The trial court erred in granting defendant’s Anti-SLAPP motion to strike this defamation action.  Defendant was a competitor of plaintiff in selling life insurance and wealth management services to Chinese and Chinese-American clients.  Plaintiff alleged that defendant had falsely told insurance agents and one client that plaintiff was dishonest and unethical in her business practices and falsified insurance documents.  Before assessing whether these statements were protected speech under 425.16(e), the trial court should have considered whether the statements were exempt from 425.16 by reason of 425.17(c)’s exception for statements about a competitor’s goods or services made to a potential customer or someone likely to relay the statements to a potential customer.  Here, defendant’s statements fell squarely within section 425.17(c)’s exception.  Furthermore, even without the exception they weren’t protected speech as the statements were made in one-on-one conversations with plaintiff’s sales agents and one business client.  The contextual clues show that the statements were not made about consumer protection or any other issue of public concern but instead were statements made in private settings and for the purpose of increasing the sales of the speaker, who was not a neutral or disinterested “third party” ostensibly seeking to aid and protect consumers, but a direct competitor with a profit motive.  Hence, the statements were not protected speech under 426.15(e)(4)