Wells Fargo Employee SLAPP
In 2002, Wells Fargo dismissed an employee. The National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), of which Wells Fargo is a member, requires members to provide a designated form when a registered employee is terminated. Wells Fargo filed the form in November 2002, noting that it terminated the employee for “violation of company policies by misrepresenting information in the sale of annuities, not being properly registered and firm procedures regarding annuity applications.”
In 2003, the employee sued Wells Fargo, for, among other things, defamation and intentional interference with prospective business relations, based upon the statements Wells Fargo made in its required form. Wells Fargo brought a motion to dismiss under California’s anti-SLAPP law, asserting that the form was made before an official proceeding authorized by law, and thus immunized by California law.
The trial court denied Wells Fargo’s motion to dismiss, but the appellate court reversed, agreeing that, because California law immunizes communication to the government, and the form qualified as such a communication, the employee could not show a probability of success on his claims of defamation and interference with business relations. The court dismissed the claims, and Wells Fargo was permitted to recover attorney’s fees incurred in defending against the claim.