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Massive Conflict Of Interest in Tobacco Settlement

By Judd Legum on June 8, 2005 at 2:10 pm

"Massive Conflict Of Interest in Tobacco Settlement"

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The Justice Department, without explanation, has reduced its settlement request with the tobacco industry from $130 billion to $10 billion. The LA Times provides some explanation:

A person familiar with the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the change was “forced on the tobacco team by higher-level, politically appointed officials of the Justice Department,” including Associate Atty. Gen. Robert McCallum, who oversees the civil division. McCallum, who issued a statement lauding the “tireless efforts” of the trial team, declined to discuss the matter.

The Washington Post also points to McCallum as the driving force behind the settlement. McCallum has a huge conflict of interest:

Before his appointment in the Justice Department in 2001, McCallum had been a partner at Alston & Bird, an Atlanta-based firm that has done trademark and patent work for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco.

Reps. Henry A. Waxman and Martin T. Meehan have asked Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn Fine to investigate McCallum’s role. An excerpt of their letter to Fine:

The Justice Department’s approach to tobacco litigation should be based on the facts of the case and not political favors to the tobacco industry. It is highly unusual for government prosecutors to abandon evidence-based testimony by their key witnesses [that established the $130B figure] at the last moment in a major trial. It is even more unusual for changes in strategy to be dictated by a political appointee with clear ties to the industry that is the defendant in the case.

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