WSJ faces defamation lawsuit tied to Tether-Bitfinex article

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The Wall Street Journal reportedly faces a defamation lawsuit for allegations made in an article published in 2023 describing illegal activities involving crypto firms Tether and Bitfinex. 

According to investigative platform OffshoreAlert, Christopher Harborne and his company AML Global Ltd filed a lawsuit in Delaware Superior Court on Feb. 28 against Dow Jones & Company, the Journal’s parent entity.

Harborne is one of the shareholders of the stablecoin issuer Tether, with nearly 13% of the crypto firm. His stake is reportedly the outcome of Bitfinex’s reimbursement plan following a hack in 2016, but he claims to hold no executive positions there.

“This defamation action arises from Defendant Dow Jones & Company, Inc.’s d/b/a The Wall Street Journal (the “Journal”) publication of an article in which it falsely accused Plaintiffs Christopher Harborne (“Mr. Harborne”), and AMLF of committing fraud, laundering money, and financing terrorists — even though the Journal and its reporters knew and possessed documentation that conclusively showed that those accusations are false.”

The article, published in February 2023, claims that companies behind crypto exchange Bitfinex “were struggling to maintain their access to the global banking system” in late 2018. Citing emails and documents, the article says the situation led Bitfinex “backers” to tap “shadowy intermediaries, falsified documents and shell companies to get back in.”

Harborne was described in the article as “a dual British and Thai citizen, businessman, and technology investor with extensive holdings in aviation and cryptocurrency who has lived and worked in Thailand for over two decades.”

The article devoted at least five paragraphs to Harborne and AML Global’s application for a Signature Bank account. However, the content has been removed from the article since Feb. 21, 2024, and an editor’s note has been added.

Editor’s note added to the article on Feb. 21, 2024: Source: The Wall Street Journal

Back in 2023, when the story was published, Tether’s Paolo Ardonio labeled the piece a “clown article” that would only boost the company’s growth.

Tether’s stablecoin USDT (USDT) experienced significant growth in 2023, gaining over $20 billion in market value while its competitors were battling concerns about contagion effects from the U.S. financial system.

The company reported a net profit of $2.85 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023, largely due to passive income from U.S. Treasury securities backing its reserves.

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