All too often, corporations, concerned about the potential damage to their bottom lines from any “controversy,” kowtow to media-savvy radical environmentalists. Thus the lawsuit brought three years ago by Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products against Greenpeace for “defamation, malicious falsehood and intentional interference with economic relations” represented a rare display of business backbone.
Greenpeace is still trying desperately to avoid its day in Canadian court, but now Resolute, under its arrow-straight CEO Richard Garneau, has upped the ante. On Tuesday, the company launched another suit — against Greenpeace and STAND (the environmental NGO formerly known as ForestEthics) — under U.S. anti-racketeering laws.
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) was introduced early last century, with both criminal and civil provisions, to deal with the mob; that is, a loose organization, or “enterprise,” with a pattern of activity and common nefarious purposes, such as extortion. That is exactly what Resolute is alleging of Greenpeace.
Greenpeace meanwhile is hardly in a position to complain about any misuse of RICO since it recently recommended that oil giant ExxonMobil be charged with racketeering for “sowing doubt” about climate change.
Resolute employs some 8,000 people worldwide, and is the largest newsprint producer in the world. Its suit outlines in often devastating detail the alleged campaign by the “Greenpeace Enterprise” to destroy Resolute’s business — and raise funds — by spreading misinformation and harassing and threatening Resolute’s customers.
To say that the suit is hard-hitting is putting it mildly. It accuses Greenpeace of being a “global fraud” that has “duped” donors with “materially false and misleading claims.” It alleges, moreover, that “virtually all of Greenpeace’s fraudulently induced donations are used to perpetuate the corrupted entity itself and the salaries of its leaders and employees.”
It cites alleged admissions by Greenpeace’s own leadership that it “emotionalizes” issues to manipulate audiences. The suit also makes liberal use of a monstrously revealing PR screw up, when Greenpeace accidentally issued an unfinished draft press release featuring the immortal bracketed words “FILL IN ALARMIST AND ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOID HERE.”
Greenpeace’s assault on Resolute was rooted in the 2010 Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, CBFA, under which Canadian forestry companies were forced by a series of do-not-buy campaigns to engage with radical activists (ENGOs had made an offer the forestry couldn’t refuse, so a racketeering charge may prove fitting).
Late in 2012, Greenpeace broke away from the CBFA, claiming that Resolute was flouting the agreement. When its claims were established to be without substance, indeed in some cases falsified, it apologized, but then redoubled its attack, dubbing Resolute a boreal forest “destroyer.”
As the suit notes, the idea that Resolute, or indeed the entire Canadian forestry industry, might “destroy” the vast boreal forest, which covers a third of the country, is patently ludicrous. The Canadian boreal is one of the best-managed forests in the world, and Resolute has received numerous awards for its corporate stewardship.
The suit also explains how Greenpeace’s claims that the company is endangering woodland caribou, or is playing a significant part in exacerbating climate change, or is comprehensively disregarding the welfare of aboriginal peoples, have no basis in fact.
It notes Greenpeace’s extraordinary success in destroying Resolute’s customer relationships under the threat of “reputational damage.” Those customers include corporate giants such as Proctor & Gamble, 3M, and Best Buy. The Best Buy campaign included a massive program of harassment, accompanied by cyber attacks (although those have not been directly linked to Greenpeace), and interference with the retailers’ online product reviews. The campaign worked. “(O)n December 8, 2014,” according to the suit, “Best Buy announced it would be shifting its sourcing away from Resolute and towards suppliers who acquiesced to Greenpeace’s threatening dictates.”
So much for corporate power.
The suit alleges that Greenpeace pressured the Forest Stewardship Council, FSC, to apply discriminatory pressure on Resolute by suspending certification in some areas. It is also going after Greenpeace’s charitable tax status, a status that was withdrawn in Canada some years ago.
One of the most intriguing parts of this potentially landmark case relates to the “John and Jane Does” cited in the suit; that is, parties to the “Greenpeace Enterprise” not yet identified. The Doe family could include the major U.S.-based foundations that have funded the activities of Greenpeace and its cohorts in Canada. All that could come out in discoveries ahead of the jury trial the suit demands.
Resolute is being represented by Michael Bowe of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP. Bowe acted for Resolute’s largest shareholder, Toronto-based Fairfax Financial Holdings, in Fairfax’s case against giant U.S. hedge fund SAC. SAC was eventually indicted and numerous employees arrested.
According to Bowe, “Greenpeace’s accusations… are absurd and indefensible. Resolute had planted over a billion trees in the boreal — that’s a billion more than Greenpeace — and caused virtually zero permanent deforestation… These false claims malign a good company, run by good people who care about the boreal, and unnecessarily hurt all those who benefit from Resolute’s responsible use of this renewable resource. “
The validity of Resolute’s allegations have, of course, to be tested in court. One suspects, however, that not just Greenpeace and STAND but many others promoting the radical green agenda will be “lawyering up” right now for what promises to be an epic legal battle.
Greenpeace itself has calculated that its campaigns have cost Resolute at least $100 million. That figure could come back to haunt the accused if someday (treble) damages are awarded.
Peter Foster is currently working on a book about environmentalism and the “Resource Wars.”