Well well well, as the Church Lady would say, isn’t that special. A big class action lawsuit has just been filed by 38,000 Montana wheat farmers, cattle ranchers and others against former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, claiming that “the failed financial firm run by Corzine stole millions from their accounts to pay off its spiraling debts, and that Corzine's ‘single-minded obsession’ with making MF Global a big player on Wall Street led to the firm's collapse.”
Seems like the farmers had “’hedged’ their crop prices by placing millions in MF Global accounts but MF Global made a series of bad investments -- notably in European debt – [and] it began ‘siphoning funds withdrawn from segregated client accounts’ to cover its debts.”
Now that’s what we like to see! No matter the outcome, it’s a great example of the civil justice system providing a level playing field so that farmers and small business owners can pool together and take on a big Wall Street fat cat! In fact, who wouldn’t agree that everyday people, farmers and small business should have a level playing field when it comes to taking on Big Corporate America?
Their lawyer. Apparently.
Mark Baker represents plaintiffs in this case (see him quoted here), and I don’t doubt that he’s all for this lawsuit. But Mark Baker is also a Montana lobbyist and not just any lobbyist. He’s a lobbyist for the American Tort Reform Association, the DC trade association funded by large corporations that seeks to limit liability for its members, which we’ve covered many times, like here.
Not only that, Mr. Baker specifically lobbied for laws in 2011 written nationally by the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC), (we’ve covered ALEC quite a bit, like here), which would have placed new burdens on injured Montana victims who bring and win lawsuits, as well as make it more difficult for the state of Montana to hire outside counsel, allowing it to recoup money from corporate wrongdoers for its taxpayers.
According to lobby report, Mr. Baker supported three bills for ATRA: HB 341, HB 342, HB 585:
This final bill, which ALEC has pushed hard, would interfere with the contractual arrangement between outside counsel and the state Attorney General office, which are generally underfunded and understaffed and can't hope to take on big industries without outside counsels' help. Their work often results in states recovering billions of dollars from corporate wrongdoers. (We've covered this issue a bit here.)
So what exactly did Mr. Baker say when lobbying for these bills? That he would like his clients to have their day in court but not anyone else? That he wants his clients’ legal rights protected but would like to weaken everyone else’s? Did he complain about people suing – except when he's the attorney? Did he complain about trial lawyers – except himself?
Well, nothing new here. Move along.