actions. Cue The Finance Defamation Lawsuit
Following protocol, upon his departure, Stifel Nicolaus HR department submitted the details of Harrington’s parting to FINRA, but the ex- Stifel Nicolaus trader felt his former employer stretched the truth in their accounting — so he sued for defamation.
In the end, a jury felt the firm stretched the truth a bit too far with FINRA, sided with Harrington, and awarded him over $2 million.
Quickly, Remind Me What You Need To Prove To Win A Defamation Lawsuit
People are always threatening to sue for defamation, but what a lot of folks forget is that negative opinion does not a defamation lawsuit make. In order to emerge victorious in a finance defamation lawsuit you must:
- Prove that the defendant made a false statement of fact about you or your business;
- Prove that the statement was about you or your company;
- Prove that your business or your reputation suffered a beating because of the statement;
- Prove that you suffered a material loss because of the statement.
Contact A Business Defamation Attorney Today
In search of a finance defamation lawyer to fix a problem quickly? Yes? Then contact Aaron Kelly of the Kelly / Warner law firm. How good is Mr. Kelly, you ask? Fair question. You can check out his Martindale.com peer and client review ratings here, in addition to his avvo.com one here.
We look forward to fixing your problem so you can get back to what you do best — running your business.