Resolute Forest Products lawsuits (re alleged racketeering & defamation by environmental organizations, USA)

logging-credits-alan-hood

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.

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. 

 

News Sources

- “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

Industry Association

- “Resolute Will Pursue Its Lawsuit Against Greenpeace”, Tamar Atik, Wood Business, 17 Oct 2017

Resolute Forest

- “Resolute v Greenpeace”, Resolute Forest

Greenpeace

- “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

Stand.Earth

- “Big Timber Lawsuit”, Stand.Earth

Hachette Livre

- [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

Court Documents

All legal documents pertaining to the case can be found on Greenpeace Canada’s webpage

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Article
24 January 2019

Commentary: Court dismisses SLAPP suit against environmental activists intended to silence their advocacy

Author: Sarah Aron, Center for International Environmental Law

"A win for advocacy: Court dismisses SLAPP suit against environmental activists," 

Around the world, threats against those who speak out to defend their environment and human rights are growing... But this week, the court sided with activists and not the corporation trying to bully them. Once again, the district court in California dropped most of the charges in Resolute Forest Products’s case against GreenpeaceStand.earth, and five individuals. In May 2016, Resolute filed a CAD$300-million lawsuit against Greenpeace and associates under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, claiming that the groups’ advocacy against unsustainable logging practices in the Canadian Boreal Forest amounted to racketeering... This bogus lawsuit is representative of a growing trend of large corporations trying to suppress civil society through... SLAPPs... SLAPPs disguise themselves as legitimate lawsuits, but in reality, they’re an abuse of the justice system, designed to silence criticism and to harass, intimidate, and wear down activists whose only “crime” is shining a light on environmental harms, human rights abuses, and bad corporate practices... A growing awareness of SLAPP suits has spurred over half of US states to adopt anti-SLAPP statutes, and a growing pile of dismissals reinforces the idea that corporations shouldn’t be able to use the judicial system to undermine people’s speech. [refers to ExxonMobil]

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Article
24 January 2019

Judge Dismisses Company’s Racketeering Claims Against Greenpeace

Author: Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News

A U.S. judge on [22 January 2019] dismissed the most serious claims in a lawsuit brought by a Canadian logging company that accused Greenpeace and another advocacy group of running a criminal enterprise to damage the company…

These groups argued that the lawsuit, filed by Resolute Forest Products, aimed to silence legitimate advocacy by characterizing the basic elements of activists' campaign work as a criminal conspiracy.

By invoking the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, a federal conspiracy law that was devised to ensnare mobsters, the lawsuit threatened the defendants with a lengthy and complex legal battle and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

While U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar dismissed the racketeering claims, he also ruled that defamation and unfair competition claims against Greenpeace could continue. All of the claims again the other organization, Stand.earth, were dropped…

Michael Bowe, a lawyer representing Resolute, welcomed that development.

"We are pleased that the Court has correctly held that Resolute has properly alleged defamation and unfair competition claims and we will be proceeding aggressively through discovery to trial," Bowe said. 

In the Dakota Access case, a federal judge in North Dakota dismissed the racketeering case against some defendants, but the charges against Greenpeace are still pending…

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Article
22 January 2019

Federal Court Dismisses Racketeering Counts Against Greenpeace

Author: Greenpeace

Today, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued a landmark decision dismissing all claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in the case brought by Resolute Forest Products against Greenpeace Inc., Greenpeace Fund, Greenpeace International, Stand.earth, and five individual defendants.

The same court had previously dismissed the entire case and ordered the logging company to pay defendants’ legal fees in October 2017. However, Resolute Forest Products decided to file a repackaged version of the same baseless claims three weeks later. According to today’s order, the case will continue without the highly contentious racketeering charges and the vast majority of defamation claims.

Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said in response to the decision: 

“…Today’s landmark decision should be a lesson for other corporate bullies attempting the same underhanded legal tactics, like Energy Transfer, that they will not succeed in attempts to criminalize free speech. We will continue to speak truth to power.”

The charges dismissed today were included in Resolute Forest Products’ second strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) aiming to silence Greenpeace entities. In 2013, the logging company filed a separate defamation case against Greenpeace Canada and two staff members in Ontario. This case is still pending and Greenpeace Canada continues to vigorously fight the remaining claims...

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Article
22 January 2019

Resolute Forest Products loses most of lawsuit against enviro groups in U.S.

Author: The Canadian Press

A Montreal-based forestry company has had most of its lawsuit against a group of environmental organizations dismissed by a California judge.

The suit was brought by Resolute Forest Products against Greenpeace, Stand.Earth and several individuals.

The company says the environmentalists defamed it by saying, among other things, that it was harvesting in an area of Quebec it wasn’t.

Resolute also brought racketeering charges against the groups.

But the judge dismissed most of those claims, including the racketeering charges.

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Article
5 November 2018

Commentary: Companies' attempts to silence human rights advocates & attack free speech - Energy Transfer Partners' lawsuit against Greenpeace

Author: Molly Dorozenski, Greenpeace

"7 Things You Need to Know About ETP’s Lawsuit Against Greenpeace", 7 Dec 2017

Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) – the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline – has filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace and others, in its...attempt to silence advocacy work and attack the fundamental right to free speech...Here’s what you need to know about the suit.

1. What is a ‘SLAPP’ suit?

SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.”...The purpose of a SLAPP is to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with legal claims...
 
2. Why is ETP using a SLAPP?

...ETP is suing Greenpeace for at least USD $900million.  The corporation’s hope is that the prospect of having to pay this...will intimidate Greenpeace and others into silence...

3. This is a worrying trend

...[T]he use of this...tactic by corporations is on the rise...The SLAPP suit is designed to send a loud message so that any activist...that takes on giant corporations will have to think twice before standing up for what they believe in...

...

6. They’re clutching at straws…

...ETP is using the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)...ETP claims that Greenpeace led a corrupt environmentalist enterprise that “cynically planted radical, violent eco-terrorists on the ground amongst the protesters, and directly funded their operations” – a baseless attempt to mislabel legal advocacy as criminal conduct...

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Article
30 March 2018

Federal judge: 190-page complaint against Greenpeace is too long

Author: Angela Underwood, Northern California Record (USA)

A federal judge in San Francisco has ordered an almost 200-page complaint to be condensed before he will consider the cause.  In a March 20 order, Judge Jon Tigar directed plaintiff Resolute Forest Products Inc. to consolidate its 190-page first amended complaint against Greenpeace International, which filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, to no more than 80 pages.  The lengthy complaint based on defamation...calls Greenpeace a “global fraud" that has deceived the American public to contribute to the environmental mission...Fighting back in a 51-page motion to dismiss authored by Greenpeace attorney Lance Koonce...states that...Resolute’s first amended fails to beseech any conceivable claim of defamation, specifically arguing anti-SLAPP...Tigar uses his one-page order to set an example for both parties.  “Plaintiffs may file a consolidated opposition to Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss and Strike Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint that exceeds 25 pages but which shall not exceed 80 pages,” Tigar ordered.

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Article
25 October 2017

Greenpeace Beats Back a SLAPP Lawsuit—for Now

Author: Mark Hertsgaard, The Nation

“Game, set (match not yet)” to Greenpeace. So said Jim Wheaton, analyzing the judge’s ruling in a landmark lawsuit brought against Greenpeace by a $3.5 billion logging company represented by Donald Trump’s personal attorneys. On behalf of Resolute Forest Products, lawyers...accused the activist group of racketeering, arguing that Greenpeace’s campaigns against Resolute’s logging practices in Canada amounted to a criminal enterprise.

In his October 16 ruling, Tigar referenced California's SLAPP law, which requires a plaintiff "to prove actual malice by the defendant," said Wheaton, a founder of the First Amendment Project..."The judge said that [Resolute] didn't meet that burden."Nevertheless, the case...is not over....Judge Tigar's ruling did dismiss Resolute's lawsuit, but it did so with "leave to amend." Thus the logging company can file an amended complaint by November 6. Greenpeace et al. will then respond, and Tigar will issue a decision.

Twelve days before those oral arguments, Science published one of the most alarming studies of global environmental trends to appear in decades...The world’s tropical forests have been so degraded that they are no longer carbon sinks but rather carbon sources, reported scientists...The Greenpeace case matters here, because keeping forests intact requires containing the tendency of companies and governments to outpace ecological limits.

“We see this lawsuit as an attempt to silence, vilify, and criminalize activism,” Annie Leonard, the executive director of Greenpeace USA, said..."every minute we’re in a courtroom is a minute we’re not protecting the forest.”

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Article
18 October 2017

“Corporate Bullies” Are Using RICO Laws to Go After Greenpeace

Author: Rebecca Leber, Mother Jones

On Monday, a federal judge in California dismissed a case from Resolute...against Greenpeace and other environmental activists...[The] nature of the case worries First Amendment advocates.

Increasingly, Greenpeace has become the target of major corporations that have argued its aggressive campaigning...constitutes “illegal enterprises”...Resolute Forest Products used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) to accuse Greenpeace of "fraudulently" inducing people all over the world "to donate millions of dollars based on materially false and misleading claims about its purported environmental purpose and its 'campaigns' against targeted companies."

Greenpeace argued in a motion to dismiss that the case was "an effort to muzzle protected speech," and fell under California's definition of a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or SLAPP...Judge Jon S. Tigar agreed, and on Monday granted Greenpeace’s motion to dismiss the case...Using RICO against Greenpeace “is a novel theory and it poses a real threat to organizations and individuals who engage in advocacy and speech,” says David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition...

Resolute is not alone...“It’s now apparent that there are large companies that are willing to engage in this kind of gamesmanship with the RICO law to get it to apply in an area where I firmly believe it shouldn’t apply,”...Snyder says...Even if these cases are ultimately all dismissed, they still impose a significant opportunity cost for Greenpeace. 

Article
17 October 2017

Resolute Forest Products lawsuit against Greenpeace dismissed in court

Author: The Canadian Press, CBC News

A U.S. court has dismissed a racketeering lawsuit launched by Resolute Forest Products against Greenpeace and other environmental groups...Judge Jon Tigar wrote that the defendants' speech "constituted the expression of opinion, or different viewpoints that are a vital part of our democracy."

Resolute lawyer Michael Bowe says the ruling merely requires the Montreal-based paper and forest products company to amend within 21 days its filing to provide more details to back up its claims.In an email, he described the ruling as not a significant setback.

However, Greenpeace says it is confident such an attempt will suffer the same fate as the court's dismissal. In a news release, Greenpeace says the ruling sends a message to corporations that "attacks on core democratic values like freedom of speech and legitimate advocacy on issues of public interest will not be tolerated.

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Article
17 October 2017

Resolute will pursue its lawsuit against Greenpeace

Author: Tamar Atik, Wood Business

Resolute Forest Products is not backing down in its legal battle with environmental organizations Greenpeace and Stand.earth. This, despite a decision on Monday by a San Francisco federal judge to dismiss Resolute's racketeering case against the latter two. The judge dismissed Resolute’s case because it was ruled that Resolute did not provide sufficient justification that Greenpeace acted maliciously...

The judge did, however, give Resolute the option to revise and refile its claims. Thus, Resolute stated on Tuesday that it will continue to take legal action against Greenpeace and Stand.earth, notwithstanding the court’s decision...“The court dismissed the complaint for failure to allege certain elements of our claims with sufficient detail, and it provided Resolute with leave to correct those purported deficiencies in an amendment,” Michael J. Bowe, a lawyer for Resolute, said in a statement...

The court awarded fees to Greenpeace and Stand.earth, applying California’s anti-SLAPP statute prohibiting lawsuits intended to silence critics by embroiling them in baseless cases with high legal costs..."This decision reinforces that the free speech rights of public interest advocates are protected against bad actors who would rather file frivolous lawsuits than commit to sustainable forestry,” said [Anthony Swift, director of the Canada Project for the Natural Resources Defense Council]. 

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