December 2, 2021
The Catalyst Capital Group Inc. and Callidus Capital Corporation v. West Face Capital Inc. et al., 2021 ONSC 7957
The ONSC has dismissed Catalyst Capital Group Inc.’s lawsuits against seven parties, including the Wall Street Journal and a rival private equity firm, West Face Capital Inc under s. 137.1.
Several years ago, both Catalyst and West Face had tried to acquire the wireless telecom company Wind Mobile Corp., with West Face becoming the eventual successful bidder.
Catalyst alleged the defendants were involved in conspiratorial and defamatory activities.
In this action, the ONSC was being asked to determine whether certain claims in three proceedings, two brought by Catalyst, and one by West Face in counterclaim, ought to be dismissed based on the provisions of s. 137.1 (anti-SLAPP).
While the ONSC found some legitimate aspects to Catalyst’s claims of defamation, in its final determination it found that public interest trumped those claims and dismissed the two actions brought by them.
“Even if there are some legitimate aspects to both the Defamation and Wolfpack Actions, in light of the Catalyst Parties’ litigation history, as well as their history of executing Project Maple Tree, it is appropriate to infer that the Catalyst Parties’ present claims are underlined by a punitive or retributory purpose that relates to their failure to acquire WIND. In other words, then, rather than seeking vindication for some kind of legitimate rights infringement, the Catalyst Parties’ past conduct – including its extensive history of litigation – suggests that their primary purpose is to silence critics using spiteful tactics if necessary. In my view, the public has little interest in permitting such proceedings to continue.”
However, the ONSC did not dismiss the defamation action brought by West Face, against Catalyst.
“…the public interest weighing exercise favours the West Face parties. The harm suffered by the West Face parties as a result of the Catalyst Parties’ expressions is sufficiently serious that, again, noting the balance of probabilities standard which applies at this stage, the public interest in permitting the Counterclaim to continue outweighs the public interest in protecting the impugned expression.”