A federal appeals court has overturned the $10 million libel judgment that Florida banker Alan B. Levan won against the ABC television network in 1996.
Mr. Levan, chairman of BankAtlantic Corp. in Fort Lauderdale, was the subject of an investigative report on the network's "20/20" news magazine in 1991. The report, titled "Too Good to Be True," accused Mr. Levan of misleading investors who bought real estate-backed securities from him.
The thrift chairman eventually settled a class action over those securities but never admitted wrongdoing. In his suit against the network, he accused ABC of implying that he intentionally deceived investors, a charge he denies. The 1996 jury agreed with him.
But a three-judge panel from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned the decision last week, saying ABC and its producer had no reason to believe the story was false at the time they reported it. For that reason, the judges said, it is impossible to show that the network acted with malice.
Mr. Levan's lawyer disagreed and vowed to fight on. He said he may request a rehearing or appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.