Veterans Benefits Group, Inc. Sues Mother Jones Magazine for Defamation

Categories: Media
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The Veterans Benefits Group, Inc. and its president are suing Mother Jones magazine over an article in the July/August 2011 issue, accusing the San Francisco-based magazine of defamation. The group claims the article falsely accuses the organization of elder financial abuse and other "shady" practices.

The article, "War and Fleece: Shady Financial Planners and Insurance Brokers Have Found a Rich Target in America's Aging Vets," describes a trend in which investment planners can take advantage of the elderly -- especially veterans -- by charging high fees for financial services and selling annuities to make well-off veterans look poorer to qualify for pension.

The suit, which was filed Monday, names the article's author, Andy Kroll, and photographer, Lianne Milton. Other defendants include KGO Television and anchor Michael Finney for a segment on the same subject.

In the suit, plaintiffs Charles and John Enea claim that the article calls them fraudulent, dishonest, and intending to "fleece'"elderly veterans. According to the plaintiffs, Mother Jones should have relied on more sources, since the article's main sources "have a legal and financial interest in fabricating claims about plaintiff."

The suit also states that Charles Enea is a registered investment adviser and John Enea, though not named in the article, is president of the Veterans Benefits Group and a licensed insurance broker.

SF Weekly columnist Matt Smith wrote a column on a similar scheme in late July.

As of the time of filing, the suits stated that Mother Jones has not published a correction or retraction.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Gerald W. Filice, told SF Weekly that Mother Jones has not been served with the suit yet, but that the magazine has received suits of this kind before.

"Their style of journalism is the kind that sometimes creates problems," he said.

But we can appreciate the humor of the legalese in this claim: In response to the article referring to the plaintiffs as "vampires," the lawsuit gives this rebuttal: "Plaintiffs are not 'vampires,' in any sense."

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