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Resolute Forest Products Lawsuits (re alleged racketeering and defamation by environmental organisations, 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 United States 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.

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.

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 on May 16, 2017.

On October 16, 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 November 8, 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.

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. As part of this campaign, Greenpeace has received support from over 100 authors in several countries. One of the largest publishers in the world, Hachette Livre, has criticized Resolute Forest's litigation tactics against advocates as "excessive."

 

News Sources

- "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

- “6 Ways Corporate Lawsuits Kill Free Speech (and How to Fight Back!)”, Molly Dorozenski, 8 May 2017, Greenpeace
- “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 June 2017

Court Documents

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

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All components of this story

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...

Read the full post here

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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Article
16 October 2017

Campaign : Big Timber Lawsuit

Author: Stand.earth

Our staff and allies are being personally sued by Resolute. They need our support. 

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Article
16 October 2017

Greenpeace Fells Logger’s Suit Over ‘Forest Destroyer’ Tag

Author: Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg

Greenpeace International won the first round against a Canadian logging company that blamed name-calling by the environmental group for driving away its customers. Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products Inc.'s U.S. lawsuit was dismissed Monday by a San Francisco federal judge, who said the company can revise and refile its claims...

The company claimed it has lost $100 million in revenue because of Greenpeace’s threats of boycotts against its corporate customers if they don’t cut ties against Resolute Forest. Damages can be tripled under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act...The judge concluded the those claims also lacked precision...

“We are pleased the court unequivocally threw out this attempt to abuse our legal system and silence legitimate criticism on matters of public concern,” Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said Monday in an emailed statement. “Resolute’s claim that organizations and activists committed to the conservation of the forests were part of a criminal enterprise is absurd and a sad symptom of a wider assault on constitutional rights and democracy.”

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Item
16 October 2017

Legal Documents : Logging Company Resolute’s Lawsuits to Silence Greenpeace

Author: Greenpeace Canada

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Article
16 October 2017

The Resolute vs. Greenpeace Lawsuits

Author: Greenpeace USA

Greenpeace has worked for years with logging and consumer companies to develop policies that support a healthy boreal forest...Resolute Forest Products has been criticized by a variety of environmental groups...for unsustainable logging practices that are harming this forest...

Following the exposure of its irresponsible practices, Resolute launched a multimillion legal and public relations attack against its critics. In 2013, Resolute filed a defamation and economic interference case for CAD$7 million against Greenpeace Canada and two of its staff members In May 2016, Resolute filed a CAD$300 million lawsuit for racketeering and other claims in the United States against several Greenpeace entities and Stand.earth including five individual activists...

These lawsuits, designed to silence criticism, are textbook examples of SLAPPs: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.

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