Photographer: David Ryder/Bloomberg

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

Updated on
  • San Francisco judge accepts Greenpeace’s free-speech defense
  • Eco-group ducks Canadian company’s defamation claim for now

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.

Resolute Forest, which branded the advocacy group a “global fraud” in its complaint, said tissue manufacturer Procter & Gamble Co. was among the companies scared off when Greenpeace spread false information accusing the logger of environmentally unsound forestry practices in Canada’s evergreen Boreal Forest. Resolute Forest accused Greenpeace of defamation and racketeering.

The timber company is represented by Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, a New York-based law firm whose managing partner, Marc Kasowitz, is President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney. The same firm sued Greenpeace in August on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners LP, alleging it incited terrorist acts and vandalism and hampered the Dakota Access pipeline operator’s ability to raise money for projects.

Michael Bowe, a partner with Kasowitz Benson, said in an email that the firm will amend the complaint to address the deficiencies identified in Monday’s ruling and proceed with the case.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar said in his ruling that “the word ‘destroy’ is a perennial instrument of hyperbole.” He said Resolute Forest wasn’t specific enough in alleging that Greenpeace acted with a “malicious mindset.”

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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.

“Even if Greenpeace sought to harm Resolute through Resolute’s customers, it did not seek to obtain the business assets it sought to deprive Resolute of,” Tigar wrote.

Resolute Forest previously sued Greenpeace for defamation in Ontario over statements the environmental group made in 2012. That case is still pending.

“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.”

The case is Resolute Forest Products Inc. v. Greenpeace International, 17-cv-02824, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

— With assistance by Robert Burnson, and Jen Skerritt

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