Can a lumber company sue its grassroots public interest critics to attempt to silence them? While many states and many courts say no, yesterday Resolute Forest Products filed a civil RICO lawsuit in United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. Incredibly, the suit complains that Greenpeace and Stand (formerly ForestEthics) have acted as a "criminal enterprise" in their public interest advocacy to stop destructive logging and protect waterways, wildlife, and communities in the Boreal forest of Canada.
This is much more than a simple dispute between a logging company and environmental organizations, this lawsuit is a power play by a rogue corporation attempting to use financial might to make critics go away. It is about the role of corporations in society and their use and abuse of the legal system to erode free speech and our democracy.
In America, people and groups of people have the right to speak out when others are harming our shared resources - our air, water, forests, and wildlife. This lawsuit is an attempt to muzzle individuals and the public interest groups they support, like ours, that operate to protect public health and the environment.
Resolute Forest Products has a proven record of bullying, as well as years of irresponsible logging in the Boreal region of Canada. This company uses lawsuits as a business tactic to quiet public and legitimate criticism of their actions. In an attempt to stamp out free speech, Resolute is already suing critics of their environmental record in Canada. Resolute sued a nonprofit that certifies paper and wood products as being environmentally friendly. The pattern of abuse is clear.
Now this Canadian logging company is trying to use laws that originated to stop organized crime in a desperate attempt to intimidate environmental groups and individuals in the US who care about forests, clean water, pure air and wildlife. The voices of the environmental community are confident and are not about to be silenced.
Bullying is not just part of the character of Resolute and its CEO Richard Garneau, it appears to be a well-worn tactic of misdirection that has thus far succeeded with the Resolute Board of Directors. Under Mr. Garneau's "leadership" the company's lawsuits are escalating while the share price has been sliding for five years running, from $23 to $6. Suing public interest groups will do nothing to fix that problem.
Resolute is a bad actor using irresponsible logging practices. We represent the voices of grassroots America that protects our forests. No amount of intimidation tactics or bullying is going to make us stop telling the truth about Resolute or any other company that destroys forests.