Former Grace Exec Details Possible Responses to Government Study
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean continued his direct examination of former W.R. Grace Executive Robert Locke this afternoon. McLean began his questions by reviewing a memorandum Locke wrote to several executives in 1980, the same memo he had introduced before the lunch break. This letter detailed several different options Grace had contemplated in dealing with a study on tremolite planned by the National Institute for Occuptational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a branch of the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
As a Grace employee, Locke’s memo set forth several possible ways Grace could have dealt with the potentially damaging NIOSH study:
- Obstruct and block the study, possibly even contesting in courts - Locke estimated Grace would lose, and that this course of action was “not the image we wanted to project.”
- Delay and otherwise “be slow”- Locke said that Grace anticipated NIOSH having fewer resources once Ronald Regan became present. Locke testified that the idea was to drag it out forever and “talk them to death,” and that he wanted Grace to act slowly because he wasn’t interesting in having information from the planned study disclosed in public.
- Publish a preemptive epidemiological study- Locke stated that if Grace could engage a study by someone that would “do business on our terms,” they could perhaps “blunt the results” of the NIOSH study with a study that had more Grace-favorable conclusions.
- Cooperate fully- Locke recommended against cooperating with NIOSH, as he had a personality conflict with a NIOSH staff member based on earlier contact. He felt that NIOSH had not “always acted with high levels of professionalism.”
- Actively go upstream in NIOSH to repeat same arguments- Locke contemplated going to the supervisors of the NIOSH workers who were contemplating a study of Grace, with the goal of “get[ing] interest in the study turned off or turned down.”
- Figure out what drove NIOSH to propose a study- Locke postulated that perhaps some unknown organization had pressured NIOSH for a study of Grace, and if that were the case, perhaps such pressure could be “turned off.”
- Apply influence to congressmen, senators, lobbyists, etc.- Locke contemplated working through political channels to stop the NIOSH study. While this had the benefit of delaying the proposed study, it could potentially backfire, putting Grace in a political hot seat. Furthermore, using political leverage would require several years earning the trust of the necessary politicians.
Locke testified that, of these options, he favored acting slowly, preempting the NIOSH study, going upstream in NIOSH, and inquiring as to what powers were pressuring for the study.
McLean then led Locke through several years of correspondence, hoping to show how effectively Grace had slowed NIOSH’s study. Working as far forward as February of 1982, McLean emphasized that Grace had apparently succeeded for years in preventing NIOSH from studying Libby tremolite.
McLean then paused to do some preemptory rehabilitation of the lashing Locke will surely receive on cross-examination. Locke, as a Grace employee now testifying for the prosecution in a criminal trial, testified as to having had two meltdowns as a Grace employee, where he “crashed and burned,” brought on by long hours and worldwide travel. He testified to receiving medication to help deal with these episodes, and in his opinion recovered fully from both. Shortly after, Judge Molloy called for the afternoon break.
–Mark Lancaster (posted 4:45 p.m.)
Posted: March 24th, 2009 under Law.