After a seven-year court battle, a judge finally laid down the law with two tycoons – Mr. Sukamto Sia and Mr. Low Tuck Kwong – who have been embroiled in a long-running business defamation lawsuit.
If the ruling holds, Mr. Low will be awarded about $100 million USD. The brief history of this fight is interesting and instructive about how to fight — and win — a finance defamation lawsuit.
Why The Two Mega-Moguls Started Feuding
The tumult began in 2008. Around that time, Bayan Resources – Low’s Company – was on the verge of its initial public offering. Like most entrepreneurs in the same position, he was feverishly forestalling a wealth avalanche.
But the anticipated pecuniary hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm – and Low blamed Sia.
Before the Bayan IPO, Sia and Low were friends – or, at least, business buddies, evidenced by a $3 million loan that Sia had given Low. For what is unclear.
Regardless, right before Bayan’s public debut, Sia contends that the loan still hadn’t been paid back. And according to reports, he wrote a letter detailing the allegedly unpaid debt, to a finance official in Indonesia.
Low swears that the letter ultimately decimated Bayan’s IPO. So, he filed a finance defamation lawsuit against his former associate.
Ultimately, the presiding judge sided with Low – to the tune of S$132,280,000.
How to Win A Business Defamation Lawsuit
In the United States, for a plaintiff to win a defamation lawsuit (slander if spoken; libel if written), he or she must satisfy the four pillars of U.S. defamation law. They are:
- Falsity: True statements aren’t defamatory. In order to win a slander or libel lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant made a false statement of fact.
- Harm: It isn’t enough to prove that a defendant published or broadcast a false statement of fact. Plaintiffs must also prove that said false statement of fact caused harm – either reputational or financial in nature.
- Identification: Sometimes, plaintiffs lose defamation lawsuits because they’re unable to convince a judge or jury that the defendant, in the contested statement, was referencing them (the plaintiff).
- Negligence or Actual Malice: Free speech is the backbone of the American socio-political culture. As such, if individuals engage in proper due diligence but misstate facts, there’s a good chance they will not be found liable for defamation. Essentially, in order to win a slander or libel lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted negligently or with actual malice.
Defamation Is Not the Only Option
When a business’ reputation is maligned, defamation is not the only option. Depending on the jurisdiction, plaintiffs can claim a host of other unfair competition and reputational torts, including (but not limited to) false light invasion of privacy, publication of private facts and tortious interference.
These days, bad news travels at the speed of light, so building and maintaining a solid reputation is essential. It could be the difference between winning and losing, profitability and a reversal of fortune. If you or your business becomes the target of character assassination campaign, act quickly.
Check out the infographic below, compliments of law firm Kelly/Warner.