Google Reaches Out-of-Court Settlement in Defamation Case

Google has reached an out-of-court settlement in a case regarding defamatory accusations against a former British banker which appeared in search results.


gavelA former Morgan Stanley banker named Daniel Hegglin, requested that Google remove defamatory links about him from their search results. The British businessman has been the victim of defamation for years by unknown users who referred to him as a “pedophile, a murderer and a money-launderer” in postings which appeared on the search engine’s results pages.

Google responded to the request by asking Hegglin to provide a list of the several thousand web links he requested to be removed. Hegglin called the move an “incomplete solution” and sought an order from the High Court of Justice in England and Wales instructing the search engine to remove the abusive material from search results. The case was due to be heard in the last week of November, but was dismissed after Google announced that the two parties had reached a settlement. The details of the settlement have not been disclosed to the public although a Google spokesperson referred to it as “a mutually acceptable agreement”. Hegglin’s London-based legal team refused to comment and the businessman is said to now be living in Hong Kong.

The case has placed Google in the hot seat again after the ruling by the EU Courts earlier this year regarding the “right to be forgotten” of EU citizens, which requires the search engine to honour requests to remove links which are outdated or irrelevant at the request of citizens. Although this was a separate case, the two cases are closely linked and Google has received over 160,000 removal requests since the ruling. Again, the question is posed as to whether requests just create more publicity for events, media and information, which the public may not have known about had they not been filed in the first place.

Hegglin’s legal representative Hugh Tomlinson was quoted telling the court: “The settlement includes significant efforts on Google’s part to remove the abusive material from Google-hosted websites and from its search results.” Therefore, we know that Hegglin’s request was successful but more people may now be aware of the accusations against him as a result of the published request than were previously. Perhaps in the long run people will forget. That may have been the businessman’s intention.