Fun fact. James Comey was, for a short time, a corporate lawyer. He quit after having a crisis of conscience defending an asbestos company against claims brought by injured workers. As New York Magazine wrote:
Comey worked as a corporate lawyer at the McGuire Woods firm, but for what turned out to be a short run. He quit his lucrative partnership after defending a company against claims that its machinery caused asbestos injuries. Comey won the case, but it rattled his conscience. When he was offered an assistant U.S. Attorney’s job by Helen Fahey, a Clinton appointee for the Eastern District of Virginia, he jumped at a chance to go back to a civil-service salary and wear the prosecutor’s white hat.
As a criminal prosecutor, I just wish he’d turned his attention back to asbestos:
Millions of pages of chemical industry documents are now available on-line courtesy of three public health historians. It’s a treasure trove of information on the efforts by the asbestos, lead, and chemical industries to protect their economic interests at the expense of workers’ and communities’ health.
[For example, there's] a 1979 document prepared by the Asbestos Information Association of North America (AIA/NA) and their demand that OSHA retract a news release. The trade group objected to OSHA’s estimates of the health risks faced by asbestos-exposed workers. In a March 1979 letter to OSHA chief Eula Bingham, AIA/NA wrote:
“[we] must protest in the strongest terms possible such irresponsible and misleading statements.”
Ironically by 1979, the massive 50-year coverup of asbestos disease by the asbestos and insurance industries was about to completely unravel, thanks to “painstaking litigation brought by trial lawyers.” As the Center for Justice & Democracy wrote:
In the early 1900s, these industries began a deliberate campaign to suppress knowledge about asbestos hazards and asbestos disease. Elements of this cover-up included – and still include – concealing insurance and asbestos industry practices, settlements and research, as well as advocating for laws to provide litigation shields and devices to cheat victims. In the 20th century, this cover-up was primarily to keep information from sick and dying workers who might have claims.
In 1933, asbestos industry leader Johns-Manville settled 11 asbestosis cases with a demand that the employees’ attorney not sue the company again. The cover-up continued, which, among other things, led to the poisoning of millions of unsuspecting people including over four million World War II shipyard workers. Indeed, in the 1940s and 1950s, the asbestos industry had evidence that 20 percent of its workforce had developed asbestos disease but it became corporate policy not to tell sick workers the nature of their health problems.…
You might ask, “what’s the crime?” That would be manslaughter. Johns-Manville sure thought so. According to a 1988 document, its one-time Chief of Litigation told another employee to “hire his own lawyer after the document came to light because it was the opinion of the Chief of Litigation that the employee could be indicted for manslaughter.” Those documents (dating back to 1934) showed “evidence of a corporate conspiracy to prevent asbestos workers from learning that their exposure to asbestos could kill them.”
Of course, nowadays don’t expect much from this Administration. It just fined Wells Fargo for massively defrauding consumers, “less than a third of what Wells Fargo is expected to make from Republican tax cuts this year alone.” Big whoop. Meanwhile, the company is still forcing cheated customers to resolve claims in company-controlled arbitration, which a new study shows helps no one but the criminal bank, and “new leadership at the SEC seems to be contemplating a move that …would not only take away one of the few tools left to fight back against corporate fraud, it could put the retirement savings of millions of hardworking Americans at risk."
The corporate crimes keep piling up. Any nice independent-minded young prosecutors out there? Asking for a friend.