Reuters Quotes Michael Asaro on Defamation Suit Filed by St. Jude Medical
Akin Gump litigation partner Michael Asaro was quoted in the Reuters article “St. Jude's lawsuit against short-seller faces steep climb –lawyers” discussing a corporate defamation suit filed by St. Jude Medical over a short-seller’s report that said the medical device company’s heart implants were vulnerable to cyber attacks. St. Jude sued a short-selling firm and a cyber security company in federal court, saying they intentionally distributed false information about St. Jude to manipulate its stock price.
The right to free speech will be hard for St Jude to overcome, with Asaro telling Reuters that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is the “first line of defense” in defamation lawsuits. This includes those brought against short-sellers, researchers, analysts, bloggers and anyone else whose opinion of a company may have influenced its stock price.
Speaking generally, Asaro pointed out that the guiding principle in cases such as this is that even wrong opinions could be protected, as long as they were made in good faith and the underlying facts were presented fairly. “Where people get into trouble is where they misrepresent the facts,” he said. “That's why these cases are so fact-specific.”