STAGGERING sums have been paid out in a breach of privacy claim, and a defamation claim, along with legal fees over the Margie Thomson book Whaleoil – and the bill is set to rise even further with another lawsuit still unresolved.
Today we can start to reveal some of the true costs of the book critics claimed was ‘a remarkable piece of investigation journalism’ – and how Margie Thomson appears to have walked away from the carnage without coughing up a cent.
Since the book was published three years ago there have been three lawsuits – one, a claim for breach of privacy and two subsequent defamation claims, one of which, we understand, was settled for a sizeable amount.
Both settlements are subject to confidentiality clauses, but it is understood the first claim filed by Amanda Easterbrook was settled with a payment for breaching her privacy.
Easterbrook had sued the publishers Potton & Burton, and author Margie Thomson, and the matter was settled ahead of any sort of court trial.
In 2021 Auckland car wholesaler Marc Spring also filed suit against Margie Thomson and the publishers, with his claim being settled about four months ago after a prolonged legal battle with the lawyers representing the publishers, Potton & Burton, and author Margie Thomson.
Spring said he was unable to say what his defamation claim was settled for, but it is understood to be for a substantial amount.
And that is just the half of it, with legal fees from Wynn Williams and the insurers Kings Counsel of choice, Bruce Gray KC, believed to be well into the six figures – again, like the two settlements to date, paid for by Potton & Burton’s insurers.
Now we can reveal there is a third defamation claim before the courts which again is likely to prove costly for Potton & Burton’s poor insurers – but more on that in another story later.
In the world of book publishing, Nelson-based Potton & Burton are small players specialising in non fiction nature books and books about New Zealand.
They also happen to be the publishers of Nicky Hager’s work – titles like Dirty Politics, The Hollow Men and Hit and Run. Which is how they became involved with Margie Thomson, with the book being described in some media circles as a ‘$500,000-plus train wreck’, with Nicky Hagar being quoted on the front cover of the Whaleoil book.
While Margie Thomson may have been forced to suffer the ignominy of having her work discredited in defamation proceedings she has been lucky her words have not come with a bigger price tag.
Had she not been protected by indemnity insurance, she could well have been forced out of her home to cover the legal bills and payouts which keep coming.
Marc Spring said “Thomson had been very fortunate with the insurers forced to carry the full burden of the mess she had created”
”The insurers can’t be happy. Nor Potton & Burton, who have been shackled with some of the cost of Margie’s rather expensive and unfortunate foray into the world of investigative journalism,” Spring said.
“She’ll have no friends there now surely? I doubt they’d even trust her with a book about rare and exotic New Zealand birds”.
“But all things said, she should be relieved. Her investigative journalism days may be over, but she hasn’t lost everything. Many of us, myself included, are still counting the cost.”
We approached Margie Thomson for comment but she referred our questions to her legal team at Wynn Williams who responded that Margie Thomson would not be commenting on the questions and issues raised. We will of course keep trying as we dissect the book page by page over the coming weeks and months.
We also reached out to Potton & Burton for comment about what damage the Whaleoil book had caused their brand, and whether they would consider any future works from Margie Thomson.
They did not respond to our emailed questions either.
AN OPEN INVITATION TO MARGIE THOMSON
Good journalism requires above all else fairness and balance. Giving both sides of the story even when you don’t agree with what one side might be saying.
We don’t agree with anything that Margie Thomson has been saying but she still deserves the right to be heard.
With that in mind we would like to extend an open invitation to Margie to sit down with us for a one-on-one interview to answer our questions, which there are many.
We give Margie this assurance. You will be treated fairly and with respect but the questions will be tough.
This might also be a chance to say sorry to those people whose reputations have been damaged by your words.
We think it is time to make amends… Don’t you?