Eliot Spitzer Slapped With $90 Million Dollar Internet Defamation Lawsuit

Eliot Spitzer is facing more legal problems. William Gilman and Edward McNenney – two ex-insurance executives — are suing the ex-governor and Slate.com for a combined $90 million dollars. The pair claim Spitzer disparaged their reputations in an editorial he wrote that was posted on Slate. Gilman is seeking $60 million in Manhattan Federal Court, while McNenney is asking the state court for $30 million.

A Little Background About The Defamation

Eliot Spitzer
Eliot Spitzer

Before his dalliances with professional escort, Ashley Dupree, became public knowledge, Eliot Spitzer was a politician with a bright future. As New York’s Attorney General, he went after high-profile finance guys suspected of shady dealings, and as a result, his prominence grew in Democratic party circles. In fact, back in 2004, the Nation magazine praised Spitzer as “the single most effective battler against corporate abuses in either political party.”

Though Spitzer enjoyed a healthy reputation on the left, the right wasn’t as captured by the boy from the Bronx who had once helped take down the notorious Gambino crime family. There were many accusations of over-stepping when it came to his office’s aggressive litigation pursuits. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce president said that Spitzer’s tactics were “the most egregious and unacceptable form of intimidation we’ve seen in this country in modern times.”

Unmoved by his detractors, Spitzer continued to hurricane his way through Wall Street, and as a result of his seemingly pro-consumer, white-collar litigations, the Attorney general was elected Governor in 2007. The first two months of his term were great, but in the third month, news broke that he was knocking boots with a paid companion, one Ms. Ashley Dupree. Voters don’t like when elected officials engage in extramarital affairs, so Spitzer was ousted. Game, set, match .

After Spitzer’s Fall

On March 17, 2008, Eliot Spitzer resigned from Albany’s oval office. Once he was gone, many of the finance industry-related lawsuits he once pioneered were overturned. Every newspaper, website and television station published opinions, spots and articles about Spitzer’s fall from grace. As always, the field was split. Supporters raged about how prostitution-gate was merely payback for disturbing the wasps’ nest and opponents reveled about out how Eliot Spitzer was burned thanks to the over-reaching policies (wiretaps) he put in place to trap high-finance players.

In 2010, The Wall Street Journal printed and posted an editorial to which Spitzer took offense. In retaliation, the ex-governor responded with his own missive on Slate.com entitled “They Still Don’t Get It”. In his article, Spitzer mentioned Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. – the ex-employer of Gilman and McNenney that had once worked out an $850-million-dollar settlement with the AG. In his article, Spitzer doesn’t name Gilman and McNenney flat out, but he does allude to “criminal conduct” by Marsh.

Is The Claim Of Defamation Valid?

It will be interesting to watch how this Internet defamation lawsuit plays out. While it is illegal to label an acquitted individual a criminal, the accusation can be seen as opinion – and voicing one’s beliefs is protected by free speech statutes. Moreover, public figures – which arguably Gilman and McNenney are – must prove that the defamatory statements in question contributed to the plaintiff’s financial deterioration. In other words, Gillman and M will have to prove that they suffered direct pecuniary loss as a result of Spitzer’s editorial. My guess is that considering the current economic climate, it’s going to take a miracle to convince a jury to award millions of dollars to an already wealthy Wall Street executive.

Spitzer doesn’t seem to be shaken by the looming defamation litigation, calling the lawsuit “entirely frivolous.” Slate’s attorney, David Plotz, has also gone on record as saying that he “looks forward to defending [Slate].”

Online defamation doesn’t care if you’re a public figure or a recluse. Reports show that Internet libel has increased across the board exponentially over the past half decade. If you’re currently dealing with a cyber libel situation, the Kelly Law Firm are the people to turn to. Contact us about your online defamation lawsuit today.