Truthout

Corporate Lawsuit Abuse

By Jim Hightower, Truthout | Op-Ed
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Not all of the bullies are in schoolyards these days -- quite a few have graduated to the executive suites of corporate America.

Take Charles and David Koch, two multibillionaire brothers whose lives of privilege and bloated sense of entitlement have turned them into such spoiled brats that they can't even take a joke.

Last December, the Kochs' oil operations became the object of a spoof by a merry band of tricksters called Youth for Climate Truth. Not only is Koch Industries a notorious polluter and spewer of global warming gasses, but the brothers have recently been exposed as longtime secret funders of various right-wing front groups trying to debunk the very existence of climate change.

The young folks made fun of this by issuing a fake news release on what appeared to be Koch Industries letterhead. It said, in essence, that the Kochsters had seen the light on global warming and henceforth would be strong environmental advocates. A pretty harmless joke.

The grumpy billionaires, however, not only failed to laugh, but they quickly resorted to bullying. They've unleashed a snarling pack of lawyers to demand that the identities of those who produced the parody be given to the Kochs so they can sue them for damages.

What damages? The lawsuit says the brothers want reimbursement for "costs associated with spending time and money to respond to inquiries about the fake release."

Good grief -- Charles and David are two of the 10 richest people in America, and they're whining about a $10 phone bill! What the Kochs really are trying to do, of course, is bully their critics -- make fun of us, they're saying, and we'll bury you in legal bills.

By the way, these billionaire bullies have also financed front groups that attack public interest lawyers. Why? Because, say the Kochs, these public interest lawyers file "frivolous" lawsuits!

But it's not just the Koch Bros. who are needlessly taking up precious space in our judicial system. Another frivolous filer is Dan Snyder. And Dan is mad, mad, mad. He's stamping his tiny little feet and having a screaming tantrum!

That's unpleasant to witness when a 3-year-old does it, but it's truly troubling to see a public hissy fit being thrown by a 45-year-old billionaire owner of a pro football team. Snyder owns the once-great-but-now-terrible Washington Redskins, whose on-field ineptness during his 10-year tenure has certainly made long-suffering fans mad -- almost in the "insane" sense of the word.

But the owner's tantrum is not directed at his players or coaches. Instead, he's gone into a code-red temper meltdown because a local newsweekly, the Washington City Paper, dared to publish a long piece last November deriding Dan himself as the source of the team's misery.

What insouciance, shrieked The Dan, as he summoned his legal team to go after the small paper. Their first tactic was raw intimidation. "Mr. Snyder has more than sufficient means to protect his reputation," the lawyers snarled at City Paper's owners, crudely implying that even trying to defend a lawsuit by Mr. Redskin would strip the paper of all its assets.

But City Paper didn't fall for Snyder and Team's smack talk. Still, Dan pushed ahead, suing for $2 million in general "damages." But it's a weak play, for the libel suit he filed is compromised by the fact that the article in question is ... well, factual.

This reality led the billionaire (who happens to be Jewish) to try a trick play. He claimed the paper's article is an offensive anti-Semitic diatribe against him -- an assertion that an independent journalistic observer calls "almost unbearably stupid." After all, Snyder's team is called "Redskins," a slur that Snyder insists "is not meant to be offensive whatsoever."

Overprivileged corporate crybabies like Dan Snyder and the Koch Bros. are giving hypocrisy a bad name. They denounce "lawsuit abuse" by anyone who dares to sue them, even as they deploy their legal departments to intimidate anyone who crosses them.

Jim Hightower

National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.


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