In a major setback to Glenn Simpson and his company, Fusion GPS, a U.S. federal judge denied his petition to dismiss a defamation suit brought against it by four Russians.
The lawsuit results from claims made in the dossier compiled by former British spymaster Christopher Steele in 2016 at the behest of Fusion GPS. The dossier was subsequently published by BuzzFeed News in 2017.
The defendants include the three owners of a financial conglomerate called Alfa Group (German Khan, Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven), who were accused of various improprieties in the dossier along with Aleksej Gubarev, owner of Webzilla and XBT Holdings, who was purportedly involved in the Kremlin’s hack of Democrat Party officials.
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The plaintiffs all claim their reputations suffered as a result of the dossier’s publication, and that the information contained in the dossier relating to them was untrue. Fusion GPS based its defense on the D.C. Anti-SLAPP law which allows the publication of information when it is in the “public interest.”
In making his decision, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon relied on case precedent including a ruling by then-Circuit Brett Kavanaugh, which effectively destroyed the Fusion GPS defense (Abbas v. Foreign Policy Group, LLC, 783 F.3d 1328 (DC. Cir. 2015)).
A previous defamation lawsuit by Webzilla and XBT Holdings against BuzzFeed News on the same issue was dismissed in December 2018 based on the public’s right to know.