In this chapter on the Predatorts, we have seen how the Plaintiff Playbook has been used by unscrupulous law firms to create public fear, uncertainty and outrage. From ExxonMobil and Chevron to Bayer and J&J, from Syngenta to Dow Corning, these toxic tort lawyers think nothing of extorting companies, lying and covering up their fraudulent behaviour through audacious tricks and campaigns. This chapter has shown how they habitually pay off journalists, scientists, NGOs and influencers to manipulate public perception, get doctors, judges and lawmakers to operate outside of normal codes of good conduct while all of this is hidden from the transparency and disclosure practices demanded from others.
With new lucrative litigation finance tools at their disposal, these Predatorts are now investing far more in undermining public trust and generating jury-ready outrage on an international scale. Without disclosure, these sharks have an ocean of opportunity (but they leave behind a trail of bodies – the brutal consequences of unseen causes). This is the “slime” in “SlimeGate”.
But many might argue:
“So what! Mr Monger. There might be a few bad apples who cross the line, but generally the tort industry works to prevent corporate exploitation and dishonesty, protecting citizens and, in times of tragedy, compensating their loved ones.”
I wish that were so, but the lies and non-transparent games tolerated in the Plaintiff Playbook are more than simply the exuberance of a few. The entire system, from the judicial hellholes to the litigation finance secrecy, is a corrupt breeding ground for greed and mendacity.
And the results are pure hypocrisy. Rather than protecting the victims, the carnage of greed and lies leaves behind further suffering and cynicism, public fear and outrage, not to mention a culture of corruption.
This last section of Chapter 2 will examine some of the victims sucked into the cesspool of slime created by these opportunists: judges are corrupted, plaintiffs exploited, consumers are left to pay for the Predatort profits, the policy process is twisted by non-societal interests, life-science companies are no longer investing in cancer research and activists’ integrity is being compromised by their greed and temptation. I’ll close with a question: How is it that these Predatorts are considered in heroic lights?
Cultivating Corruption: Judicial Hellholes
Anyone who wants to argue that Predatorts are concerned only about justice and defending the rights of the true victims has never visited a “judicial hellhole”. In the US, judges in many states are elected to the bench and a judge needs to be aware of the ongoing public narratives that could sway voting populations. Most American voters don’t follow the day-to-day judicial activities, so it is often the well-connected pressure groups and activist campaigners who can make or break a judge. Defending corporate negligence is certainly not a vote winner but some judges, in certain electoral districts, have developed a reputation for bringing the heavy hand of the law down on companies (serving justice serves the judge).
A sly Predatort would do well to be “friendly” with these judges and then find a means to have a case tried in these districts known as judicial hellholes where corporate defendants, even with the best science, don’t stand a chance against a “hanging judge”. In the Corrupt State of Illinois, trial lawyers contributed over $35 million to judges running for election between 2000 and 2015. When judges from these areas retire, they can often land nice little six-figure consulting jobs at trusts managed by these very same Predatorts.
Certain judicial areas like Madison and Cook Counties in Illinois (where Tillery filed against Syngenta) or Saint Louis (where J&J struggled in a state that allowed “speculative science” to be entered as evidence) seem to have an extraordinary number of personal damage cases heard, most coming from out of state. Madison County hosts more than half of the asbestos cases in the US and in “2013-14, 98% of asbestos lawsuits filed in Madison County were by plaintiffs who don’t even live there.”
There have been many attempts to reform the tort system and cleaning up the hellholes has been a focus (ie, restricting damage amounts and limiting out-of-state cases) but the Predatorts always seem to find a way around it. Tort reform has been in the cards since the 1990s when the cost of litigation insurance started to have serious effects on the quality of American healthcare. Reforming this twisted system seems like a no-brainer and everyone (except perhaps the Predatorts) should welcome this.
Well … No! … Tort reform has been opposed by NGOs and consumer groups like the Center for Media and Democracy. As we saw with Tillery’s extortion of Syngenta, it is no surprise who these activists are really working for.
This is insane.
Plundering the Plaintiff
I rarely find testimonies from plaintiffs (the original victims) saying how well their tort law firm treated them. Victims contact these lawyers when they feel they have suffered – they are vulnerable. After five to ten years of a painful process, they rarely feel less of a victim. As we saw with the silicone breast implant case study, a large number of victims went on to sue their own lawyer, John O’Quinn, who had screwed them out of over $41 million from their settlements. O’Quinn died in a car crash while appealing the court decision to reimburse the victims he was supposed to represent. Tillery gave each plaintiff a paltry $5000 from the Syngenta settlement (while he pocketed $37 million). In the Chevron case, the Amazonian indigenous tribes supposedly represented by Steven Donziger have yet to receive anything from the initial money allocated, while $1.5 million has ended up in Donziger’s personal accounts.
The plaintiffs too often become exploited in a cynical game where opportunists feign sympathy while prolonging their suffering on a public stage through an endless appeal process. Sometimes only after a decade do victims learn how little of what they were promised, if any, they will receive … while everyone else got paid, reaped litigation finance account dividends, bonuses and flew on private jets.
When all of the white men in expensive suits stood proudly around the cancer victim, Dewayne Johnson, claiming a great moral victory against Monsanto and glyphosate, did anyone tell Dewayne how much they had already got paid? From the millions he has already received in fees, how much did lead lawyer for the plaintiff, Brent Wisner, donate to Dewayne’s kids (the ones he so tactfully exploited in the media)? What about the half million Chris Portier will have earned from his years of lobbying and lying … will that all go to his retirement fund in the Swiss alps or will the good doctor share a few bob with Dewayne? How much did SumOfUs donate from their unethical fundraising campaign to allegedly “help out” with Dewayne’s legal defence? Everyone got paid … except the victim.
As James Carville once said: “Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” These Predatorts are good at finding and using other opportunists literally bringing out the worst in society. The American tort system has created a network of usury and exploitation – everyone, from the financial investors to the NGOs, from the judges to the media, from the expert consultants to the ad and marketing executives (even aging British rock stars), seems to be on the take; no one is concerned who is actually paying for this public robbery in plain sight.
Conning the consumer
“But Mr Monger, once again, you are missing the point. The American tort justice system is designed to protect the individual or the environment from greedy corporations who are bleeding society dry and ripping off the consumer.”
Really now! Do you actually think that Monsanto or Chevron are paying these settlements out of their company accounts? Most companies will have some form of litigation insurance and the risk will be spread globally via the reinsurance industry. So let’s assume, from a back of an envelope calculation, that the now 9300 lawsuits against Monsanto (it was 7800 when SlimeGate started) will lead to $10 billion in payouts over the next decade (assuming juries can continue to be emotionally tricked). As litigation claims will increase, this will be passed on across all insurance premiums in the food production chain and then to the consumer either through increased costs on the shelf or via higher taxes (to cover the wider use of subsidies compensating for failed crops). Couple that with the added costs to consumers from escalating food prices as the Predatort Plaintiff Playbook results in fear-driven regulatory restrictions (with agritech bans increasing food production costs while reducing yields), and we can begin to understand how much these lawyers, with their NGOs and the organic food industry lobby, are truly able to screw the world.
Rather than protecting consumers, the costs for the many go up for the benefit of these few opportunistic Predatorts. Healthcare is more expensive in the US than anywhere else in the West, in part due to the outrageous costs of litigation insurance premiums everyone from GPs to drug-makers to hospitals pay into. A director from the reinsurance industry whom I had interviewed for SlimeGate admits, with the present path of litigation against food and agriculture-related companies, that Americans can expect in future to pay much more at the grocer check-out for lower quality food once the litigation insurance premiums adjust to the present toxic tort strategy.
Watching the activist community and cult gurus celebrating a settlement against Monsanto is pure arrogance of ignorance exemplified. Consumers will pay more for food and get less in future, but the gurus and zealots will do just fine. Ten years from now, these hypocritical bastards will blame farmers and the food industry for failing to deliver basic, healthy food at affordable prices. And they’ll be right … for all the wrong reasons.
The Perversion of Policy
Where Predatorts and activist NGOs find the most common ground is in the opportunities to exploit a wider use of the precautionary principle and the hazard-based approach to regulation.
Any good opportunist in the tort industry will know that regulatory change helps establish a perception of guilt. If you can turn a scientific paper into a regulatory ban, or at least a question of precaution, then juries will be open to higher settlements. In the early 90s, when the FDA suspended the approval of silicone breast implants for non-reconstructive uses, there was no longer a need to discuss the scientific facts countering the health-risk allegations. If the State of California considers glyphosate a carcinogen, then there is no need to pay all of those expensive scientific tort-torts to try to fluff the 2000+ scientific studies denying any risk.
So the Predatort strategy includes a significant lobbying budget to create regulatory uncertainty, moves toward a stronger role for the precautionary principle and a hazard-based approach to policy-making. While this surely helps their bottom line (hazards work more easily with juries than having to prove exposure), increases public fear and opens up new avenues of opportunity, it undermines any culture of innovation and progress.
But why are these American lawyers involved in American lawsuits against American companies spending so much time and money lobbying in Brussels? I have called them “carpetbaggers” taking advantage of the regulatory weak-spots afforded to them by the ill-conceived precautionary principle and hazard-based approach to policy. A quick EU ban on glyphosate can be converted to further jury obfuscation. Until Brussels addresses how NGOs have captured the EU governance model, such scum will continue to bubble up along the banks of the Maalbeek and EU policymakers will be dancing to tunes set by American Predatorts.
These groups are now working to destroy the European risk assessment model … and for what? So a small group of activists and lawyers can sue Monsanto (now Bayer) to smithereens and eventually ban GMOs and most agritech? It sounds absurd until you realise what a band of greedy opportunists and activist zealots can do with a billion dollars and a weak EU leadership structure.
Sucking the Life out of Life Sciences
Consumers will also suffer from the loss of innovative technologies and better quality of life. Bankruptcy is often a Predatort consequence. See how Brent Wisner, the wet-behind-the-ears lead lawyer in the first glyphosate trial, smugly gloated on a video with an extreme anti-science activist, Jeffrey Smith, that he is only 34 and he will keep bringing lawsuits “until Monsanto cries ‘Uncle'” … Sweet!
Many companies are struggling under the heavy litigation costs (what the Plaintiff Playbook had always intended) and are forced to cut back in funding projects and societal initiatives. Rather than ensuring responsible corporate behaviour, many great research investments are now compromised. It is a tragedy to consider how two of the leading companies investing billions into finding cures for different forms of cancer, Bayer and J&J, are being fleeced by large law firms with the help of scientific tort-torts tied to IARC (supposedly an agency that should be committed to fighting cancer). Research and innovation will be valued less in a post-science world and as resources shift toward product defence, shareholders will demand budget tightening. It makes one wonder who really cares about fighting cancer.
IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, is far from being a proactive player in the fight for the cure. Chapter 5 of SlimeGate will show how IARC is complicit in this Predatort strategy. This nominally WHO-based agency has sheltered anti-industry activists and aging flower children for much of the last decade since they set in place a policy of excluding engagement with the industry-funded cancer research community. Rather than working with industry to develop the new, innovative technologies to fight cancer, IARC is systematically bent on throwing industry under the bus. Of the 2000 researchers, for example, invited to celebrate IARC’s 50th anniversary congress, not one cancer researcher from industry was invited. Not a single one! If any researcher or academic is working with industry, they are excluded from participating as members of IARC monograph panels (regardless their level of esteem and recognition in the research world).
IARC’s wilful role in the Plaintiff Playbook only furthers the castration of industry, leaving the consumer with less innovative technologies, higher costs and poor quality products. In this context, what benefit does IARC present in the global fight for the cure?
Ripping the Soul out of Activist Integrity
What disturbs me most about the abuse of the Plaintiff Playbook is how the activist snakes doing the dirty work, like USRTK’s Carey Gillam and Corporate Europe Observatory’s Martin Pigeon, know all about how this corrupt process works, and yet they still benefit from it and defend it. These individuals are paid by their organisations to demand greater transparency and honesty. It must just rip their souls to shreds having to jump into the slimepit, be non-transparent and be forced to collaborate with these wicked, lying Predatorts. Everything these activists stood for (fairness, transparency, justice) has vaporised as they pay service to the slime and then watch as the Predatorts load their suitcases with other people’s money … and then they claim to be fighting for rights of the people and transparency.
This chapter has shown how Predatorts behave in an absolutely despicable manner, including how they:
- ghost-write articles in major media outlets
- pay off journalists, activists and popular public figures to influence the public against their defendants
- misuse or cover-up clear scientific data
- threaten and extort industries
- move money around their non-transparent financial tools, using them to corrupt judges and politicians.
SlimeGate makes the little titbits of misbehaviour or ill-chosen vocabulary in the thousands of emails published in the Monsanto Papers look like the bloody boy scouts.
Knowing all of the slime, greed and deceit in the toxic tort industry, how can Carey Gillam and Martin Pigeon stand up and defend this? How can they continue to attack industry, alleging and accusing companies of transgressions no where near as vile and slimy as the actions of the Predatorts with whom they have willingly crawled under the sheets? How can they stand up in the European Parliament and call for policy changes that will screw consumers, increase the scope and influence of these law firms and make life very difficult for farmers and the agricultural value chain? How can Carey and Martin do all of this? … with hypocrisy in their hearts!
At least the money is good … and the organic food industry lobby takes good care of its own. But they too will someday have their comeuppance!
The sweet honey of hypocrisy drips from each word they utter. Take for example how Corporate Europe Observatory’s Martin Pigeon defends his indefensible behaviour.
“The weak point in Dr Portier’s argumentation, however, … is that the knowledge created in the context of his analysis for the law firm belongs to him and can therefore be transferred to his other areas of work, including his presentations to regulators. Besides, being paid for this work creates a measurable bias. This is why, for instance, Corporate Europe Observatory has been recommending for a long time to the European Food Safety Authority to exclude scientists with consulting contracts with the food industry from its panels.
However, since he is not part of a public regulatory body nor applying to one, Dr Portier is not in a conflict of interests situation: he simply has acquired, with this contract, a financial interest in relation to glyphosate. Whether the US legal system, with law firms suing companies on behalf of victims as a business model, is a good one is an interesting debate, but a separate one.”
Wow, that is the voice of a haunted man full of squirming “howevers” and “besides”. Chris didn’t have a conflict of interest … he just got a lot of money from those with an interest. Oh, and CEO has always stood against scientists with consulting contracts getting involved with agencies, and while Chris, as a non-disclosed consultant, was fighting to defend an agency, he wasn’t actually part of the agency, so, nudge-nudge, that’s OK. Martin probably had things he believed in when he first started to work for the NGO … but that was surely a long time ago.
The hypocrisy gets worse. When Corporate Europe Observatory obtained the full file with all of EFSA’s glyphosate documents, they then got a “citizen scientist”, Chris Portier, to research the thousands of pages of data, question EFSA’s legitimacy and write a “victory letter” to Commission President Juncker. Portier admitted in an letter to Matt Ridley from the Times that the bulk of his $160,000 time-sheet to the Predatort law firms was for this “reassessment” work CEO delivered to him. Since Pigeon once claimed in a twitter swarm on me that nobody does anything without getting paid (quite sad that people actually think like that), I’m sure they must have discussed payment for Portier’s significant work package. Somehow though, Pigeon, in a press release on Portier’s findings, neglected to disclose that it was US toxic tort law firms who had paid for CEO’s work.
Corporate Europe Observatory does not seem to understand how they also have to be transparent but I understand why they wouldn’t want to admit how much they associate with slime – Martin knows full well how slime pays his rent (but he declined to comment for this article).
While I have always considered the Pigeon to be Brussels’ boldest hypocrite (a 9-to-5 activist fabricating carcinogenic fear like glyphosate or, gulp, acrylamide … except when he’s on a cigarette break), watching Martin defend someone he has admitted is a non-transparent liar lining his pockets from the profits of these Predatorts has been something of a Wile-E-Coyote moment. I keep waiting for that puff of smoke to emerge indicating Martin Pigeon’s conscience has finally hit bottom, but he always seems to be able to absorb more for his hypocrisy-for-hire business: Corporate Europe Observatory. Knowing about his dreadful behaviour, who on earth would still donate to this soulless cesspool?
The Hypocrisy of Hate
This hypocrisy of hate is an interesting phenomenon in our current anti-industry, technophobic, post-science narrative. There are countless examples of reactive decisions made that were based, not on reason or logic, but on the demand for vengeance. This is affecting how regulators can conduct the business of governing.
- When we see French government officials accepting higher costs, risks to public safety and infrastructure and lower quality service (all things public servants should try to avoid at all costs) just so a barely toxic herbicide can be banned within the next three years (with admittedly no reasonable alternative);
- when we see German ministers agree to ban nuclear energy and knowingly sacrifice the well-being of a large percentage of its (poorer) population;
- when we see local city administrations banning diesel-powered cars because one company cheated to comply with overly-strict regulations in one absurdly ecological American state;
… when we see such behaviour, we are witnessing decisions made on the basis of moral outrage and not reason, data, logic or science. We cannot shut down Monsanto (it no longer exists), so for our collective outrage over the Monsanto Papers, we need to ban glyphosate (and maybe rewrite the entire EU risk assessment process). Farmers and consumers don’t matter if we are morally scorned! We cannot shut down Volkswagen so we need to express our outrage by forcefully abandoning the more efficient diesel power-train technology. Pure stupidity justified by outrage.
The science supporting glyphosate is sound so the attack strategy of the Predatorts and the organic food industry lobby is to show how Monsanto did not play fairly. Dr Goldstein did not return Mr Johnson’s call, so that must be worth, what, $250 million? This is part of the tobacconisation tactic from the Plaintiff Playbook emanating out of the La Jolla legal strategy workshop. The death-blow to the tobacco industry was the second-hand smoke allegations. No credible scientist would be able to legitimise those studies, but the logic was simple: Big Tobacco misbehaved in other areas – they lost the right to market. Those studies didn’t have to be taken seriously. ExxonMobil will never regain credibility three decades after the Exxon Valdez accident (which technically they were not responsible for) – the only point missing until now was the means to extract a full final vengeance (cue the Predatorts). The moral stink of 1980s Union Carbide still festers under Dow’s skin and is now infecting Dupont. The banking industry following the 2008 financial crisis has yet to come to terms with its lost public trust and credibility – many financial institutions are listing in turbulent waters and can only be propped up by 0% interest rates for so long.
It’s never been about evidence or science. Public outrage is incessant, ruthless and aggressive. Policymakers would be loath to ignore that simply because of some facts or benefits to society.
Peter Sandman’s excellent work on the role of outrage in risk management is often overlooked today. Applying it to social media driven communities demonstrates the speed and virility of individuals taking action to express outrage and moral indignation towards commonly shared “entities of evil”. In a future blog, I will try to show the link between the precautionary principle and virtue signalling. A community that feels violated can take many paths to seek moral vengeance, none of them being rational or scientific. And as such citadels of rage are able to house all forms of hypocrisy, the Predatorts come in to “save the day”.
It seems that this logic of outrage is only selectively delivered. We will tolerate slimy behaviour from Predatorts so long as they are delivering vengeance on the companies we hate. NGO activists fully support lobbying from the organic food industry even though that lobby is evidently devoid of any moral codes of conduct and celebrates lying and cherry-picking of data as a business growth model. With massive investment in PR and public affairs from the wind lobby, we want to believe we can power up industrial parks with wind turbines even if no expert would ever dare admit the obvious.
Emotional outrage has no logic or rationality – it has drivers and stories.
It’s to the story-tellers that this exposé now turns. Part 3 of SlimeGate will look more closely at the scientific tort-torts, how they are connected to law firms to play an essential role in the Plaintiff Playbook and create stories to fuel the technophobic outrage.