Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Amtrak Changes: Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc?

I commented on the so-called "block billing" matter a couple weeks ago:  the congressional investigation of the possibility that Amtrak was paying legal bills that looked a lot like 99.9998% of the legal bills sent to major corporations. is now reporting that the new CEO at Amtrak has replaced the general counsel along with most of the rest of the senior management team.  "NewAcheson Amtrak President Alex Kummant engineered a major management restructuring Monday, firing five top officials and naming Eleanor Acheson [right], assistant attorney general for policy development under President Bill Clinton, as the passenger rail's general counsel."

Of course, the news stories have linked the two.  Note the headline: 

Amtrak Fires Five in Midst of Congressional Probe

That points out the need, particularly in our information age, not to believe everything you read.  I can't help but think the linkage to block billing is a case of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.  And the response from Amtrak seems plausible to me:

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black says the changes were not a response to the inspector general's report on its legal department. "I can't associate it directly with the report. Corporate reorganizations are common under new CEOs. This is no different than that of any other large corporation under new leadership."

What is more interesting are the career bona fides of this new general counsel for a major business corporation.  According to, Acheson headed the Justice Department office responsible for reviewing federal judgeship nominees under Clinton, and since then has been a government affairs lawyer for a prominent public interest group.  Worthy pursuits all, and I'm sure Acheson is a crackerjack lawyer, but this hire suggests the critical legal job at Amtrak is about lobbying, not business.

[Jeff Lipshaw]

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