By Stephen Pate – This is one of those David and Goliath stories where the little guy wins.
PEI political muckraker Red Like Me and it’s journalist owner Rob McEachern were sued by the Bank of Nova Scotia over a story about investment advisor fraud.
This week the Bank of Nova Scotia called it quits and discontinued their legal action.
The details of the story are interesting but the bigger story is that independent journalists can report the news and stand up to big money interests.
It is in the public interest to know when investment dealers have defrauded the public. Knowledge is power for consumers. Hiding stories like this only protects the fraudsters.
In the story, McEachern alleges two “rogue” brokers at Scotia MacLeod lost more than $5 million for several scions of the PEI business community including Alan Scales, former law partner of PEI Premier Robert Ghiz’s father and former Premier Joe Ghiz.
The story goes right to the top of PEI political and business families.
The Bank of Nova Scotia sued Red Like Me and McEachern largely over defamation and the oddball claim Red Like Me was stalking the two brokers with stories. Apparently McEachern had evidence from another court case to back up his claims, although the case is yet unreported.
McEachern claimed a defense of the truth and threatened to call witnesses from the highest levels of PEI business and politics. The truth is a defense against libel and defamation but it can be expensive to prove you are right in court.
McEachern was undaunted by the prospects of a long battle with the Bank of Nova Scotia and their Toronto lawyers at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP. He continued to write more stories about the brokerage deal gone wrong and Scotia Bank’s attempt to censor the press.
When McEachern stood up to the Bank in court, the judge told the Bank to file more information by the end of August. The Bank blinked and then withdrew their long claim for damages this week in a discontinuance.
This is not the way it usually happens. If Red Like Me was a corporate media company, their lawyers would likely have told McEachern to pull in his horns and retract the story. However, in this David and Goliath story, David fearlessly wrote dozens of stories since the lawsuit exposing more fraud and questioning the bank for their slogan “You’re richer than you think.”
While we would like to think newspapers, TV and radio are beacons of light fighting for freedom of the press the reality is they are corporations who are risk averse. We only hear the stories that are safe to print. Corporate lawyers regularly kill newsworthy stories that might create lawsuits.
Red Like Me also took aim at CBC and The Charlottetown Guardian for failing to report the Scotia MacLeod investment scandal. Maybe CBC Charlottetown Should Look Into Court Actions and Report News?
The Charlottetown Guardian was quick to report the details of the Bank’s now failed attempt to shut down McEachern’s reporting. Ironically, it is a journalist who publishes a blog who is reporting the story about the investment fraud not the Guardian, who have a long history of looking down their noses and harassing bloggers.
Scotiabank, employees seek injunction against blogger
Guardian – Scotiabank, one of its affiliate companies, and two of its employees have applied for an injunction against an Island blogger over what they allege are attempts to tarnish their reputations.
On July 11, Scotiabank, Scotia McLeod, Eddie Curran and Yousef Hashmi filed an application for an injunction against Rob McEachern to have him remove any material on the Internet related to them that McEachern or someone acting on his behalf posted on the web.
That includes McEachern’s blog www.redlikeme.ca and social media websites or Internet forums.
Among the alleged defamatory statements are claims the applicants engaged in fraudulent activity in relation to their involvement in the securities industry and that they conspired to defraud clients of investments.
Curran is a branch manager and director of wealth management with Scotia MacLeod.
Along with the application to have the posts removed, the applicants are also seeking a permanent injunction to keep McEachern from distributing, circulating or publishing any defamatory material about them online or through correspondence.
In 2012, McEachern released a book he wrote entitled “Red Like Me, How P.E.I. Liberals Stole 500 Million Dollars from Canada”, which detailed his dealings with the provincial nominee program and his perspective on how the program was run.
He also runs a blog on which he has posted several items about the applicants, which they allege are false and meant to discredit their reputations in the Charlottetown community.
The application said McEachern started a “relentless and malicious attack” on the applicants in a deliberate attempt to harm their reputations by spreading deliberately malevolent and hurtful material.
The applicants allege they have suffered ridicule, contempt and damage to their reputations because of McEachern’s statements.
In their application, the applicants said they put McEachern on notice about the defamatory nature of his publications, but rather than remove them he proceeded to publish 12 more posts within seven days of service.
McEachern has published several more posts about the applicants since the application was filed.
None of the allegations have been proven in court and a hearing on the injunction application is scheduled for this Thursday.
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By Stephen Pate, NJN Network