Paramount Prevails in “Wolf of Wall Street” Defamation Suit

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In February 2014, Andrew Greene sued Paramount Pictures arguing that he was defamed in the blockbuster film, “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Greene’s four-year battle is now over after a New York federal judge dismissed his lawsuit on summary judgment.

Greene, former head of corporate finance at Jordan Belfort’s Stratton Oakmont, Inc., claimed that both his professional and personal reputation were damaged by the film’s portrayal of him via character, Nicky “Rugrat” Koskoff. In his complaint, Greene alleged that Kaskoff depicted him engaging in or condoning criminal activity, drug use, sexual relations with prostitutes and other dubious behavior, which Greene denied. Koskoff is also mocked for wearing a toupee, one that viewers purportedly understood to be a depiction of Plaintiff’s hairpiece, according to the complaint. In the film, Koskoff is nicknamed “Rugrat” –Greene was known as “Wigman” by his real-life coworkers, according to evidence in the record. Greene sought over $25 million in damages.

But ultimately, Greene was unsuccessful in meeting the difficult standard for defamation. To succeed on a defamation claim as a public figure, as in the case here, Greene had to prove that defendants acted with “actual malice” – that is, knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for truth. In dismissing the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert found that “Plaintiff cannot carry his burden of demonstrating actual malice with clear and convincing evidence, and his libel claim fails.” Some of the key evidence supporting Judge Seybert’s decision included (1) the fact that Kaskoff is a composite of three people and has a different name, nickname, employment history, personal history, and criminal history than Plaintiff; (2) the movie’s closing credits include a disclaimer explaining that certain characters were fictionalized; and (3) evidence of each defendant’s subjective understanding that no real person was portrayed.  According to Law360, lawyers for Greene hinted at a possible appeal, but for now, the wolf wins.

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