The cryptocurrency firm Bitcoin Latinum has sued journalists at Forbes and Poker.org, claiming that the writers made false and defamatory statements in articles that described securities fraud lawsuits filed against the crypto firm.
Bitcoin Latinum and its founder, Donald Basile, filed a libel lawsuit against Forbes reporter Cyrus Farivar and another libel lawsuit against Poker.org and its reporter Haley Hintze. (Farivar was a long-time Ars Technica reporter.)
The lawsuits are surprising because the Forbes article and the Poker.org article, both published in 2022, are very much like thousands of other news stories that describe allegations in a lawsuit. In both articles, it is clear that the allegations come from the filer of the lawsuit and not from the author of the article.
But both of Bitcoin Latinum’s lawsuits, which were filed last week in Delaware’s Court of Chancery, demand that the articles be retracted. They contain the following claim in exactly the same words:
The Article contains statements which insinuate and lead the reader to believe that Assofi’s allegations against Plaintiff Latinum and Plaintiff Basile are factual and correct, and which statements are not couched as the opinion of the author, but rather, are presented as fact, and therefore do not fall under any applicable privilege.
“Assofi’s allegations” are those made in a lawsuit filed against Bitcoin Latinum and Basile in November 2022. That lawsuit from Arshad Assofi, who said he lost over $15 million investing in worthless tokens, alleged that Bitcoin Latinum “is a scam” and accused the defendants of securities fraud and other violations. Bitcoin Latinum calls itself “the future of Bitcoin.”
Lawsuit cites wrong article
It’s especially surprising that Bitcoin Latinum’s lawsuit against Hintze contains the statement about “Assofi’s allegations” because the Hintze article cited in the lawsuit never mentions Assofi. The Hintze article on Poker.org is about a different lawsuit from different plaintiffs who also alleged securities fraud.
In fact, the Hintze article was published in February 2022, 10 months before the Assofi lawsuit was filed. TechDirt’s Mike Masnick pointed out this error in an article yesterday:
It appears that Latinum’s lawyer actually meant to sue over a different Poker.org article, that was published in November about the Assofi lawsuit, but repeatedly claims that the article was published on February 5, 2022, rather than the actual publication date of the article she meant, which was November 21, 2022. Also, Latinum’s lawyer included the February 5th article as the exhibit, rather than the November 21st article. Such attention to detail to talk about the wrong article and include the wrong article as an exhibit. Top notch lawyering.
Masnick also points out that the statute of limitations is two years, and the lawsuit against Hintze was filed more than two years after her February 2022 article.
In libel cases, journalists may defend themselves with the “fair report privilege.” This applies to accurate reporting on official government matters, including court proceedings.
The lawyer for Bitcoin Latinum in the Farivar and Hintze cases is Holly Whitney, who specializes in estate planning and probate cases. We contacted Whitney and Bitcoin Latinum about the lawsuits today and will update this article if we get a response.