FOR THE RECORD
NRA’s Legal Position Against Ackerman McQueen Gets Lift as Several of the Agency’s Claims are Dismissed
August 17, 2021 – The National Rifle Association of America (“NRA”) today announced significant developments in its legal dispute with former vendor Ackerman McQueen (“AMc”).
In an opinion, dated August 16, 2021, U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish, granted the NRA’s Motion to Dismiss several significant claims brought forward by AMc – namely, Business Disparagement and Tortious Interference. In addition, the court significantly cut down AMc’s fraud claim against the NRA. The court’s ruling dramatically impairs AMc’s case and postures the Association favorably for trial.
On the critical issue of whether the NRA disparaged AMc by virtue of a communication from EVP & CEO Wayne LaPierre to the NRA Board of Directors, dated April 25, 2019, the court agreed with the NRA: that claim fails for multiple reasons. AMc failed to demonstrate how such a communication harmed the agency’s commercial interests, and it failed to adequately plead special damages. Separately, with respect to the tortious interference claim, the judge found that the claim is “barred by the economic loss rule.”
With respect to AMc’s fraud claim, two out of three clusters of allegations alleged to give rise to fraud were deemed defective as a matter of law; the claim survives solely on the basis of alleged “fraud” surrounding the involvement of an individual (a former BAC professional at the time) in an audit performed by an outside party. The court notes that the briefing did not address whether “AMc was already contractually obligated to release the documents irrespective of whether BAC [Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors] was involved in the audit and, if so, whether such an obligation defeats AMc’s claim.” The NRA believes it will prevail at trial on this issue as a matter of law.
The NRA said it believed the developments “validate the view of NRA leadership: many of Ackerman’s claims totally lack merit.” The NRA added, “The Association is eager to proceed to trial – to hold this former vendor accountable, expose its failing public narrative, and protect the interests of NRA members.”
The court treated as facially without merit conspiracy allegations premised on counsel (specifically including the NRA General Counsel and Secretary John Frazer and BAC) acting as co-conspirators. Even when counsel allegedly act with “mixed motives” (presumed true for purposes of a Motion to Dismiss), they act within the scope of their agency, consistent with the role of the zealous advocate.
In another significant development, Judge Fish notes that AMc “provides no detail whatsoever” to support its assertion that BAC coordinated negative Wall Street Journal reporting that followed Mr. LaPierre’s letter to the NRA Board of Directors advising of alleged actions against the Association. The NRA has alleged that inappropriate demands were placed upon Mr. LaPierre and the Association by former NRA President Lt. Col. Oliver North, in coordination with AMc, during April 2019 board proceedings in Indianapolis.