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Businessman Appeals Libel Suit Against Harvard Business Review

A Jamaican entrepreneur has launched an appeal in a lawsuit he brought against the Harvard Business Review in 2016 that alleged the publication printed libelous information about his career in a case study it published.

A Georgia district court judge dismissed Donovan E. Crawford’s initial suit, arguing his court did not have jurisdiction over the case because the disputed materials were published for use in Canada. The 11th Circuit United States court of appeals will hear the case.

Crawford claims the publication printed slanderous and factually incorrect information about him when it published a case study on Century National Bank. where Crawford was previously employed. A section of the case study claimed that Crawford “exercised strong, direct influence on the policies, management and operations of CNB,” characteristics that the study said “got in the way of professional banking ethics” and contributed to a decline in business for the bank.

“An audit conducted by the [Bank of Jamaica] in 1993 revealed that, in some cases, credit had been granted on the sole instruction of the managing director and with minimal, if any, documentation,” the case study reads. “Additionally, the cash resources were inflated by deposits used to secure loans to the personal companies of the managing director.”

Crawford argues that these descriptions have had a ruinous effect on his reputation and his ability to do business. He is currently retired.

Allan A. Ryan, the director of intellectual property for the Business Review, denied all of Crawford’s claims in an interview on Monday.

“Mr. Donovan Crawford—he claims that there were some statements in that case that injured him, injured his reputation and so forth, and we denied that that was so,” Ryan said. “The statements are actually quite innocuous.”

Crawford’s suit, which along with two other similar suits filed against universities, sought a collective $230 million in damages for what he described in court filings as a malicious “desire to injure” him. Crawford, who represented himself in court, wrote that he was no longer “eligible as a business executive to secure financial support” after the study's publication.

Ryan said it is likely that the appeal process could take several more months. According to him, this case is a “totally unique” suit for the Business Review, which he said does not often field legal challenges.

Crawford could not be reached for comment.

—Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached at brandon.dixon@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon.

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