Green awarded $400k in Fairfax defamation case

04/01/2022 - 15:10

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Fairfax Media has been ordered to pay Power Ledger co-founder Jemma Green $400,000 in damages over articles alleging she misled investors.

Green awarded $400k in Fairfax defamation case
Dr Green won the lawsuit and was awarded $400,000 in damages. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Fairfax Media has been ordered to pay Power Ledger co-founder Jemma Green $400,000 in damages over articles alleging she misled investors and unjustifiably claimed an association with billionaire Elon Musk.

In a judgement handed down late last month, Supreme Court justice Rene Le Miere awarded Dr Green the sum in aggravated damages for two articles published in print and online by the Australian Financial Review in December 2018.

Dr Green launched defamation proceedings against the Nine Entertainment subsidiary and journalist Aaron Patrick in 2019, which centred around $2 billion the publisher claimed Dr Green had made and lost and the company’s alleged failure to meet the expectations generated by her “overhyped promotion”.

The articles alleged the company was rewarding bounty hunters and using false accounts to promote the sale of its POWR tokens on social media, as well as claiming the company’s tokens were not worth what was paid for them.

But they also alleged that in failing to respond to queries regarding a series of Twitter posts she made in September 2017, Dr Green encouraged a rumour that Elon Musk was interested in Power Ledger and had approached her to discuss it.

Dr Green took the matter to court seeking damages, including aggravated damages and an injunction which would prevent the two parties from republishing the content.

In submissions made to the court, Dr Green said the articles implied she caused unethical market manipulation by using paid spruikers to promote the company and its POWR token and that she had misled the public and investors.

She rejected the claims, and said they were defamatory.

But Fairfax Media claimed the defamatory imputation was substantially true, pleading the defence of honest opinion.

The matter was heard across 19 days between October 2020 and March 2021, with the defendants claiming Dr Green should not be compensated for the full effect of the defamation because she “overreacted” and “misinterpreted the articles”.

But in handing down the determination, Justice Le Miere found in favour of Dr Green, but said the statement that she made on Twitter that she was at a launch event with Mr Musk was “an overstatement”.

He agreed that the articles were critical of her and, subsequently, she had suffered real reputational damage as a result of the articles published.

He said the award should be in the upper range of damages in recognition of the gravity of the defamation caused.

“I do infer that the articles had a seriously adverse effect upon Dr Green's reputation, and in particular her reputation in the business community and persons involved in public administration,” Justice Le Miere said in his determination.

Dr Green is portrayed as an opportunist making claims that not only did not come to pass but had no reasonable basis, in order to obtain money from investors. 

“Having regard to the gravity of the defamations, the extent of their publication, the injury to Dr Green's reputation and feelings, the need for vindication of her reputation and the aggravated injury caused to her by the conduct of the defendants, the award should be in the upper range of damages.”

However, Justice Le Miere held off on determining whether the injunction restraining the defendants from repeating the statements should be issued until after the delivery of the reasons in order to give both parties an opportunity to consider them.

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