The pressure on businesses to fold in the face of environmental scare campaigns can be enormous. But in federal court in Georgia, Canada’s Resolute Forest Products is suing Greenpeace for defamation, racketeering, conspiracy and other alleged offenses.
In March we told you about a separate defamation lawsuit filed by Resolute that is currently winding its way through Canadian courts. The company has since filed in the U.S. because that’s where many of the alleged offenses occurred and it’s home to many of Resolute’s customers and (thanks to Greenpeace) former customers. The Journal’s owner News Corp. is a Resolute customer.
Resolute’s complaint is a civil case under the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) law, meaning if successful it could result in treble damages. This law can be abused, as when politicians like Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse urge its application to squelch dissent on climate change. As journalists we’re also leery of companies suing their critics.
But before passing judgment on Resolute’s lawsuit, readers may want to consider the company’s claims. In its filing Resolute says Greenpeace “has published staged photos and video falsely purporting to show Resolute logging in prohibited areas and others purporting to show forest areas impacted by Resolute harvesting when the areas depicted were actually impacted by fire or other natural causes.” The First Amendment was not created to protect the fabrication of evidence.
The Resolute complaint also says that “Greenpeace and others working with it have aggressively targeted Resolute’s customers with extortive threats and other illegal conduct. To identify those customers, Greenpeace employees and agents have impersonated Resolute employees, its customers, and others to illegally misappropriate proprietary customer and supply chain information.”
The racketeering and conspiracy claims are related to Resolute’s argument that Greenpeace is “a global fraud” on its donors. The company argues that Greenpeace has “pawned off common trees felled by natural causes as several hundred year old ancient trees illegally forested” and “staged phony photo-ops of seal and other animal slaughters.”
We asked Greenpeace if its employees or agents had defrauded, extorted or impersonated anyone. The environmental outfit provided us with a statement from Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard. Ms. Leonard says that Resolute is “wasting resources on a case with no merit. As it has done before, the company has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to silence critics with legitimate concerns about its environmental practices. Grotesquely misstating our mission and attacking our credibility with a frivolous lawsuit and a malicious public relations campaign will get Resolute nowhere.”
That’s not a denial of the suit’s details, so it will be fascinating to track the witnesses in discovery and under oath if this case goes to trial. After Greenpeace’s long history of distortions on environmental issues, we may find out if it has any credibility left to attack.