March 6, 2008 / 12:52 AM / 10 years ago

Swiss Bank Julius Baer Drops Wikileaks Lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Swiss bank Julius Baer Holding AG BAER.VX on Wednesday dropped its lawsuit against a whistle-blower Web site after losing a battle to keep the site from posting private account-holder information.

The bank dismissed the lawsuit against the Web site, Wikileaks.org, and Dynadot LLC, the site’s registrar, without explanation in a filing in U.S. district court in San Francisco. It left open the possibility of filing another lawsuit in the same or in a different court.

A Baer spokeswoman said the company had nothing to say beyond the court filing dismissing the case.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White last week reversed his earlier order shutting down Wikileaks.org after Baer and Dynadot entered a settlement agreeing to take it down. White and Baer drew international criticism from free-speech advocates who said the order was an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech.

“A prior restraint should not issue against free speech no matter how serious the plaintiff’s claim of wrongdoing may sound,” Paul Alan Levy, attorney for Public Citizen Litigation Group, said in a statement after Wednesday’s dismissal.

Baer, based in Zurich, had said the documents posted on Wikileaks.org invaded the privacy of account holders and others and made unfounded allegations of wrongdoing against the bank.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil-rights groups argued that Baer should seek other remedies, such as monetary damages after publication of the documents, rather than ban the Web site. The judge agreed.

White last week said from the bench that his earlier order raised “serious questions of prior restraint and possible violations of the First Amendment.”

He also questioned whether the order was enforceable as several so-called mirror sites offering a back door to Wikileaks.org went up in the wake of his earlier ruling.

Editing by Braden Reddall

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