Hypocrisy, thy name is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its president and CEO, Tom Donohue.
Today, Wednesday, the chamber is holding its annual Legal Reform Summit, whose unstated agenda is to undermine the civil justice system and to weaken the basic legal protections of American workers and consumers.
The chamber has developed a double standard as far as litigation is concerned: Filing lawsuits is OK as long as the chamber is the one doing it. Earlier this month Donohue called litigation “one of our most powerful tools for making sure that federal agencies follow the law and are held accountable.”
As it turns out, the chamber is one of the most aggressive litigators in Washington, entering lawsuits at a rate of over twice weekly. That kind of suing passes the chamber’s muster.
But that’s apparently not the case when litigation is filed to protect consumers and workers, according to a new report by the American Association for Justice (AAJ), which is made up of trial lawyers.
“The Chamber’s ‘one rule for corporations, another rule for everybody else’ motto has come at the expense of ill-treated workers, defrauded investors and injured consumers,” AAJ president Gibson Vance said in a press release Wednesday. “It readily spends millions of dollars to prevent Americans from holding wrongdoers accountable in the courtroom, and then aggressively uses the very same legal system to advance the agenda of its multinational corporate membership.”
Here’s the chamber’s litigation list of shame, according to the AAJ. The chamber has:
- justified the actions of Wall Street banks that drove the country’s economy into turmoil;
- defended the worst CEOs and their most extravagant excesses;
- tried to force workers, instead of employers, to pay for their own safety equipment;
- filed numerous actions opposing any move to combat climate change;
- sought to shield pharmaceutical executives who skirted safety procedures that ultimately killed 11 children;
- opposed measures allowing workers to receive a rest period during a full work day;
- fought on behalf of lead paint manufacturers found to have poisoned thousands of children;
- defended corporations that discriminated on the basis of race and disability;
- and spent years defending big tobacco, asbestos companies and chemical companies found to have contaminated water and air.
“The Chamber has every right to seek what it believes to be justice in a court of law, even if representing the most deplorable corporate interests,” Vance said. “But it must learn that this right to justice belongs not just to their organization, or big business generally, but to all Americans.”
The report, titled “The Chamber Litigation Machine: How the Chamber Uses Lawsuits to Keep Americans out of Court,” can be found at www.justice.org/USChamber. There, you can read about the chamber’s past actions in gory detail.
Here are portions of it that caught my eye.
“On one hand, the Chamber spends an unrivaled amount of money lobbying to restrict access to the courts for ordinary Americans,” the report says. “On the other, it files copious lawsuits and briefs in defense of the likes of AIG, Wal-Mart, Firestone and a slew of pharmaceutical and insurance companies.”
According to the report, ”The Chamber has spent hundreds of millions of dollars financing efforts to close the courthouse doors to American consumers through massive lobbying campaigns, advertising and bankrolling anti-consumer political candidates. It has its own multimillion dollar affiliate, the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), whose sole mission is to restrict the ability of individuals harmed by negligent corporations to file suit.”
I’ll end with this factoid from the report.
“Yet ironically, the Chamber is also one of the most aggressive litigators in Washington, D.C., appearing in hundreds of lawsuits a year. The Chamber has its own litigation arm, the National Chamber Litigation Center (NCLC), which both fi les its own lawsuits and enters into the lawsuits of others more than 130 times a year.”
I guess the chamber’s motto is “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Attorney Gordon Johnson
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justiceg@gordonjohnson.com
:: 800-992-9447 :: Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.