December 9th, 2016

Opus Bank SLAPP-ed! LimNexus Litigation Team Successfully Defends Whistleblower who was Sued by his Former Employer for Reporting Perceived Misconduct

The LimNexus team of Bryan Sheldon and David D. Yang secured an important anti-SLAPP victory in defense of a former Opus Bank employee. Following the bank’s written procedures for reporting suspicious conduct, the employee, who was employed by the bank as a Senior Loan Review Analyst, reported what he felt were improper banking practices and that his supervisor told him he was “making the bank look bad.” The bank responded by not only firing the employee for making the report, but, along with two of its officers, filing a lawsuit against him for defamation and other claims.

LimNexus filed a Special Motion to Strike the complaint under California Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. Under this code section, a lawsuit against a person arising from any act of that person in furtherance of the person’s right of petition or free speech under the United States Constitution or the California Constitution in connection with a public issue can be stricken unless the court determines that the plaintiff has established that she or he is likely to win on the claim. In enacting this law, the Legislature found and declared that “there has been a disturbing increase in lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances.” The Legislature further found and declared that “it is in the public interest to encourage continued participation in matters of public significance, and that this participation should not be chilled through abuse of the judicial process.”

In granting the Special Motion to Strike, the Court noted that the former employee “engaged in protected activity under Civ. Proc. Code §425.16(e).” The court also held that “Plaintiffs failed to establish that their causes of action had a probability of success” because the statements made by the employee were privileged communications that could not form the basis of a legal action. Accordingly, the complaint of Opus Bank and its senior officers’ was stricken by the Court.

Under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16(c), the law provides that “a prevailing defendant on a special motion to strike shall be entitled to recover his or her attorney’s fees and costs.” Accordingly, LimNexus will seek to recover its client’s attorney fees and costs expended in defending this lawsuit forthwith.

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