Ninth Circuit Tosses Wynn’s Defamation Suit

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — The Ninth Circuit affirmed dismissal Tuesday of Steve Wynn’s defamation claim against the owner of a private investment firm who criticized the Las Vegas casino mogul’s operations in Macau.

Wynn, CEO and chairman of Wynn Resorts, claimed James Chanos defamed him during an April 25, 2014 conference on the Macau gaming industry.

The UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism hosted the event, where Wynn claims Chanos defamed him by saying that Wynn and Wynn Resorts had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick disagreed in March 2015, and dismissed Wynn’s complaint with prejudice, based on California’s anti-SLAPP law. Orrick said Wynn did not plead any facts that indicated Chanos’ statements amounted to defamation.

Ninth Circuit Judges Paul Watford, Mary Murguia and Ferdinand Fernandez heard oral argument on March 14.

During that hearing Wynn’s attorney Mitchell Langberg, with Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Schreck, said Chanos directly accused Wynn of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The panel did not agree.

“If Chanos’ statements were not assertions of fact, but simply expressions of opinion that did not ‘contain or imply a provable factual assertion,’ no action would lie,” the panel wrote in its unsigned opinion. “He spoke about assessing risk for himself or his clients, not about whether Wynn actually broke the law.”

The court ruled that Wynn did not plead a plausible cause of action for slander in his appeal, and therefore did not consider arguments regarding actual malice.

It affirmed Orrick’s ruling and the award of attorney’s fees to Chanos’ legal team.

Steven Mayer represented Chanos during the March 14 appellate hearing.

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