Resolution Statement: Complaint 01282-16 Bonhams 1793 Ltd v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      26th May 2016

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement: Complaint 01282-16 Bonhams 1793 Ltd v Mail Online

Summary of complaint

1. Bonhams 1793 Ltd complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Billionaire Victoria’s Secret founder given green light to sue auction house who sold him ‘stolen’ £11m rare Ferrari”, published on 10 November 2015.

2.  The article reported that Les Wexner had claimed that Bonhams had sold him a rare Ferrari without informing him that its ownership was in dispute. It said that a preliminary hearing to establish who had owned the car had given him the “green light” to sue the auction house. 

3. The complainant said that the preliminary hearing had not given Mr Wexner the “green light” to sue Bonhams. The judge had in fact ruled that the car was owned by the seller of the car at the auction, and the one who Bonhams had always maintained was the owner. As such, the judgment had made Mr Wexner’s legal action against the auction house more difficult. 

4. The publication said that Mr Wexner’s legal action against Bonhams could not proceed until the preliminary hearing had concluded. It was therefore accurate to state that the outcome had given him the “green light” to sue the auction house; this simply meant that Mr Wexner’s case could continue to trial. 

Relevant Code provisions

5.  Clause 1 Accuracy 

i. The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures. 

ii.  A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.  

Mediated outcome

6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

7. While the publication did not accept that the article was misleading, to resolve the complaint, it offered to make various amendments to the article and to append the following footnote: 

An earlier version of this article said that the judge’s ruling gave Mr Wexner a “green light”. That phrase was used to explain that Mr Wexner’s case was delayed whilst the judge made his ruling and how he had done so, Mr Wexner could proceed with his case, which he did. We are happy to clarify that the judge did not comment positively on Mr Wexner’s case. Mr Wexner’s legal action has now been settled, with Mr Wexner retaining the car and Bonhams making a contribution to his legal costs. 

8. The complainant said that the amendments would resolve the matter.

9. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code. 

Date complaint received: 24/02/2016 

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 09/05/2016