Wilkow v. Forbes, Inc.
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
241 F.3d 552 (7th Cir. 2001)
Forbes, Inc. (Forbes) (defendant) runs a column in its magazine about pending litigation on matters relevant to the business community. In October 1998, Forbes covered the initial grant of certiorari to what would become Bank of America National Trust & Savings Asss’n v. 203 North LaSalle Street Partnership, 526 U.S. 434 (1999). Wilkow (plaintiff) was a member of the LaSalle partnership and a party in that case. The case presented extremely complicated questions of law involving the order of payments in a bankruptcy proceeding to secured creditors, unsecured creditors, and equity investors. While the case was ultimately resolved in a favorable manner for Wilkow, the Forbes article about the case came out months before its resolution and portrayed Wilkow in a negative light. Although the article did not make any actual defamatory statements about Wilkow, its author described him as “pleading poverty” and striking a deal with the bank which was unfavorable for the bank’s interests. In the author’s opinion, Wilkow unfairly profited from his deal with the bank, and she expressed this view in the article. Wilkow brought suit against Forbes for libel on the ground that Forbes should have at least informed its readers that the bank lent money to the LaSalle partnership without recourse, and that the bank’s loss was due to a downturn in the real estate market rather than its dealings with Wilkow and his partners. The district court granted judgment for Forbes, holding that the article did not constitute libel. Wilkow appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Easterbrook, J.)
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