Defamation Claim.

Byline: Derek Hawkins

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Daniel Rivera, et al. v. Allstate Insurance Company

Case No.: 17-1310; 17-1649

Officials: KANNE and SYKES, Circuit Judges, and DARROW, District Judge.*

Focus: Defamation Claim

In 2009 Allstate Insurance Company launched an internal investigation into suspicious trading on its equity desk. The initial inquiry unearthed email evidence suggesting that several portfolio managers might be timing trades to inflate their bonuses at the expense of their portfolios, which included two pension funds to which Allstate owed fiduciary duties. Allstate retained attorneys from Steptoe & Johnson to investigate further, and they in turn hired an economic consulting firm to calculate potential losses. Based on the email evidence, the consulting firm found reason to believe that timed trading had potentially cost the portfolios $8 million and possibly much more. Because actual losses could not be established, the consultants used an algorithm to estimate a potential adverse impact of $91 million on the pension funds. Everyone understood that this estimate was wildly unrealistic, but in an abundance of caution, Allstate poured $91 million into the pension portfolios.

When the investigation wrapped up, Steptoe lawyers delivered oral findings to Allstate. The company thereafter determined that four portfolio managersDaniel Rivera, Stephen Kensinger, Deborah Meacock, and Rebecca Scheunemanhad violated the company's conflict-of-interest policy by timing trades to improve their bonuses. On December 3, 2009, Allstate fired them for cause.

Allstate's appeal attacks the defamation awards on multiple grounds. We need address only one. The statements in the 10-K and internal memo were not defamatory per se, so they are actionable (if at all) only on a theory of defamation per quod. This type of claim requires proof of special damages causally...

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