Two former Marsh & McLennan Cos. executives, who had insurance-fraud charges dropped against them, sued former NY governor, Eliot Spitzer, with two multi-million dollar libel lawsuits over a column Spitzer wrote in Slate magazine.
The insurance executives, William Gilman and Edward McNenney, accused Spitzer and Slate magazine of defamation. Gilman is seeking at least $60 million in damages in the federal suit. McNenney seeks $30 million in the state case. Both cases were filed on Friday and made public on Monday.
Gilman, a former Marsh executive marketing director, and McNenney, a former Marsh global placement director, contended that they were defamed in the Aug. 22, 2010 column titled They Still Don't Get it. Neither is named in the column.
Spitzer wrote the article as a response to a Washington Street Journal editorial critical of the cases that he (Spitzer) brought against insurance giant AIG and insurance brokerage firm Marsh and McLennan Co. In the piece Spitzer advocated the persecution of corporate wrongdoers and defended his investigation against Marsh and AIG.
In 2004 Spitzer, then New York's Attorney general, launched an investigation into Marsh's practices, including price fixing and rigging bids. Marsh paid $850 million in a civil settlement with Spitzer, and eight insurance executives, including Gilman and McNenney were indicted eight months later in the probe. They were convicted in 2008. However, in July 2010, the presiding judge threw out their convictions, saying that newly discovered evidence undermines the court's confidence in the verdict.
According to the complaint, Gilman said Spitzer defamed him in the article by writing, Marsh's behavior was a blatant abuse of law and market power: price-fixing, bid-rigging and kickbacks all designed to harm their customers and the market while Marsh and its employees pocketed the increased fees and kickbacks.
Even though Gilman, McNenney or any of the other indicted employees were not named in the article, Gilman's complaint said that he was readily identifiable as the subject of Spitzer's defamatory comments.
Mr. Spitzer was well aware of his own allegations as attorney general and the resolution of those allegations in favor of Mr. Gilman and yet, recklessly disregarded these facts, the complaint said.
Slate is an online current affairs and culture magazine. Slate.com is owned by Washington Post Co and managed by The Slate Group LLC. The Slate Group LLC was also sued by Gilman and McNenney.
Spitzer said on Monday that he would be defended vigorously, according to a NY Times report.
This lawsuit is entirely frivolous, he added.
Slate's editor David Plotz called the lawsuit baseless and said that they were looking forward to defending it.
Spitzer served as the 54th Governor of New York from January 2007 until his resignation on March 17, 2008 in the wake of the exposure of his involvement as a client in a high-priced prostitution ring. Prior to being elected governor, Spitzer served as New York State Attorney General.