Fontani v. Wells Fargo Investments, LLC, 129 Cal. App. 4th 719 (2005)

Wells Fargo terminated Marco Fontani, one of its NASDregistered broker-dealers. Following Fontani’s termination, Wells Fargo filed a Form U-5 with the NASD, stating that Fontani had been terminated “for violation of company policies by misrepresenting information in the sale of annuities, not being properly registered and firm procedures regarding annuity applications.” Fontani filed suit against Wells Fargo alleging 10 causes of action, including defamation and interference with prospective business advantage. Wells Fargo demurred to these claims and filed a special motion to strike them based on the anti-SLAPP law, which authorizes dismissal of a claim arising from the exercise of free speech in connection with a public issue. The trial court denied the special motion to strike, but the Court of Appeal reversed, holding that Wells Fargo’s filing of the U-5 constituted a communication before an official proceeding authorized by law and involving a matter of public interest. Cf. Huntingdon Life Sciences, Inc. v. Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA, Inc., 129 Cal. App. 4th 1228 (2005) (animal-testing laboratory’s harassment claims asserted on behalf of its employee against animal-rights protestors were not subject to dismissal under anti-SLAPP statute).