The Committee of Counsel

According to FRONTLINE's interview with Philip Morris executive Steve Parrish, the Committee of Counsel was a group of tobacco industry lawyers that met regularly to discuss legal issues of interest to the tobacco industry. And, according to FRONTLINE's interview with former federal prosecutor G. Robert Blakey, the Committee of Counsel was the organization that controlled all industry scientific research and, according to Blakey, managed the fraud committed by the industry on the American people.

This document is the notes from a 1981 meeting of the Committee of Counsel. It clearly shows that they discussed scientific projects ("Special Projects") which were designed to promote the idea that smoking does not cause disease.


Here it is clearly stated that they were discussing the science projects managed by the lawyers, which were called 'Special Projects.'

September 18, 1981

VIA FEDERAL EXPRESS
Joseph H. Greer, Esq.
Vice President and General Counsel
Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company, Inc.
West Main and Fuller Streets
Durham, North Carolina 27702

Dear Joe:

I am enclosing a copy of my notes taken at the meeting of the Committee of General Counsel which was held on September 10, 1981 at Charbourne, Parke.

You will see that the meeting covered five subjects as follows: (1) Special Projects, (2) Status of Cases, (3) NCI workshops on the side-stream smoke, (4) Literature Retrieval Division, and (5) the 20 Asbestos witnesses. I decided to send you a transcription of my notes because that seemed to be the most effective way to give you an accurate sense of how the meeting went. I hope the transcript accomplishes this purpose.


This paragraph shows that the research done under the name 'Special Projects' were designed to help lawyers in litigation by creating witnesses favorable to the tobacco industry.  They were also designed to 'develop information regarding gaps in knowledge,' in other words, to create research which casts doubt on the smoking and health issue.

1. Special Projects--

Jacob Crohn called, said he had received a communication from Arthur Stevens who wanted a thorough-going understanding of what was happening and that there ought to be a meeting on the subject. Jacob then defined the special projects and their origin in litigating lawyer needs.

Purposes: 1-develop witness-stimulate the interest of doctors.

2-develop information re gaps in the knowledge.


Here the speaker is worried about attacks on the 'Special Projects.'  He expresses concerns over the fact that these projects are advocacy oriented, in other words, they are not for scientific purposes, but for public relations purposes.

Stevens It is timely to re-examine the special projects. Want to make it invulnerable to attack. He is concerned with degree to which we make advocacy primary and science becomes secondary. He knows it is difficult to find witnesses. He is concerned over the fact that some names appear on the list time and again; such as Sterling, Furst, Aviado, who will start to lose credibility for themselves and for us. He is concerned about the quality of the science to cultivate witnesses.


Here the speaker suggests that the projects should be advocacy oriented.

Jacob If you have a doctor, you have to keep him busy or he will lose interest. Sterling has been enormously helpful. Berkson receives a small check and he has been helpful.

Witt Maybe the approach ought to be advocacy first and science second.


Here the speaker is making an important clarification between the Council on Tobacco Research and the 'Special Projects.'  The CTR was supposed to be an independent organization, so when the director did not like a project, but the industry wanted to continue it for advocacy purposes, it would become a lawyer's special project.  This means, in layman's terms, that they would go ahead and fund the project through CTR, but it would be directly controlled by the lawyers.  Generally, these projects were designed to help the lawyers disprove the links between smoking and diseases.

Stevens Two other factors that concern me:

1. I need to know what the historical reasons were for the difference between the criteria for lawyers' special projects and CTR special projects.

2. I understand that there will be times when we need to get money into the hands of a researcher like Janus, but I would rather not create a project that does not make any sense ("pseudo science").

Jacob When we started the CTR Special Projects, the idea was that the scientific director of CTR would review a project. If he liked it, it was a CTR Special Project. If he did not like it, then it became a lawyer's special project.

Stevens He took offense re scientific embarrassment to us, but not to CTR.


Here, they explain  they were 'afraid of discovery.'

Jacob With Spielberger, we were afraid of discovery for FTC and with Aviado, we wanted to protect it under the lawyers. We did not want it out in the open.

 

home .  discussion .  quiz .  the criminal probe .  will there be a deal? .  a look at the depositions .  big tobacco - what's at stake .  interviews

timelines .  faqs .  links & readings .  synopsis .  tapes & transcripts .  press reaction

frontline online .  wgbh .  pbs online

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

 

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

Losing IraqJuly 29th

RECENT STORIES

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS