HireCentrix News Updates
A disgruntled former bank vice president’s Craigslist rants about his employer and its CEO are protected free speech, invalidating claims he defamed the bank, a California appeals court says. In the process, the First District Court of Appeal took down a century-old state law that made it a crime to spread nasty rumors about the financial condition of a bank.
"Readers expect to see strongly worded opinions rather than objective facts" on online message boards such as the Craigslist "Rants and Raves," the court said.
Robert Rogers, a former vice president and chief credit administrator at Oakland’s Summit Bank, posted 21 anonymous screeds about the bank over two months in 2008 in the “rants and raves” section of Craigslist.
Among his attacks, Rogers wrote, “Whats [sic] up at this problem Bank. The CEO provides a [sic] executive position to her worthless, lazy fat ass son Steve Nelson. This should not be allowed. Move your account now.”
And later, he said, “This is a piss poor Bank. I would suggest that anyone that banks at Summit Bank leave before they close.”
Summit discovered Rogers was the ranter after seeking Craigslist’s records. Rogers admitted it, but argued that there were no lies in his posts, only true facts and his personal opinions. The bank sued him for libel, saying his posts intended to tarnish the bank’s “good name and reputation.”
Rogers asked the trial judge to throw out the suit as an improper effort to silence him under California’s anti-SLAPP law, an acronym for strategic lawsuit against public participation.
The bank argued that the anti-SLAPP law did not apply. Rogers’ posted statements constituted unprotected speech because “making false claims against a bank is criminal.” It cited a 1917 law that makes it criminal to circulate statements or rumors that are untrue and may affect the solvency or financial standing of the bank.
"Rather," wrote Justice Ignazio Ruvolo, "it is precisely because of the current financial climate that we believe the public should be given broad latitude to express a wide range of viewpoints on matters relating to the operation and solvency of our financial institutions."
You can find the Case and Opinion of Summit Bank v. Rogers here.
Read Moe at http://www.trialinsider.com/?p=1716
Also see http://shawvalenza.blogspot.com/
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