Ron Motley

Ron Motley is a nationally famous plaintiff's attorney. His career was launched after he successfully sued the asbestos industry and forced them into bankruptcy. He was contacted by Richard Scruggs when the tobacco litigation started and became an integral part of the trial team. His Charleston, South Carolina law firm has gathered the legal battle tools necessary to defeat the tobacco industry, including hundreds of thousands of documents, whistleblowers, and damaging depositions. If the national settlement does not succeed, Ron Motley will be trying the state Medicaid cases around the country.

Q. Where did you grow up?

Motley: In North Charleston, South Carolina. My dad owned an AMOCO gas station and I grew up at an AMOCO gas station, being a Washington Redskins fan, pumping gas, washing windows, changing tires and I kept the books from age six.

Q. And we read that your mother smoked?

Motley: She did.

Q. Your father too?

Motley: No. Well, I don't remember my father ever smoking anything other than an occasional pipe, which is not all that bad for you. But my mother smoked two to three packs of Winstons a day.

Q. Did she die from it?

Motley: She died of emphysema. Essentially emphysema causes the victim to suffocate slowly over time. It is a suffocating disease.

Q. And you watched that?

Motley: I did.

Q. And is it true her addiction--that you were calling it an addiction?

Motley: Well, I really hadn't focused back then on what was addictive and what wasn't. If she wasn't addicted to cigarettes, then there is no such thing as addiction.


She actually would talk one of her sisters into sneaking her a cigarette. She would take the oxygen away from her and smoke a cigarette which was, you know, very dangerous because it could have exploded. It is deeply ingrained in my, in my mind. Well it is... To watch someone that you love very much die a slow miserable death, suffocating day by day, is a very unpleasant thing. And to know exactly what caused it.

And then when you hear the denials of the cigarette companies that they had never caused the illness of death of a single American citizen, having sat there and watched my mother suffocating. Having the doctors tell me and describe for me exactly what caused it. How it caused it and what it was doing to her.

It makes you very angry. At least it made me very angry. And when I get angry, I try to get even, if it is legitimate to do so.

Q. All of this tobacco litigation, these losses, the trials, these various trials you had to get up for or prepare for, they are different then for you? It is not like any other case?

Motley: That is correct. I have handled cases in the past, Dalkon Shield, breast implants, explosions, automobile, train collisions and things like that. So where I have a personal anecdotal experience, as I do here.

Q. So this is not just for money, this is for revenge?

Motley: Well, I think you might say that the Mississippi case was the first and that was for revenge. And then I got into it and it is really for public health. It is, well, what we have been able to accomplish is, I am very proud of from a public health perspective.

But on a personal note, when I walked out of the Texas conference room on Friday, General Morales, the Attorney General of Texas said, "Your mother is smiling down on you now." And that was very touching, I thought, he knew that I had that personal anecdotal experience.

Q. There are a lot of people in this with personal connections.

Motley: It is very hard not to, 450,000 Americans die every year from cigarette caused diseases. There are very few people in America that haven't been touched by cigarette disease.

Q. So in a way, the asbestos cases, those were like a warm up for you to this?

Motley: Well it is, if you call having Mohammad Ali as a sparring partner. I guess you could call it a warm up.

I had some personal experience with asbestos, too. At my dad's service station was the closest service station to the Charleston Naval Base. And a lot of people, a lot of my dad's friends died of asbestos cancer. I didn't know it at the time, of course, and reflecting back and I ended up represent--actually representing some of my father's best friends, whom I had met at the gas station.

Q. So that was in a sense a prelude to all this tobacco stuff?

Motley: Yes. It was...

Q. How did you meet Dick Scruggs?

Motley: I met Dickie in, oh I'd say sixteen years or so ago. He was a recent arrival to the asbestos litigation and we had a somewhat fractious, contentious meeting in Dallas, Texas about something that was going on. And Dickie was rather outspoken in his views and his position was different from mine. I don't even remember what the issue was then.

But later, I had done some work for some of the other lawyers in Mississippi and he had a big case coming up and he came to Charleston. And we talked and he hired us and we sat side by side and tried a bunch of cases together. In Mississippi, very successfully. And he is a very talented lawyer and a dear friend.

Q. Is he different than other lawyers?

Motley: I have found very few cookie cut lawyers. Most of them are pretty much individualistic in characters. Dickie has a big heart and he is passionate about what he does and he is a very good lawyer and very able lawyer and I have enjoyed working with him.

Q. What was your reaction... He called you up about the Medicaid suit, right?

Motley: We started talking and we decided to join the cigarette companies and lung cancer cases where people were exposed to asbestos. And in the course of the trial, Dickie went off and tried a cigarette case with Don Barrett.

When he came back he told me that Mike Lewis had come to him with this idea. So rather than calling me, we actually sat down in a courtroom with a jury sitting there, side by side and discussed the roots of what became the Medicaid suit. Right in the middle of both of us trying an asbestos case. He took a, what do you call it? A sabbatical, I guess, for a couple of weeks and came back and he was really ready to go then against the cigarette companies. Because as you know, they lost.

Q. He lost that case and he is sitting in the courtroom. He turns to you and what does he start saying?

Motley: Well, before he went we had talked about naming the cigarette companies and the asbestos companies in the same case. Then when he came back he said he had a better idea than that and he described for me that he and Mike Lewis had talked. And then he and Mike Lewis and Mike Moore had talked.

And he assigned his best scholar in his firm and I did so, likewise, and they started working with Mike Lewis. And it took a long time to hone and fine tune the theories. We probably went through 25 or more different iterations or versions of what became the Mississippi Medicaid suit.

Q. But you were, you were excited about this, right?

Motley: Well, at first it was very clever, ingenious, we caught them off guard. I always like to do that. It was, it was challenging. It was unprecedented. And it was a good way to launch a war.

Q. So does this represent sort of the Mount Everest for trial lawyers?

Motley: Well, we saw the top of the mountain, but... And we decided we were going to climb the mountain but we hadn't reached the top 'til in the last six months. We started out at the bottom and we made it to the top and now we are on our way back down the other side. And it is exhilarating.

Q. Did you test this theory at all, with mock juries or polls or how did you...

Motley: Yes. We actually had engaged Dick Morris who, at the time was not celebrated as the President's personal pollster. He was a well known political consultant who did polling. And Dickie knew of him. And Mike knew of him, Moore. And we actually engaged him to do polling and on certain issues to refine exactly how we were going to approach this.

We actually hired him originally to look at the situation of suing cigarette companies and asbestos companies together. And then we segued over, went into consulting with him on these Medicaid suits.

Q. What was the scene like in the courtroom during the Wigand deposition?

Motley: There was... bedlam best describes what was going on inside. There was a sense of anticipation, eagerness on the part of those representing the state. A feeling of foreboding. It was so heavy in the room you could actually see the gnashing of teeth and the grinding of palms against one another by the defense lawyers. They were very worried about it. For good reason.

And, of course, right towards the end there was a moment were Dr. Wigand had second thoughts and I had gotten the word that he might not be coming. So we were all--heavy anticipation. And when he walked in the door amid all that hullabaloo in the media, it was a sense of relief on my part. And, I think, on his part too. But he was very nervous when he first took the witness stand.

Q. What were the tobacco lawyers doing?

Motley: Objecting. Raising hell. Trying to disrupt. At one point in time I actually told them why didn't they just go on ahead outside and I'd finish the deposition by myself with Dr. Wigand.

Q. Had you ever seen anything like this before?

Motley: Never. Never. I had never seen anything like this in a legal proceeding before. Never. Well, it was a deposition, it wasn't a court. It wasn't like a jury was walking in. It wasn't something like the OJ jury was about to return a verdict.

It was a... I had not experienced that much media attention to what is essentially a pretrial proceeding. But there must have been 50 or 75 media out there.

There was a lot of jostling for position. A lot of shouting by the media. Inside, the lawyers were... There was an intensity level. A lot of barking back and forth. A lot of paper shuffling. A lot of pacing. As I said, a lot of gnashing of teeth and things like that on their side.

Well, once the deposition started... We didn't really get started for 20 minutes. There were 20 minutes of prefatory statements made by the lawyers. There must have been 50 lawyers in that room. Forty-five of whom represented the tobacco industry. And then there were 4 or 5 of us representing the State of Mississippi.

So we were outnumbered, but they were outmanned.

At one point they claimed that the use of a chemical that is in the rat poison family was a trade secret. And Dr. Wigand and I had a moment of levity there when I said, you know, they are trying to keep the fact that they use a cousin of rat poison a trade secret. So that was kind of humorous.

Q. That is the cardomin, the flavoring?

Motley: Yes. It is in the same family as rat poison and coumarin was banned as a food additive worldwide thirty years before. The cigarette companies continued to use it in cigarette smoke. It has since been taken out of virtually every product.

Q. And these guys were claiming it was a trade secret?

Motley: Yes, they wanted to keep it secret. They didn't want the doctor to testify that they put a cousin of rat poison in cigarette smoke.

Q. Well you can understand that.

Motley: No, I can't. I would think once it was brought to their attention, they would have taken it out. But they didn't. So in this legal proceeding they wanted to keep it secret. Of course, Dr. Wigand answered my question.

Q. And essentially why was Dr. Wigand so important?

Motley: He was and remains the highest level industry executive to break ranks and testify, prior to Bennett LeBow, who was the Chief Executive Officer of the Liggett, Liggett Meyers Cigarette Company. But Mr. LeBow didn't have the hands-on knowledge that Dr. Wigand had.

What I mean by that is Dr. Wigand was the Chief Scientist. The Head of Research and Development for Brown and Williamson, so he had a lot of information of a technical and public health nature that was very important to us. He was involved in day-to-day decision making and he knew where all the skeletons were buried.

Using additives. Using ammonia to spike the nicotine level. We have since seen documents that... Every thing Dr. Wigand testified about, has come to pass from the standpoint of being established without question by documents that we have obtained since then.

The stories he told that the industry so vigorously protested and claimed he was not telling the truth about, we got documents to prove every one of those stories right. Every one of them.

Q. So obviously the smear campaign to destroy him was designed to destroy him on a personal level because they couldn't do it on a scientific level.

Motley: That's correct. The cigarette companies are masters at picking nits. If there is a nit-picking society somewhere, they have got to be original members of it. And they picked a few nits with a few things that he may recall. But substantively, on the merits, he is right on the money. So they were left with personal ad hominem attacks on him.

And you know, it was a rough time. We have become friends and it was a very rough time for him. It is still a rough time for him on a personal level because a lot of things in his life unraveled. But he stood up and he stood tall and he is still there.

Q. Give me an example of some of the other highlights that have gone on. I mean you have taken depositions of everybody from the CEOs to scientists.

Motley: I guess one of the most remarkable things was Robert Preston Tish, Lawrence Tisch's brother and the former Postmaster General of the United States who was a leading executive with Lorillard. And who sat on some of the industry-wide councils. Who, also, as a private citizen was very proud of the role his family had played in the Holocaust Memorial.

Yet he failed to remember and said that it wasn't a very remarkable incident when the American Cancer Society accused the American cigarette companies of creating the second Holocaust. And for this man, who is so proud of, and should be, of his community service to have completely overlooked 25 years earlier being accused of participating in the American version of the Holocaust because of the 400,000 deaths a year from cigarette smoking, was rather remarkable to me. That was shocking.

Another incident was with Dr. Frank Colby. He as a senior scientist for R. J. Reynolds for 35 years and then was assigned to their law firms. When I asked Dr. Colby, who had insisted--and this was in 1997--that no American had ever died from smoking cigarettes. That was his position. I asked him if he had read the deposition of Jeffrey Bible that I had taken, who was the Chief Executive Officer of Phillip Morris, the big parent company. Who said 100,000 possibly die every year.

And he looked me straight in the eye and he said, "Mr. Motley, I don't believe in that Bible or the Bible." And I said, "Are you an atheist." And he said, "Yes." It strikes me as rather remarkable that a company that has a scientist who is supposed to be in charge of scientific morality is an atheist.

Q. Just that he is an atheist?

Motley: Well he is an atheist and he is supposed to be in charge of morality and he says nobody has ever died. And he says they would continue selling cigarettes even if it was proven it caused cancer. I think that is fairly telling. To me, at least it is. For my humble Southern Baptist origin.

Q. That even if they agreed with you that they--it kills people they would keep selling them.

Motley: Oh, yes.

Q. How could he say that?

Motley: Well, he did. So did the Chief Executive Officer of Lorilard. He testified that if it were proved to him that cigarettes killed 150,000 Americans year in and year out from lung cancer. If it were proved to him, and he is a scientist as well as a Chief Executive Officer, Ph.D. scientist that he would continue to sell those products. Even if he knew his products killed 150,000 a year, from lung cancer.

It was chilling, I think. Chilling.

Q. This is A. W. Spears.

Motley: Alex Spears, yes. He is the same company that put asbestos in the cigarette filters.

Q. Let me take you back to Frank Colby. Didn't he have some interesting things to say about second hand smoke?

Motley: He was asked about secondhand smoke, environmental tobacco smoke. And he said he didn't think that people should not be allowed to smoke in public places.

And he said, "Why, people don't like to be around smokers, well they can walk out of the room." And the interviewer said, "Well, what about children. And he said, well children can walk." And he said, "But what about a woman holding a baby?" And he looked his eye right in the camera and he said, "Babies can crawl out the room, can't they?"

And that shows the attitude of the cigarette companies.

Q. Now these tapes and these depositions, these are things that you would be presenting in trial?

Motley: Oh, yes. We embarked upon several avenues of what we call pretrial discovery or finding out what the other side has said or done. One of them was to try to harvest as many old videotapes of television interviews of the cigarette company executives. Their testimony in front of Congress, in front of other agencies and the records of all those 800 law suits that you mentioned earlier.

We went back and we--actually [were] able to go back in one instance, for example, and show that Brown and Williamson had committed perjury in 1969 in an Alabama Federal Court case for a smoker who died of lung cancer.

Now, of course, they denied that they committed perjury. But I think I had a pretty good case. We were going to be able to use that evidence in the RICO case. So we thought it was pretty strong evidence.

Q. You were trying to prove that they are a racketeering enterprise, not just straight up fraud?

Motley: Right. Racketeers. And you know they liken themselves in some of the documents to the Mafia.

Q. What do you mean?

Motley: Well, in some of the documents they would boast about, I believe it was a Wall Street Journal article or it may have been New York Times, that likened the cigarette companies to the Mafia and the Tobacco Institute spokesman was very proud of that. And he quoted that analogy to the Mafia three or four times in different meetings, over time.

Q. To what end? What was his reason?

Motley: Well I suppose he was proud of the fact that they could get away with as much as they could get away with.

Q. And no one ever breaks ranks?

Motley: That's right. Before Ben LeBow and Jeff Wigand, that was true.

Q. Your relationship overall with Dick Scruggs, in asbestos cases initially and then even in these cases. It has been described as sort of... He is Mr. Outside. Outside the courtroom negotiating. And you are inside beating up your opponents. How does that work?

Motley: Well Dickie and my partner, Joe Rice are both very good negotiators from different aspects of the situation. Dickie is more of a politician negotiator, conciliator and Joe is a detail man. Both Dickie and Joe and I have the same court experience. That is, I do the courtroom work and they do the negotiating and conciliation and all that.

So, yes, mainly, my job is to try the law suit. Prepare it for trial. And their job is to try to find a way, a solution to the litigation problems. Although I'll say this, in the cigarette cases Dickie was heavily involved in discovery for a while until the negotiations heated up. And in the asbestos cases, Joe and I have tried many cases together in front of juries but in the last two or three years, it has become they are outside the courtroom and I am inside the courtroom.

Q. Well, you are in a sense the War Department and they are the State Department.

Motley: They are Eisenhower and I am Patton.

Q. I don't see two guns.

Motley: I checked them at the desk when I came in. You didn't see that sign?

Q. They are Eisenhower and you are Patton. And are you comfortable with that?

Motley: Oh yes. I am not a negotiator and they are very good at it. They are the best I've seen. And I am more of a warrior.

Q. Did you want to hurt the tobacco industry?

Motley: I suppose when we started this, that was a prime consideration. I have actually grown to admire, for example, Steven Goldstone, who is the CEO of RJR Nabisco who, when I questioned him told me that from that day forward... I don't know that they have done this and I will check. That in foreign countries they didn't require warning labels and didn't require telling pregnant women not to smoke, that his company would voluntarily do that. Unlike the other companies who only warn where the law requires it. I thought that was a forthright and public health spirited thing for him to say and do.

Q. But Shook, Hardy & Bacon?

Motley: I have no love lost for any of those guys. They were at the epicenter of the wrongdoing and actually were stage directors of it as well.

Shook, Hardy & Bacon. Is a law firm in Kansas City, started representing cigarette companies in the fifties. Became the ringmasters of the three ring cover-up circus and still representing the industry. Indeed I go up against a Shook, Hardy & Bacon partner on February 9th in Indiana. A lung cancer case in a missionary who never smoked.

Q. So what are a bunch of guys from Mississippi and South Carolina doing taking on the tobacco industry with all their legal talent?

Motley: Well, we took on that kind of legal talent with asbestos. Maybe not as many. Maybe not as well-heeled, but we are used to... When you take on these big corporations, we are used to engaging in combat with the biggest law firms.

But the cigarette companies had more lawyers, more money and they threw more lawyers with more money at you than any industry I have ever been involved with.

Q. Some people say, it is all very nice you have been getting these settlements, but really how strong is your case? If you got to court, would you win? Have you won?

Motley: Well, no, we haven't tried any Medicaid cases and I have only tried one cigarette case, we lost that one. It was for a smoker.

I thought we were definitely going to win Mississippi. There wasn't any question in my mind we were going to win in Florida. There was some question in my mind about Texas but only because of where we were. We were in Texarkana, which has a strong anti-government history. A strong individual freedom, individual choice tradition.

And although I think we would have won there, it would have been more difficult, which was why when the Judge agreed with our plan and let us try the racketeering, the RICO claim first, that made it more likely that we could win than previously thought.

And you as me if we have a strong case? I have never seen a stronger case of corporate immorality. Aided and abetted by lawyers' unethical conduct and criminal conduct in any civil case I have ever been involved in.

Q. But you say that, I am sure you say that you are confident about almost any case you go to trial with.

Motley: Oh, I have been in court with some dogs before. An individual smoker case, suing the cigarette companies for damages is very, very difficult. Very difficult.

The reason I say we were going to win is because we did polling. I am not talking about the early polling that we discussed an hour or so ago. I am talking about polling on the eve of trial. We did focus groups. We did mock trials. We did sampling. We did all kinds of things to test our theories, to see how solid they were to the average citizen.

And as time went on, as there was more and more publicity about the wrongdoing of the cigarette companies, the audience was more receptive. It got to the point in Florida, for example, that we were running 80% in our favor.

In Massachusetts, we represent the State of Massachusetts. We, in Cambridge, I think it is Middlesex County, we are running 85% in favor or our lawsuit. So there has been a sea change, if you will, in the public's attitude.

Q. But in Mississippi, some people say you had a situation home cooked. You didn't have a jury. You had a former district attorney, one of the most popular people in town, Dick Scruggs. A local judge, all from Old Miss and rulings in your favor.

Motley: Well, we had rulings in our favor but most of the defense lawyers were also from Ole Miss, so... And as far as the home cooking was concerned, I didn't get the impression that the defendants were particularly convinced that Judge Meyers was in some fashion in our pocket.

As far as not having a jury, that is the law of Mississippi. If you bring a case for what we call equity, then you don't get a jury trial. You get a judge trial.

Q. So you thought you might have some difficulty with Judge Meyers?

Motley: No, I didn't... I thought that perhaps some of our counts in our complaint he may have had some problems with. But the evidence was so powerful that they had done wrong. And that is what equity is about, to correct wrongdoing, that I thought we had an overwhelmingly good chance of success.

Q. So in a way, and this was true in most of the cases you have seen so far and the cases that you'd see in the future, if they were to go to trial.

Motley: The state cases, I don't know exactly what kind of demographics we have, for example, in Montana. I do know we polled in Oklahoma and Kansas and Massachusetts and Michigan and other places, we have done polls. And we think that the public in those areas are very sensitive to issues of child pandering, by the cigarette industry. And we think that is their Achilles' heel.

And I think from the recent publicity and just tumult that has occurred over RJ Reynolds having targeted kids that you see that they are very sensitive to that charge. They are very guilty of that charge and they are going to be punished for that, one way or the other?

Q. Punished for it?

Motley: Yes.

Q. Well every time you are on the verge of punishing them in trial, there is a discussion of settlement.

Motley: Yes. Well, you know, I can't speak to what motivates the cigarette companies to do some things, but they don't want any part of this parade of horribles being presented to the American public. Not just to six jurors or the twelve jurors. They don't want Ben LeBow's full testimony. They don't want Jeff Wigand's full testimony. They don't want Gary Huber's full testimony to be revealed to the public. Because what would be revealed would just absolutely shock the American people.

Q. Beyond what is already known or suspected?

Motley: I don't know what you might suspect. I do know that you don't know everything. The public doesn't know everything that we have learned in these cases because the industry has been successful in getting judges to gag, what I call gag orders.

For example the deposition of Dr. Osdene remained under court order for almost nine months. Dr. Huber's deposition is still under court gag order. Dr. Colby's deposition, in part, is under court gag order. Dr. Wigand's deposition was leaked by someone, but it was under a gag order.

So the public only knows part of what we know. And some of the documents that we have are under court gag order. So that the media, and therefore the public, have not seen them. And what they show is an absolutely unparalleled, unprecedented industry that had completely committed immoral, unethical and illegal conduct for 40 years.

Q. And what is being discussed now, based on your description, it sounds like the tobacco industry is trying to grab victory from the jaws of defeat.

Motley: Well, I don't know how anybody could describe what is on the table now as a victory for the cigarette companies. Laying aside the financial aspects of it, they have agreed to a fundamental change in the way they do business in America.

It is unfortunate that one would describe conducting oneself in a legal, a legal, moral and ethical fashion would be a change. But the fact of the matter is, for forty years they conducted themselves immorally, amorally, unethically, illegally, sordidly. Almost like street drug dealers.

And so for them to change the way they do business, it is a shame that that...to say I am going to do business legally, morally and ethically has to be a change, but that is what the reality is in 1998. So for anyone to say that that is not important, I think belittles what was accomplished.

Q. People aren't saying it is not important, what they are saying is that the industry, by waving around hundreds of billions of dollars and all of a sudden agreeing to what you say they should have agreed to, is trying to stay in business...

Motley: Of course.

Q. ...is trying to avoid penalties.

Motley: Well, I don't know how paying 10 billion, that is with a "b" dollars in punitive damages is avoiding penalties. But, yes, they want to stay in business and what is the alternative?

Prohibition doesn't work. You have got 40 million Americans who are addicted to cigarette smoke. To nicotine. Where are they going to get it?

You want to create a black market? You want to give gangsters riding around in Black cars with their trunk full of cigarettes from Canada instead of booze? That is what you would face.

So what you have to do is, you can't ban cigarettes because people are addicted. So you have to regulate it. And you have to regulate it more stringently than any other industry and that is what the cigarette companies have agreed to have happen to them.

Q. In exchange for immunity from medicaid type suits, class action suits, basically any suit involving the kind of clout, like yours, that brought them to heel?

Motley: Well, I am not an advocate of immunity and I don't think what they proposed is a far cry from immunity. But what will probably happen will not be an immunity except, you are right, there can be no more class actions. But keep in mind there hasn't been a single class action against the cigarette companies that has gotten a victim a single penny. Not one penny has been gotten for victims in class actions.

Nobody has ever gotten punitive damages before and people forget that there is tradeoffs. They have agreed to no longer contest that cigarette smoke causes lung cancer. Now they have been fighting that for fifty years so there is not just this cloak of immunity.

There was a negotiation where they gave up some of their legal defenses and we agreed to recommend that some of the potential weapons available to a plaintiff be taken away. That weapon is punitive damages which has never been gotten before. And that other weapon is class actions, which has never achieved a single penny in a single victim's pocket.

Q. But further Medicaid suits and further third party suits would be out.

Motley: Why would there have to be a Medicaid suit because they are settling the Medicaid cases. From now, forever. They are not just paying for 25 years, they are paying forever.

Q. But the critics say also, if we get rid of third party suits in general. I mean, for instance like the one in Indiana...

Motley: Oh, no, no, no. Absolutely not. In fact, my firm... I guess I am the best example of why that is not true. We have taken on several dozen individual cases, since June the 20th, since the settlement was announced. And we intend to prosecute cases for individuals.

There is a woman whose husband is a very well known environmental scientist, who quit smoking... just for example, in 1967 and died of lung cancer. We are taking her case.

We have got five environmental tobacco smoke cases. We are taking cases. There is a law firm in Chicago that just boasted on national television that they have a thousand cases. So in forty years of litigation, you have got 800 cases, now here is one guy that has got a thousand cases.

Q. And these cases will be able to go forward...

Motley: Oh, absolutely.

Q. ...no matter what the settlement.

Motley: Absolutely, they will go forward. They will have no restrictions on their ability to collect money. They will have a restriction that they can't get punitive damages, but the industry is admitting that cigarettes cause disease. So I think that is a very good trade-off, myself.

And I am the best evidence of that. We are taking cases. We are not afraid to take the cases. We are taking them.

Q. You are going to make money off the tobacco industry...

Motley: I am going to continue to be a thorn in their side, even though there is a settlement.

Q. So when people say, the reason Ron Motley, the reason that Dickie Scruggs, the reason that Mike Moore have turned this into what you might want to call advocates for the tobacco industry's own settlement isn't because you are going to get all your legal fees?

Motley: First of all, this is not the tobacco companies own settlement. This is the peoples' settlement because the people who negotiated were forty elected State Attorneys' General and seven Governors.

As far as the fees business, yes we are going to make fees. We deserve to make fees. I don't apologize for that. But the making of the fees doesn't retard me from going forward with what I believe to be a good public health lawsuit. And that is, for certain discrete groups of smokers, and non-smokers particularly. Children whose asthma is caused to be worse because their parents smoke. Those kinds of cases my law firm is taking and we will prosecute those cases, whether or not there is a settlement.

Q. Who is leading that criminal investigation? Do you know?

Motley: I don't... My understanding is there it's three or four different ones going on. I haven't seen a whole lot of leadership until recently, so I don't know who is leading it.

Q. But if you were Jeffrey Bible, Steven Goldstone, if you were scared of Ron Motley. You might be a little bit more scared of the Department of Justice.

Motley: Any time you face bars, going behind bars, that certainly ups the ante. There is no comparison. The closest comparison between a civil case and criminal case is the RICO case. And that certainly... If someone's company were to be found guilty of RICO violations, racketeering violations, that would not look good to the stockholders. It wouldn't look good to the lending institutions.

But none of that is as comparable as being found guilty of a felony. That is terrible. A corporation suffers public image-wise for decades after they are found guilty of a felony. It is a terrible thing to have happen to a corporation, not to mention the individuals in a corporation to go to jail.

Q. And that could happen.

Motley: Michael Milken to talk about that.

Q. But it could happen here that the tobacco industry can't escape criminal prosecution. Would that disrupt all of these settlements and the whole deal?

Motley: The settlement of the civil liability does not affect the criminal prosecutions, so while it is helpful from a pressure standpoint to the state Medicaid cases for this parallel criminal investigation to go on, we can survive without it. And the criminal investigations will survive without us and without the state Medicaid cases.

 

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

Prison StateApril 29th

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS