Philip Morris Privilege and Crime Fraud Committee

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Philip Morris' Privilege and Crime Fraud Committee is composed of elite lawyers from both inside and outside Philip Morris who specialize in vetting attorney-client privilege issues in legal cases. A description of the Crime Fraud Committee's function is contained in a July 18, 1998 Philip Morris email authored by an attorney representing PM, Inc. and Philip Morris Companies, Thomas J. Frederick. Frederick wrote,

"... I believe the group below comprises what I'm calling the Philip Morris Crime/Fraud Issues

Committee, which, as I understand it, should be consulted with respect to just about any privilege issue that might arise in any case, but especially crime/fraud issues:

Attorney-client privilege is a highly contentious area in tobacco litigation. In June, 1997, the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight had filed a Minority Staff Report charging that attorneys from the major U.S. tobacco companies had misused attorney-client privilege to shield key documents regarding the health implications of their products from the public view, and thus advanced corporate crime or fraud. The Committee wrote:

It appears that lawyers have been at the heart of a tobacco industry

strategy to cast doubt on whether smoking causes cancer and to keep detrimental research on human health effects from the public. Lawyers can function largely out of view because they can shield their work product behind the attorney-client privilege. Several courts, however, have recently been presented with attorney-client documents for in camera review. These courts have determined that the tobacco industry's attorney-client documents contain evidence of a tobacco industry crime or fraud -- and

should therefore be disclosed.[2]

Two members of PM's Privilege and Crime Fraud Committee, John Mulderig of PM's Legal Department and Leslie Wharton of the tobaco industry law firm Arnold & Porter, co-authored an article about the strategic danger to corporations of plaintiffs challenging privilege claims in lawsuits. The paper offers insight into potential areas of concern of members of PM's Privilege and Crime Fraud Committee.[3]

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  1. Thomas J. Frederick Privilege Issues Email. 1 page. July 18, 1998. Philip Morris Bates No. 2074667523A
  2. Committee on Government Reform and Oversight Minority Staff Report Secret Attorney-Client Documents Are Evidence ofPotential Crimes or Fraud by the Tobacco Industry June 12, 1997. 17 pp., accessed March 14, 2009
  3. Cynthia Cecil Hunton & Williams, John J. Mulderig, Philip Morris, Leslie Wharton, Arnold & Porter Crime-Fraud: The Tobacco Cases May Only Be the Tip of the Iceberg For Assaults on Privilege in Civil Fraud Litigation Draft article. September 20, 1999. 33 pp. Philip Morris Bates No. 2074670047/007