Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Spitzer 'Slated' to Defend Two Libel Suits by Ex-Marsh & McClennan Execs

Eliot Spitzer in 2004Image via Wikipedia2011 has not been the best of years for former New York Governor and CNN gabber Elliot Spitzer.

A month after CNN pulled the plug on his low-rated In the Arena (see "TUOL" post 7/6/11) talk show, the successor to the disastrous Prime Time Parker/Spitzer experiment (see "TUOL" posts 1/10/11, 9/8/10), Spitzer finds himself a defendant in  defamation suits brought by two former insurance executives of Marsh & McClennan Cos., once the nation's largest insurance broker, and a target in 2004 of an investigation by Spitzer, then the Empire State's Attorney General, based on a column he posted on the Washington Post-owned Slate.com on Aug. 22, 2010.

According to a report by Reuters news service, one-time Marsh & McClennan executive marketing director William Gilman sued Spitzer for $60 million in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Gilman v. Spitzer et al., Case No. 11-05843). Not to be outdone, Edward McNenney, ex-Marsh global placement director, headed to the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan to file a $30 million libel claim (McNenney v. Spitzer et al., Case No. 109628/2011).

Combative by nature, Spitzer couldn't resist responding to a Wall St. Journal editorial attacking him, writing a column for Slate.com entitled "They Still Don't Get It," defending his prosecutorial pursuit of Marsh & McClennan and American Insurance Group Inc. ("AIG"), and calling for a crackdown against corporate malfeasance.

In 2005, Marsh settled a civil suit with New York, agreeing to fork over $850 million, roughly eight months before eight of its executives, including Gilman and McNenney, were indicted based on Spitzer's investigation into alleged kickbacks and other purported wrongdoing by the company. Gilman and McNenney were convicted on felony antitrust claims in 2008, but their convictions were overturned on appeal in July 2010, based on new evidence, and the case against him dismissed altogether in January of this year, according to the Reuters story.

Though neither plaintiff is identified by name in Spitzer's Slate.com column, each alleges he was identifiable and defamed by Spitzer's statement that "many employees of Marsh" were "convicted and sentenced to jail terms." Additionally, Gilman claims he was defamed by Spitzer writing that "Marsh's behavior was a blatant abuse of law and market power: price-fixing, bid-rigging and kickbacks all designed to harm their customers and the Market while Marsh and its employees pocketed the increased fees and kickbacks."

In June, the plaintiffs sued their former employer, alleging Marsh & McClennan colluded with Spitzer's office to make them scapegoats, Reuters reports.

A viable defamation claim requires a false statement of fact "of or concerning the plaintiff." However, although neither plaintiff is specifically named in the allegedly defamatory column, the law recognizes the concept of group libel, if the group is small enough so that the purported libel impacts its individual members.

Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment