Resolute Forest Products lawsuits (re alleged racketeering & defamation by environmental organizations, USA)
Canadian logging company Resolute Forest Products has filed two lawsuits against various Greenpeace entities, Stand.Earth (formerly known as "ForestEthics"), and some of these organizations' staff members in the US and Canada. These lawsuits were brought in relation to the organizations' criticism of the environmental impact of Resolute Forest's logging practices in the Canadian boreal region and to their campaigns encouraging customers to hold Resolute to account for its unsustainable forestry practices. The environmental organizations being sued assert that the lawsuits are meritless and constitute "strategic lawsuits against public participation" ("SLAPP") meant to silence their criticisms.
Proceedings in Canada
In May 2013, Resolute Forest filed a defamation, malicious falsehood and intentional interference with economic relations lawsuit against Greenpeace and two of its staff members in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, seeking CAD $7 million (USD $5,515,860) in damages. The case is ongoing.
Proceedings in the US
In May 2016, Resolute Forest filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace and individual staff members at the US District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. Stand.Earth and its Executive Director, Todd Paglia, were also named as defendants. The lawsuit alleges the defendant's advocacy campaigns against Resolute amounted to extortion and fraud under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"). Specifically, Resolute alleges the defendants made false statements about its business, in order to induce fraudulent donations to their organizations. The lawsuit also claimed the NGOs' statements were defamatory and amounted to tortious interference with Resolute Forest's contractual and prospective business relations. Resolute Forest claims it suffered at least USD $100 million in harm, and it is seeking at least USD $300 million in damages under a RICO provision that allows successful plaintiffs to recover triple the amount of harm suffered. Resolute Forest also asked for attorney fees, interest and costs related to the litigation.
The defendants filed a request to transfer the case from the Southern District of Georgia to the US District Court for the Northern District of California, which was granted in May 2017.
On 16 October 2017, the court dismissed all of the claims against the defendants without prejudice. The court found that Resolute Forest's pleadings were conclusory statements that did not allege specific facts upon which relief could be granted. The court gave Resolute Forest twenty-one days to amend their complaint and refile with the court, which Resolute Forest's did on 8 November 2017. On 29 January 2018, Greenpeace filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. On 20 March 2018, a federal judge in San Francisco ordered the company to consolidate its amended complaint against Greenpeace to no more than 80 pages before the court will consider the case.
On 22 January 2019, a US District Judge dismissed the racketeering claims against the defendants. The judge dimissed all claims against Stand.earth but allowed the defamation and unfair competition claims against Greenpeace to carry on.
In April 2020, a judge ordered Resolute Forest Products to pay over $800,000 in damages to cover legal costs related to the dismissed racketeering claims.
Following the filing of Resolute's lawsuits, Greenpeace launched a campaign aiming to stop the use of SLAPPs to silence free speech, asserting that lawsuits such as Resolute's could discourage other advocates from criticizing powerful organizations out of fear of being sued.
On 21 April 2023, a federal judge in California dismissed the CA $100 million lawsuit against Greenpeace. The judge previously found that 296 out of the 298 defamation claims made against Greenpeace were without merit. In the April 2023 ruling, he found that Resolute failed to establish the requisite "actual malice" in order to prevail on the two remaining claims.
- “Judge Dismisses Company’s Racketeering Claims Against Greenpeace”, Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News, 24 Jan 2019
- “Resolute Forest Products loses most of lawsuit against enviro groups in U.S.”, The Canadian Press, 22 Jan 2019
- "Federal judge: 190-page complaint against Greenpeace is too long", Angela Underwood, Northern California Record, 30 Mar 2018
- “Greenpeace Beats Back a SLAPP Lawsuit – For Now”, Mark Hertsgaard, The Nation, 25 Oct 2017
- "Corporate Bullies' Are Using RICO Laws to Go After Greenpeace", Rebecca Leber, Mother Jones, 18 Oct 2017
- “Resolute Forest Products Lawsuit Against Greenpeace Dismissed in Court”, The Canadian Press, 17 Oct 2017
- “Greenpeace Fells Logger’s Suit Over ‘Forest Destroyer’ Tag”, Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg, 16 Oct 2017
- “The New Corporate Playbook, or What to do When Environmentalists Stand in Your Way”, Katie Redford, Huffington Post, 30 June 2017
- “Major Publishers Move to Defend Greenpeace in Dispute with Logging Firm”, Danuta Kean, The Guardian, 21 June 2017
- “Greenpeace’s Battle Royal Over the Boreal”, Adria Vasil, Now, 31 May 2017
- “Public Interest Groups Condemn Resolute Suit in NYT Ad’, Anthony Swift, Natural Resources Defense Council, 17 Nov 2016
- “No Peace for Greenpeace”, Jonathan H. Adler, The Washington Post, 31 May 2016
- “Resolute Will Pursue Its Lawsuit Against Greenpeace”, Tamar Atik, Wood Business, 17 Oct 2017
- “Resolute v Greenpeace”, Resolute Forest
- "Judge Orders Resolute Forest Products to Pay Almost 1 Million Dollars to Greenpeace", 23 Apr 2020
- “Federal Court Dismisses Racketeering Counts Against Greenpeace”, 22 Jan 2019
- “6 Ways Corporate Lawsuits Kill Free Speech (and How to Fight Back!)”, Molly Dorozenski, 8 May 2017
- “The Resolute vs. Greenpeace Lawsuits”, Greenpeace USA
- “Logging Company Resolute’s Lawsuits to Silence Greenpeace”, Greenpeace Canada
- “Big Timber Lawsuit”, Stand.Earth
- [FR] “Lettre d’Hachette livre à Richard Garneau, PDG de Produits forestiers Résolus” (“Letter from Hachette Livre to Richard Garneau, CEO of Resolute Forest”), Arnaud Nourry, CEO of Hachette Livre, 8 Jun 2017
All legal documents pertaining to the case can be found on Greenpeace Canada’s webpage