Court of Appeal holds statements made in SEC disclosure and to investors are protected speech within the scope of the Anti-SLAPP statute

2021 case review: Sugarman v. Benett

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This case involves an anti-SLAPP motion. The Anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation, Code Civ. Proc., 425.16) statute provides that a defendant can bring a motion to strike causes of action alleged by a plaintiff in any case “arising from any act of [the defendant] in furtherance of the [defendant’s] right of petition or free speech under the United States Constitution or the California Constitution in connection with a public issue…” Code Civ. Proc.§ 425.16, subd. (b).

In this instance, the Plaintiff resigned his job at Banc of California (“Banc”) as a result of a scandal. He then filed suit against individual directors, executives and others similarly situated because of statements that Banc made in requisite forms filed with the SEC, as well as in investor presentations and conversations

The Court of Appeal held that the statements made by Banc were protected activity under the anti-SLAPP statutes, both because statements made to the SEC were matters under review by a government agency, and that statements made to investors were matters of public interest.