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High Court gives judgment on meaning as a preliminary issue in a libel claim

Greensill Capital Ltd v Reuters News & Media Ltd [2020] EWHC 1325 (QB)

Related Member(s):
Catrin Evans QC
Related Practice Area(s):
Media and Information Law
Court:

The claim was brought by an investment company (first claimant) and its founder and chief executive (second claimant) in relation to an article on the Reuter’s news website. The claimants contended the article’s natural and ordinary meaning was that they had knowingly provided false information to bond market participants to the effect that the Scottish government had granted a guarantee which would have substantially inflated the value of bonds it had issued, when they knew this was not true, thereby committing a criminal offence of market abuse.

The defendant disputed this meaning, contending that the article meant the company had issued a false statement to bond market participants stating that the Scottish government had approved a guarantee related to the Kinlochleven hydro plant, but in fact the Scottish government had not given approval of the guarantee and that questions therefore remained as to how the company came to issue the statement.  The defendant also contended that the article did not bear any meaning which was defamatory at common law of the second claimant and that his claim should be struck out.

The court upheld the defendant’s contention that the article did not bear a defamatory meaning of the second claimant at all, and judgment was entered for the defendant on his claim, with costs, related to the alleged natural and ordinary meaning.  In relation to the company, the court rejected the claimants’ meaning and held that the article bore a meaning close to the defendant’s, namely that (1) the company had provided false information to bond market investors to the effect that the Scottish government had approved a guarantee related to Kinlochleven when, in fact, no such guarantee had been given, and (2) consequently, there were grounds to investigate how this false statement had come to be made and whether the company knew that it was false when it was issued and whether it had committed any offence of market abuse. This was therefore a relatively rare example of the court finding a Chase level 3 meaning.

Catrin Evans QC was involved in this case.