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Charney v. Standard General, L.P.

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Fifth Division

March 28, 2017

DOV CHARNEY, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
STANDARD GENERAL, L.P., et al., Defendants and Respondents.

         APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC581130 Terry A. Green, Judge. Affirmed.

          Keith A. Fink & Associates, Keith A. Fink and Olaf J. Muller for Plaintiff and Appellant.

          Munger, Tolles & Olson, Mark B. Helm and John F. Muller for Defendants and Respondents.

          KUMAR, J. [*]

         Plaintiff and appellant Dov Charney appeals the trial court's order granting an anti-SLAPP[1] motion (Code Civ. Proc., § 425.16)[2] filed by defendants and respondents Standard General, L.P., Standard General Master Fund L.P., and P. Standard General LTD.[3]

         Charney was the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of American Apparel, Inc. (American Apparel).[4] Charney's employment was ultimately terminated following an investigation into allegations that he engaged in various types of misconduct. Standard General then issued a press release which read as follows:

         “As we have stated previously, our objective is to help American Apparel grow and succeed. We supported the independent, third-party and very thorough investigation into the allegations against Mr. Charney, and respect the Board of Directors' decision to terminate him based on the results of that investigation.”

         Charney filed a lawsuit alleging several causes of action rooted in his claim that the press release contained false and defamatory information about him. Standard General's anti-SLAPP motion was successful, prompting this appeal by Charney. We hold Charney did not satisfy his burden of showing there was a minimal chance his claims would succeed at trial and, for that reason, affirm the trial court's order granting the anti-SLAPP motion.

         THE COMPLAINT

         Defamation. Charney alleged the press release contained “falsehoods, exaggerations and/or inaccuracies about [him]... namely that he was terminated from American Apparel's employment for ‘cause' based on the results of an ‘independent' ‘investigation' conducted by a ‘third party.'” (Italics added.)[5]

         He claimed the statements “portrayed [him] as someone found liable and/or guilty by ‘independent' and ‘third party' investigators of committing financial malfeasance and illegal sexual harassment and discrimination sufficient to terminate his employment for ‘cause.'” (Italics added.) Charney maintained the press release charged him with “engaging in illegal and criminal misconduct, clearly exposed [him] to hatred, contempt, ridicule, and obloquy, and charge[d] [him] with improper and immoral conduct.”

         It was alleged that Standard General committed this act with knowledge of the falsity or defamatory nature of the statements or with reckless disregard for whether they were false and defamatory.

         False Light. Charney realleged the press release contained falsehoods and claimed these statements were repeated throughout media outlets causing him to be “placed... in a false light in the public eye.” He again claimed Standard General acted with knowledge of, or reckless disregard for, the false and defamatory nature of the statements.

         Intentional Interference With Actual Economic Relations. Charney alleged Standard General made the aforementioned false and defamatory statements with the intent to disrupt his ongoing negotiations to obtain third party assistance to regain control of American Apparel.

         Intentional Interference With Prospective Economic Relations. Charney claimed he had negotiated with others to obtain financing to purchase shares of American Apparel and reinstall himself as CEO. He also maintained he had negotiated with others to “potentially work for other clothing companies, to engage in passive investments within the apparel industry, to start another competing clothing company, and to obtain financing for the same.” Charney alleged Standard General made the false and defamatory statements with the intent to “destroy, hinder and/or otherwise stop” these business efforts.

         Unfair Business Acts/False Advertising (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et. seq.). Charney sought declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging Standard General would continue to republish their false and defamatory statements causing ...


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