Newsprint giant Resolute Forest Products Inc. is ratcheting up its campaign against what it claims is a smear campaign by Greenpeace with the filing of a lawsuit in U.S. federal court alleging that the environmental group is a "global fraud" out to line its pockets with money from donors.
In a suit filed in federal court in Georgia, Montreal-based Resolute alleges that "maximizing donations, not saving the environment, is Greenpeace's true objective."
Also named in the suit is Stand, formerly ForestEthics, a group that Resolute alleges is closely allied to Greenpeace.
Greenpeace has for years singled out Resolute as the "boreal forest destroyer," in a campaign that is "malicious, false, misleading and without any reasonable factual basis in numerous respects," the court filing alleges.
Resolute alleges the damages resulting directly from Greenpeace's campaign – including convincing customers to switch to other paper suppliers – amount to more than $100-million.
Greenpeace USA and Greenpeace International said in a separate statements Wednesday that it is too early to comment on the allegations.
"We will comment in more detail at the appropriate time, but rest assured, we will fully defend ourselves against this lawsuit," Greenpeace USA general counsel Tom Wetterer said.
"We have not yet been served with any papers, but look forward to the opportunity to refute the allegations of this classic attempt to silence critics. Greenpeace will not be intimidated," said Jasper Teulings, general counsel for Greenpeace International.
Stand said in a news release that it believes "this suit is entirely without merit and is a clear attempt to silence its most powerful grassroots critics."
Resolute's suit is unusual in that it invokes the so-called Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, alleging that Greenpeace deliberately spreads "malicious lies" and "sensationalist misinformation" as part of efforts to win over gullible consumers and get them to donate money. The company, whose Canadian operations are concentrated in Quebec and Ontario, also alleges that Greenpeace has staged photos and videos that falsely claim to show Resolute logging in prohibited areas.
Contrary to Greenpeace's claims that Resolute is an "outlier" in the forest-products industry, "it is Greenpeace that is, by far, the outlier and rogue environmental group engaged in illegal and unethical behaviour to make money for itself and its leaders," the suit alleges.
This is not Resolute's first court action against Greenpeace.
Three years ago, it filed a suit in the Ontario Superior Court that is still ongoing seeking damages of $5-million, as well as punitive damages of $2-million, plus costs, against the group and two of its activists for an allegedly false and misleading report about the company's logging practices in Ontario and Quebec.
The escalation in the Resolute-Greenpeace set-to is a far cry from the days several years ago when both parties were at the same table with other environmental and industry players trying to work out their differences.