Monday, February 14, 2005

The W.R. Grace Indictment

On February 8th we reported in a post the indictment of W.R. Grace and seven executives from the company.  W.R. Grace, on their website, has a statement responding to this indictment here.

A close examination of this indictment raises some interesting questions. The charges themselves are not unique to white collar prosecutions as one finds wire fraud, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and clean air act violations. 

The indictment itself, however, reads like a civil complaint.    For example, the indictment begins with the following statement, "In the late 1800s, gold miners discovered a significant body of vermiculite ore in an area located in the mountains approximately seven miles northeast of the town of Libby, Montana (the 'Libby Mine')." Later in the indictment, specifically in paragraphs 85-88 one finds a summary of a "Hamster Study" conducted "on or about March 15, 1976."  A basis for including material this far back is offered by USA William W. Mercer in an NPR report.

But does this explain the 202 paragraphs of detailed information? Compare this indictment to other federal indictments here

Is the descriptive nature of this indictment intended for the media?  Is this description necessary to provide notice to those accused of the charges against them, especially the charge requiring "knowing endangerment"?  Is the government providing extensive detail to facilitate plea agreements?  Or is this detail necessary because this is a white collar case involving a complex clean air act charge?  The bottom line may just be that this is a case that includes alleged conduct related to asbestos!


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