California (United States)/Canada. In a legal labyrinth worthy of a John Grisham novel, Greenpeace appears to finally be headed for its day in US Federal court to defend itself against Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) charges brought by Canadian logging company Resolute Forest Products. In a hearing last week, Judge Jon Tigar (son of the famed criminal defense attorney Michael Tiger) dismissed a motion filed by Greenpeace and ordered Greenpeace to stand trial for charges under what is commonly known as the “mafia law.”
But Greenpeace is not the only group facing the wrath of RICO. On 13 September 2016, Leonid Goldstein, a Soviet-born computer engineer and noted climate change skeptic, filed a RICO suit in Texas against the Climate Action Network (a political entity registered in Germany and headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon!) and some 40 other corporations and foundations, including Ceres, Inc., Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Environmental Grantmakers Association, World Wildlife Fund, Friends of the Earth, and Generation Investment Management LLP. Goldstein’s 69-page filing accused the groups of racketeering and bribery and claimed unspecified damages, while comparing their actions to repression under Communism. On 6 April of this year, Judge Sam R. Cummings ruled against the Climate Action Network’s motion to dismiss Goldstein’s RICO suit and set a trial date of 1 October 2018.
In yet another case, in August of this year, Energy Transfer Equity, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, filed a separate RICO suit against Greenpeace and two smaller groups, Banktrack and Earth First!. The complaint is remarkably similar to the Resolute case: a broad conspiracy against a major corporation and green groups running an illegal “enterprise” to further their own interests while damaging the targeted corporation. Energy Transfer Equity also alleges Greenpeace, et al support for eco-terrorism, a violation of the Patriot Act, and drug trafficking. The Energy Transfer Equity case, which was filed by the same lawyer – Michael Bowe – who filed the Resolute case, was described by Michael Gerrard, faculty director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, as, “the most aggressive SLAPP-type suit” he had ever seen.
The date for discovery in the Greenpeace/Resolute RICO case is set for 27 June 2019. Why is this date significant? With granting the application for discovery, which was Resolute Forestry‘s actual claim, the US federal government will now seek information from Greenpeace. On this date, all emails, reports, tax returns, and communications made by the defendant will be on full public display. The US government’s case will be extensive and multinational. Moreover, the dirty laundry of Greenpeace and its auxiliaries will certainly surface in the court documents. And Judge Tigar made it clear in his judgment that he is not in the mood for delay tactics or other legal foot shuffling.
The audacity of Resolute management must be lauded. Whereas almost every major US corporation has surrendered and allowed green racketeers to go about their anti-capitalist doings unchallenged, the Canadian management team of Resolute, under CEO Richard Garneau, stood on its principles and took on what Asian and US corporations call the “green dragon.”
The legal strategy of Resolute attorney Michael Bowe is also audacious. Greenpeace and its media outlets mocked Bowe and his legal team because the firm represented the current US president prior to his election. But despite Greenpeace’s whining and teeth gnashing (or maybe because of!), Judge Tigar allowed the case to move forward based on its merits. Fight as they might, Greenpeace now finds itself heading to court to fight charges of conspiracy to violate US federal law.
For the first time in its history, Greenpeace is faced with a new reality. It finally took a courageous Canadian CEO to plant his feet on the ground of his community and refuse to succumb to false claims, disinformation campaigns, or calls by pro-Greenpeace companies to fold to join the ranks of spineless other CEOs with no backbone. Richard Garneau stood out.
This is a legal first in the history of militant activism targeting corporations. Judge Tigar’s ruling will raise the heads of many who have been blackmailed by industrial sized NGOs, particularly in developing countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Africa, where companies are targeted with great regularity by Greenpeace and other leftist “green” activists.
Phil Radford, a former Greenpeace US Executive Director, boasted that a Greenpeace campaign against Asian Pulp Paper (APP) cost the Indonesian logging giant 75% of its US market share. The Malaysian company WTK suffered the same fate in the UK.
Such antics have not gone noticed by foreign governments. In response to militant Greenpeace actions, The Indian government declared Greenpeace a threat to the country’s national economic security. In a recent briefing by the Indonesian State Intelligence Agency, foreign NGOs, including the Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth were named as a threat to the country. Canada and New Zealand have revoked Greenpeace’s charity status. The Greenpeace leader in New Zealand, Russell Norman, is set to go to trial on 30 April 2018 for his participation in a Greenpeace protest against an oil exploration ship.
Many who have tried to take on the mighty green groups have suffered a blistering defeat, as seen in the case of the Malaysian IOI or Wilmar, which was blackmailed by a US agent of influence funded by the Obama-era Climate Land Use Alliance (CLUA). IOI executed a half-hearted and ill-fated legal campaign in Europe, which bombed before it had even been given court time. The Malaysians settled and the NGOs celebrated.
Resolute, on the other hand, was… well, resolute and stuck to its guns. Permitting the RICO case to go forward is a significant development for the battered forestry industry and any other industry targeted by militant activists.
It is yet to be seen if the Indonesian government and companies finally wake up and recognize the threat Greenpeace poses to national security. A recent Indonesian State Intelligence Agency (BIN) briefing identified Greenpeace and others, including donors, a threat to “national unity.”
But allowing the RICO trial to proceed shows the US federal judge believes sufficient evidence is present to call for a jury trial. Moreover, it shows the law DOES apply to groups like Greenpeace, Forest Peoples Programme, Rainforest Action Network, Canopy, Friends of the Earth, and Aidenvironment/Banktrack.