BPI Technology, Inc., Beef Products, Inc., and Freezing Machines, Inc. (collectively, "BPI") filed a suit against the American Broadcast Companies, Inc., ABC News, Inc., three ABC News reporters, and others for intentionally publishing disparaging statements regarding BPI and its product, lean finely textured beef.
BPI alleges that ABC and others launched a concerted disinformation campaign against the companies, which had a significant adverse effect on BPI's reputation, as well as a significant negative financial impact on the companies.
"For more than 30 years, our family has built and operated companies that are committed to providing consumers with wholesome, safe and nutritious lean beef. We've created thousands of good jobs for Americans and our lean finely textured beef has made the leaner ground beef that consumers desire more affordable," said Eldon Roth, founder and CEO of BPI. "The blatantly false and disparaging statements made about our lean beef have done more than hurt my family and our companies; they have jeopardized the future of our employees and their families."
In their complaint, filed Thursday in Circuit Court in Union County, South Dakota, BPI alleges that ABC and the individuals named in the suit knowingly made false, defamatory and disparaging statements regarding BPI and LFTB during a disinformation campaign this spring. BPI says these statements were made even after ABC was provided factual information about LFTB, including conclusions from USDA, FDA, food safety organizations and numerous beef industry experts.
In comments regarding the suit, ABC Senior Vice President Jeffrey Schneider said the lawsuit was "without merit" and would be contested.
As a result of the disinformation campaign, BPI sales declined from approximately five million pounds of LFTB per week to less than two million pounds per week, three BPI facilities closed and more than 700 employees lost their jobs, BPI reports.
"Through nearly 200 false, misleading and defamatory statements, repeated continuously during a month-long disinformation campaign, ABC and other individuals knowingly misled consumers into believing that LFTB was not beef and not safe for public consumption, which is completely false," said Dan Webb, Chairman, Winston & Strawn LLP. "BPI has filed suit because their business has been severely damaged by this conduct. As a result, we will be asking a jury to award BPI more than $1 billion in compensatory and statutory damages, plus punitive damages." BPI seeks to recover damages for defamation, product and food disparagement, and tortious interference with business relationships.