Spitzer Sued For Libel Over Column On Insurance Firm’s Alleged Kickbacks

Former New York Gov. and former CNN talk show host Eliot Spitzer has been slapped with two libel lawsuits over a column he wrote for Slate about an insurance firm he investigated in 2004 for allegedly taking kickbacks and bid-rigging.Two former executives for the insurance broker Marsh & McLennan filed suit on Friday claiming that Spitzer defamed them in his August 22, 2010, column for Slate, called “They Still Don’t Get It.” William Gilman, former executive marketing director for Marsh, and Edward McNenney, former global placement director for the firm, are seeking a combined $90 million for the column, which was posted shortly after their felony antitrust convictions were thrown out.

When he was serving as New York’s attorney general, Spitzer had opened an investigation into the firm for alleged kickbacks and bid-rigging, which resulted in the firm’s agreement to pay $850 million in a civil settlement in January 2005. Shortly after, eight executives, including Gilman and McNenny, were indicted. Gilman and McNenny were found guilty in 2008, but the convictions were overturned in July 2010. There were 21 other guilty pleas that resulted from the investigation.

In his column, Spitzer responds to a column in the Wall Street Journal that criticizes the cases he brought against the firm. Spitzer doesn’t name Gilman or McNenny, but he writes of the “many employees of Marsh who have been convicted and sentenced to jail terms,” and “that Marsh’s behavior was a blatant abuse of law and market power: price-fixing, bid-rigging, and kickbacks all designed to harm their customers and the market while Marsh and its employees pocketed the increased fees and kickbacks.”

“What does it mean,” Spitzer asks, “that supposedly thoughtful voices in the corporate world continue to deny the simple fact that irresponsible behavior should be addressed head on, and the rules of conduct altered sufficiently to permit a sound foundation for future economic growth?”

“Mr. Spitzer was well aware of his own allegations as attorney general and the resolution of those allegations in favor of Mr. Gilman and yet, recklessly disregarded these facts,” Gilman’s complaint said, Reuters reports.

The complaint added that Gilman is “readily identifiable as the subject of the defamatory comments,” despite not being named.