Bloomberg Defamation Suit Chugs Forward in NY

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – A former business director is celebrating after an appeals court advanced his defamation suit over a Bloomberg article that includes criticism of him from a father he says suffers from dementia.

“It was a hit piece from the get-go,” Avery Stone said in a phone interview, reflecting on October 2016 reporting that inspired the Rye man to file suit the following month.

Bloomberg argued that its article — “How a Smooth Talker Convinced Bankers to Invest $32 Million, Then Vanished” — was a substantially accurate report, but its efforts to have the case dismissed have thus far proved unsuccessful.

After the Westchester County Supreme Court found the privilege assertions premature last year, the Appellate Division’s Second Judicial Department affirmed on July 25.

“When the challenged statements are viewed in context, it cannot be said as a matter of law that the statements provide a substantially accurate reporting of the two police investigations,” Judge Ruth Balkin wrote for a four-judge panel. “Moreover, we agree with the court’s determination that the plaintiff, at this pre-discovery stage, adequately alleged the element of gross irresponsibility.”

Bloomberg’s article reported on Stone’s employment as director of Global Merchant Funding Ltd., a now-defunct Hong Kong investment company.

Whereas Stone describes the business as legitimate albeit struggling, Bloomberg’s article questions how he managed to “dupe Hong Kong’s princes of finance.”

Stone’s complaint accuses Bloomberg of portraying him as a “crook” and a “thief,” saying the article twisted his innocent relocation to Westchester as a vanishing act.

“It crushed us, the story,” Stone said in the interview. “I can’t find employment. It’s had a horrible effect not only on me but on my family.”

The article also includes scathing quotes about the plaintiff from his father, Roger Stone, who allegedly suffers from dementia.

“I think they should have employed proper journalistic standards and did proper research,” the plaintiff Stone said in an interview. “If that had been done, they never would have quoted my father. I’m shocked that a story like this was able to get published, absolutely shocked. That was my reaction when I read it.”

Though Stone said he looks forward to his day in court, his suit is not yet in the clear.

“We’re confident that once all the facts are presented we will prevail,” a spokesperson for Bloomberg said Monday, declining further comment.

The next court date is a compliance conference on September 5.

A year after he sued Bloomberg, Stone brought similar claims against against the South China Morning Post Publishers.

Bloomberg’s article, which Stone included as a court exhibit, was still up on its website as of press time.

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