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 PALM SPRINGS, Calif., Nov. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- A jury decided Wednesday, Nov. 10, that an article published two years ago in "California Municipal Bond Advisor," a monthly investment newsletter, did not libel the College Savings Bank of Princeton, N.J.
 At issue was whether Zane B. Mann, publisher of the newsletter, libeled the bank when he published an article in the Oct. 1, 1991, issue that was critical of the advertising and promotional material produced by the bank to sell its "CollegeSure" certificates of deposit product. They jury ruling that the article was not libelous came after a seven-day trial in Los Angles County Superior Court. The libel suit was brought after months of controversy over the merits of tax-exempt college savings bond issued by over 20 states and taxable college savings CDs issued by the bank, and the truthfulness of various advertisements placed by the New Jersey bank.
 Mann testified that his article was based in part on the claims made by the bank in a full page advertisement published in September 1991 in several national magazines. The ad featured a Ghostbuster style logo -- a circle with a slash through the words "Zero Coupon Bond" -- next to the headline "The Wrong Choice for College Savers." The advertisement said federal banking authorities "deem any relatively heavy investment in long-term zero coupon bonds to be an unsafe and unsound investment practice subject to supervisory action."
 The bank further claimed that its CD "is the only savings product guaranteed to pay college costs no matter how high they climb ... Allows you to prepay college costs today at a deep discount to tomorrow's prices ... Requires only a low initialt?ment of $1,000."
 Mann wrote that the ad and the brochures subsequently sent by the bank "were filled with bogus statements about 'guaranteed' yields, blatant misrepresentations about tax liability, complete with misleading graphs and charts using distorted methodology."
 California State Treasurer, Kathleen Brown, who testified on Mann's behalf, said she took exception to the ad. "I do not market unsafe and unsound bonds," she told the jury.
 Brown said the ad made her "very grumpy" and considered it an attack on a pending issue of tax-exempt state zero coupon bonds that were to be sold Sept. 18, 1991.
 Brown wrote to several of the national publications that published the College Savings Bank's advertisement asking the magazine to apply "a stricter truth in advertising standard in the future."
 There after Newsweek, Time, Money, and Fortune refused to publish the bank's ads.
 Judge David A. Workman ruled that the College Savings Bank was a limited public figure because Peter A. Roberts, the bank's chief executive, chose to step into the limelight when he bought the national advertisements lambasting zero coupon bonds. "It was the aggressive advertising of the plaintiff (Roberts) that placed the bank in the eye of public debate." Workman said, "Didn't he thrust himself into this? He lead the attack did he not?"
 In his closing statements to the jury, Richard S.E. Johns, an attorney with Kipperman & Johns, San Francisco, who represented Mann in the case, reminded the panel that truth is not libelous, opinion is protected speech under the First Amendment and opinion not "knowingly false" cannot be defamatory.
 It took the jury less than three hours of deliberation to determine that the defendant, Zane B. Mann had not libeled the College Savings Bank.
 In an after trial statement Mann complained bitterly, "This law suit was a perfect example of blackmail by litigation. Peter Roberts has been widely quoted as saying that his purpose was to shut me up. We have watched him use the bank's money in an effort to prevent criticism of a questionable investment product. Apparently neither the bank nor its lawyers can remember the First Amendment to the Constitution.
 "After 18 months of personal misery and stress, several hundred thousand dollars of legal fees and expenses by both parties, and seven days of court and juror's time, the jury has reminded the participants that freedom of speech and of the press still exists.
 "It is essential for investors' protection that financial writers and financial analysts be free to examine and freely express their opinions of the scams, frauds and schemes of doubtful value that are pushed at the investors every week.
 "The threat of a frivolous lawsuit should not frighten financial critics into writing only puff pieces and press releases prepared or approved by promoters. It is the bank and its lawyers that tried to silence these efforts and to censor me.
 "Suits such as the bank's are called frivolous, a word that connotes something lighthearted and trivial when in fact they are a despicable effort to intimidate, blackmail and stop the valid exercise or the constitutional right of freedom of speech.
 "All financial writers can enjoy a deep breath of freedom as a result of this trial.
 "I have asked Richard Johns, who so skillfully defended me from the libel charge to prepare a malicious prosecution suit against Roberts, his bank, The plaintiff's law firm of Hufstedler, Kaus & Ettinger and Shirley Hufstedler. We will seek recovery of my legal fees related expenses, the medical and hospital expenses connected with my heart attack which the bank's suit caused and the continuing treatment and medications stemming from that event. We will seek damages both actual and punitive in the amount of $16 million."
 -0- 11/12/93
 /CONTACT: Zane B. Mann, 619-320-7997 or Richard John (attorney), 415-781-8494/

CO: ST: California IN: SU:

JB-EH -- SD005 -- 3778 11/12/93 14:54 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Nov 12, 1993

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