By Bernard Vaughan
NEW YORK, April 1 (Reuters) - Author Michael Lewis did not defame a money manager in his best-selling 2010 book “The Big Short,” according to a federal judge in Manhattan.
In a lawsuit filed in 2011, Wing Chau, a manager of collateralized debt obligations, and his firm Harding Advisory LLC, accused Lewis of including a series of defamatory statements in a chapter revolving around a 2007 dinner in Las Vegas that included Chau and hedge fund manager Steven Eisman.
The book, which spent six weeks atop The New York Times’ list of hardcover nonfiction bestsellers, looks at the housing and credit bubble during the 2000s that lead to the 2007 financial crisis.
Chau also named Eisman and the book’s publisher W.W. Norton & Co as defendants, over what he called “accusations of grave professional misconduct, incompetence, and irresponsibility.”
But U.S. District Judge George Daniels said the statements were “non-actionable expressions of opinion,” not “assertions of fact that may properly serve as a basis for libel claims.”
“A careful review of Chapter 6 of The Big Short indicates that the challenged statements are incapable of being reasonably susceptible to any defamatory meaning,” Daniels wrote in a ruling on Friday.
Moreover, Daniels said “many of the allegedly defamatory statements about the plaintiffs are completely or substantially true.”
“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision and intend to appeal,” said Steven Molo, a lawyer for Chau.
W.W. Norton and a lawyer representing the firm and Lewis did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
David Schulz, a lawyer for Eisman, declined to comment.
The case is Chau et al v. Lewis et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-01333.