Asbestos Defendant Georgia Pacific: The Potential Legal “Crime-Fraud” Situation Involving Professor Ken Donaldson And GP In-house Litigation Counsel

According to an investigative article, “Dust storm: ‘Crime-fraud’ allegations cloud conference”, published by Hazards magazine, an Edinburgh University scientist, Professor Ken Donaldson, is at the center of a controversy that has potential “crime-fraud” ramifications for Georgia Pacific (GP) as regards its asbestos litigation.

In the July – September 2013 edition of Hazards magazine we find this revealing information about the involvement of Georgia Pacific in-house asbestos litigation counsel with some of the “scientific papers” about chrysotile asbestos written by Professor Donaldson:

• A New York appeal court in June 2013 said scientific papers Professor Ken Donaldson co-authored were intended to “cast doubt” on the link between chrysotile asbestos and cancer. The professor had undeclared conflicts of interest, because he did not reveal in the publication his involvement in defendant Georgia-Pacific’s “asbestos litigation project.” GP’s in-house legal counsel was “intimately involved” in the “supposedly objective scientific studies”, the court found, ruling there had been a potential “crime-fraud.”

• A California court hearing asbestos cases in June 2013 was told of concerns about Professor Donaldson’s undeclared conflicts of interest, noting he had been “hired by GP as a consultant for the asbestos litigation project on an hourly basis and has been paid from time to time on GP asbestos litigation projects since 2006.” Invoices from Donaldson for asbestos related consultancy work with GP were sent to Stewart Holm, the man heading GP’s asbestos litigation project and the conduit to GP’s in-house counsel.

• A 2011 statement by Donaldson in an occupational health journal that he was “not allied to any asbestos manufacturing company nor pro-asbestos pressure group, nor in receipt of funds from any such source” was challenged as “disingenuous at best” and led to questions why, given he was a consultant to GP’s asbestos litigation project, “did he specifically deny any such work in his published letter.” Drafts of the letter, which defended long-time asbestos industry scientific consultant David Bernstein from accusations of “misuse of biased studies”, were provided for comment to Bernstein, who amended the content, and by Bernstein to GP’s Stewart Holm. Bernstein, Holm and Donaldson were among the co-authors of three of the potential “crime-fraud” papers.

This investigative report about Georgia Pacific and Professor Ken Donaldson in the current Hazards magazine is very well researched; it includes not only an extensive list of References but, also, copies of some important documents that are discussed in the article.  Last by not least, at the end there is a list of 14 questions put by Hazards editor Rory O’Neill to Professor Donaldson on August 30, 2013, and the answers received from Professor Donaldson by email on September 2, 2013.

We commend Hazards magazine for this excellent presentation of a disturbing legal situation in some asbestos lawsuits that involve Georgia Pacific as a defendant.

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