The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


SSRN Removes Academic Paper Due to Defamation Claim

A paper by Professor Ann Lipton has been deplatformed because Philip R. Shawe does not like how it portrays his actions in a business dispute, and now a law review may refuse to publish the piece.


[Note: Here is an update on this story.]

Professor Ann Lipton, a noted corporate law scholar at Tulane, has a new paper, "Capital Discrimination," discussing gender discrimination in business disputes. When she completed her draft she posted the article on SSRN and submitted it law reviews, as one does, and received an offer of publication from the Houston Law Review. Then the paper attracted some unfavorable attention.

In December, attorneys for Philip R. Shawe sent a cease-and-desist letter to SSRN, demanding that the paper be removed, alleging that the paper's characterization of and commentary on Shawe's conduct in a nasty business dispute were defamatory. SSRN responded by pulling the paper and, as Professor Lipton recounts, the Houston Law Review informed her that it could not assure her that it would publish the article.

Tulane University is supporting Professor Lipton, and its lawyers have sent their own letter to SSRN seeking that the paper be reposted. As the letter notes, sources for all of the relevant factual claims are cited, largely to the relevant legal proceedings, and Professor Lipton's opinions about those facts and their significance constitute constitutionally protected expressions of opinion.

SSRN has not yet responded to this request. Professor Lipton's article, however, is available here, and now includes a brief comment on the above events. Here is hoping the article attracts even wider readership than it would have before.