The Battle for Information Control on Matters of Public Interest – Greenpeace Uses RICO to Sue

A new lawsuit filed by Greenpeace provides the latest example of the extreme and illegal measures used by some (but far from all) companies which are trying to control media, spin and public attitudes on matters of public interest. For a prior example, recall Hewlett-Packard’s widely reported illegal spying activities. The subject also has spawned recent books. See Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy: The Secret World of Corporate Espionage, by Eamon Javers. I’ve not read it, but it received this supportive review from John Fialka, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote his own 1997 book on economic espionage. Consider also this professional science journal article by Ruth Malone on the tactics used by the tobacco industry to monitor public health groups. Much of the tobacco information came to light through the tobacco lawsuits, as described here in a story on a faux science writer created by the tobacco industry.

The latest example arises from media arguments and litigation related to sale and use of "toxic" chemicals. The story is in the news because Greenpeace this week filed a RICO complaint in federal court alleging that its offices, dumpsters, cell phones and computers were invaded by human and digital spies. The spies? According to the complaint, they were investigators hired by public relations firms working for and paid by chemical giant Dow, and a vinyl chloride maker, Sasol. The "Green" blog from the NYT covers the Greenpeace story in a detailed post by John Collins Rudolf. The post includes links to various helpful resources, including the complaint filed by Greenpeace and a prior story from Mother Jones on the skullduggery against Greenpeace

HP settled with the New York Times and various individuals without litigation. My bet is that Greenpeace will not settle lightly since the lawsuit itself provides a means to investigate the scope of the activities Dow directed against Greenpeace, and apparently other groups.

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About Kirk

Since becoming a lawyer in 1983, Kirk’s over 30 years of practice have focused on advising a wide range of corporations, associations, and individuals (as both plaintiffs and defendants) on both tort and commercial law issues centered around “mass torts.”

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