Professional Defamation Case Study: Mogul v. Mogul

professional defamation case study
A judge tossed a professional defamation lawsuit between two moguls.

In This Article You’ll Find:

  • Explanation of a professional defamation lawsuit between two high-profile moguls;
  • Explanation of what one must prove to win a slander or libel lawsuit; and
  • Contact information for a defamation lawyer.

Casino mogul Steve Wynn lost round one of his professional defamation lawsuit against financier James “Jim” Chanos. Wynn has till January 15, 2015 to appeal – and according to all reports, he plans to do just that.

The Wynn v. Chanos slander lawsuit is a good one to review because it touches on the important crux of American defamation case law – the all-mighty First Amendment.

Why Did Wynn Sue Chanos For Professional Defamation?

At A Lecture: “The SEC investigated Wynn.”

A lecture circuit veteran, earlier in the year, Chanos gave a talk at the University of California at Berkley. During the event, Chanos mentioned a since abandoned federal investigation of Wynn’s operation for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Ultimately, the investigation went nowhere, as officials didn’t find “reliable evidence of FCPA violations.”

At the Berkley lecture, Chanos did note that the SEC’s investigation didn’t illuminate any evidence against Wynn Resorts Ltd and related parties.

Wynn Filed Lawsuit

Regardless, Wynn wasn’t pleased with Chanos’ lecture – and opinions therein; so, in September 2014, the casino king filed a professional defamation lawsuit against the money man.

But it doesn’t look like Wynn will win this slander case.

Judge Sides With Chanos Because Wynn Made Too Big Of A Leap

District Judge William Orrick explained his ruling in favor of Chanos thusly:

“It takes a significant inferential leap to conclude that Chanos’s general uncertainty about the questionable business methods in Macau equates to an assertion that Wynn violated the FCPA.”

Did Judge Orrick slyly and subtly insinuate: “doth protest too much, maybe, Mr. Wynn?”

No False Statement of Fact

The most important thing to remember about professional defamation law in the US: In order to win, your claim must be centered on a false statement of fact, not an opinion nor speculation. If it were against the law to speculate about businesses, politics or people, the news and entertainment industries would be forced closed by way of excessive litigation.

Defamation law in the U.S. is defendant-friendly: In 98% of cases, to win, a plaintiff must prove the defendant made an unprivileged, false statement of fact. Negative opinions or critiques do not a valid defamation case make.

What must a plaintiff prove to win a defamation of character lawsuit in the United States?

Generally speaking, in every U.S. jurisdiction, in order to win a defamation of character lawsuit – whether personal or professional – the plaintiff must prove, at the very least, that the defendant:

  • Published, broadcast or otherwise distributed the false statement of fact;
  • Was talking about the plaintiff;
  • Through the statement, caused material harm to the plaintiff;
  • Acted with reckless disregard for the truth or actual malice.

Don’t be discouraged by America’s defendant-friendly defamation laws. Every year, many businesses and professionals win slander and libel lawsuits. Yes, free speech trumps an awful lot, but it doesn’t give anybody the right to spread lies about a person, place, organization or business.

If you’re the target of a highly inflammatory review, a ruined online reputation, or if you’re simply interested in getting content removed from the Internet, get in touch with Kelly / Warner Law.

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