Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 8 No. 2 | Summer 1986 (Seattle) /// Issue 16 of 24 /// Master# 64 of 73

9 sibly true if one means industrial mass murder, not political. People who regularly inhale asbestos fibers are likely to die, or at least be crippled, from the lung disease called asbestosis or the even worse (at least it sounds worse) mesothelioma. It sometimes takes twenty or thirty years for asbestosis to appear, so a measure of the slaughter from it is somewhat vague. But the best experts in the field, which means Dr. Irving J. Selikoff and his staff at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, estimate that aside from the many thousands who have died from asbestos diseases in the past, there will ~ be between eight and ten thousand deaths from asbestos-related cancer each year for the next twenty years. These deaths are not accidental. Manville et al knew exactly what they were doing. Brodeur’s book is mainly an account of how the asbestos companies, though they claimed to be ignorant of the deadly quality of their product until a study by Dr. Selikoff was released in 1964, had for forty years known about, and had suppressed or disregarded, hundreds of studies that clearly showed what asbestos was doing to the people who inhaled it. Did the companies even care what was happening? Typically, at a Manville asbestos mine in Canada, company doctors found that of seven hundred and eight workers, only four—who had worked there less than four years—had normal lungs. Those who were dying of asbestosis were not told of their ailment. The other two books, Susan Perry and Jim Dawson’s Nightmare: Women and the Daikon Shield (Macmillan) and Morton Mintz’s At Any cost: Corporate Greed, Women, and the Daikon Shield (Pantheon), remind me of what Dr. Jules Amthor said to my favorite detective: “I’m in a very sensitive profession, Mr. Marlowe. I’m a quack.” The murderous quackery of the Daikon Shield, an intrauterine device, was committed by A.H. Robins, a company that should have stuck to making Chap Stick and Sergeant’s Flea & Tick Collars, and left birth- control gadgets to those who knew how to make them properly. These two books should convince anyone, I think, that compared to the fellows at A.H. Robins, the Film Recovery executives were pikers when it came to showing disregard for human lives for the sake of profits. Profits were plentiful, that’s for sure. A.H. Robins sold more than 4.5 million Daikon Shields worldwide (2.8 million in the United States) for $4.35 each; not bad for a device that cost only twenty-five cents to produce. The death count among women who wore the shield still isn’t complete; the last I heard it was twenty. But wearers of the shield also have reported stillbirths, babies with major congenital defects, punctured uturi, forced hysterectomies, sterilization from infection, and various tortures and illnesses by the thousands—some generous portion, we may presume, of the 9,230 lawsuits that A.H. Robins has settled out of court. And as both books make clear, the company launched the Daikon Shield fully aware of the shield’s dangers, sold it with false advertising, kept on selling it for several years after the company knew what its customers were going through, and pulled a complicated cover-up of guilt. Dershowitz is right in one respect: corporate murderers are not like your typical killer on death row. Corporate murderers do not set out to kill. There’s no profit in that. They are simply willing to accept a certain amount of death and physical torment among their workers and customers as a sometimes necessary by-product of the free enterprise system. Mintz has uncovered a dandy quote from history to illustrate this attitude. When it was suggested to Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., president of General Motors circa 1930, that ■he should have safety glass installed in Chevrolets, he refused with the explanation, “Accidents or no accidents, my concern in this matter is a matter of profit and loss.” The Sloan spirit is everywhere. Brodeur quotes from a deposition of Charles H. Roemer, once a prominent New Jersey attorney who handled legal matters for the Union Asbestos and Rubber Company. Roemer reveals that around 1942, when Union Asbestos discovered a lot of its workers coming down with asbestos disease, he and some of Union Asbestos’s top officials went to Johns- Manville and asked Vandiver Brown, Manville’s attorney, and Lewis Brown, president of Manville, if their physical examination program had turned up similar results. According to Roemer, Vandiver Brown said, in effect, Sure, our X-rays show many of our workers have that disease, but we don’t tell them they are sick because if we did, they would stop working and sue us. Roemer recalled asking, “Mr. Brown, do you mean to tell me you would let them work until they dropped dead?” and Brown answering, “Yes, we save a lot of money that way.” Saving money, along with making money, was obviously the paramount objective of A.H. Robins, too. This was evident from the beginning, when Robins officials learned—six months before marketing the device nationally—that the Daikon Shield’s multifilament tail had a wicking tendency and could carry potentially deadly bacteria into the uferus. Did the company hold up marketing the shield until it could be further tested and made safe? No, no. That would have meant a delay, for one thing, in recovering the $750,000 they had paid the shield’s inventors. Though Robins knew it was putting its customers in great jeopardy, it hustled the shield onto the market with promotional claims that it was “safe” and “superior” to all other intrauterine devices; and never, during the four years the shield was on the market, did A.H. Robins conduct wicking studies of the string. The shield’s promotional literature, by the way, was a classic example of phony drugstore hype. A.H. Robins claimed the shield kept the pregnancy rate at 1.1 percent; the company was well aware that the shield allowed at least a 5 percent pregnancy rate, one of the most slipshod in the birth-control business. A.H. Robins also advertised that the device could be easily inserted in “even the most sensitive woman,” although in fact many doctors, before inserting the shield, had to give patients an anesthetic, and many women were in pain for months. Not long after the shield went on the market, Wayne Crowder, one of the few heroes in this sorry tale, a quality-control engineer at Chap Stick, which manufactured many of the shields for its parent firm, rejected 10,000 of them because he was convinced the strings could wick bacteria. His boss overruled him with the remark, “Your conscience doesn’t pay your salary.” Crowder also suggested a method for stopping the wicking, but his technique was rejected because it would have cost an extra five cents per device. Crowder kept on complaining (he would ultimately be fired as an irritant) and he finally stirred Daniel French, president of Chap Stick, to convey Crowder’s criticisms to the home office. French was told to mind his own business and not worry about the safety of the shield, which prompted him to go into the corporate softshoe routine he knew would please. He wrote A.H. Robins: “It is not the intention of Chap Stick Company to attempt any unauthorized improvements in the Daikon Shield. My only interest in the Daikon Shield is to produce it at the lowest possible price and, therefore, increase Robins’ gross profit level.” Of course, when thousands of women begin dying, screaming, cursing and suing, it gets a little difficult to pretend that all is well with one’s product, but for more than a decade A.H. Robins did its best, never recalling the gadget, never sending a warning to doctors about possible deadly side effects, and continuing to the last—continuing right up to the present even after losing hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits—to argue that the shield is just hunkydory. The A.H. Robins school spirit was beautifully cap- sulated by one of its officials who told the National Observer, “But after all, we are in business to sell the thing, to make a profit. I don’t mean we’re trying to go out and sell products that are going to be dangerous, fatal, or what have you. But you don’t put all the bad things in big headlines.” Where is the corporate executive who will not savor the easy insouciance of “or what have you”? One of the more fascinating characteristics of corporate murderers is the way these fellows cover up their dirty work. They are really quite bold and successful in their deviousness. When one I The they were afraid it would confuse peopl $ idea of treating corporate murderers as just plain murderers strikes many people as excessive. Some lawyers said generally because a bald murder charge is usuallya s s o c ia te d in tiegut or an ice pick in the neck. ♦I * s * t * considers how many top officials there are at places like Manville and Robins, and when one assumes (obviously naively) among the lot of them surely there must be at least one or two with a functioning conscience, the completeness of their cover-ups is indeed impressive. Which isn’t to say that their techniques are very sophisticated. They simply lie, or hide or burn the incriminating material. When the litigation flood began to break over Manville Corporation in the late 1960s, the asbestos gang began thwarting their victims’ attorneys by claiming certain Manville executives couldn’t give depositions because they were dead (when they were very much alive), by refusing to produce documents ordered by the court, and by denying that certain documents existed when in fact they did. A.H. Robins was just as expert at that sort of thing. According to Mintz, “Thousands of documents sought by lawyers for victims of the Daikon Shield sank from sight in suspicious circumstances. A few were hidden for a decade in a home basement in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Other records were destroyed, some admittedly in a city dump in Columbus, Indiana, and some allegedly in an A.H. Robins furnace. And despite court orders, the company did not produce truckloads of documents for judicial rulings on whether the women’s lawyers could see the papers.” A.H. Robins’s most notorious effort at a cover-up ultimately failed, thanks to one Roger Tuttle, a classic example of what can happen when the worm turns. Tuttle was an attorney for A.H. Robins 4 • • I f I in the early 1970s. He says that immediately after the company lost its first Daikon Shield lawsuit, his superiors ordered him (they deny it) to search through the company’s files and burn every document that he thought might be used against A.H. Robins in future lawsuits—documents that, in Tuttle’s words, indicated “knowledge and complicity, if any, of top officials in what at that stage of the game appeared to be a grim situation.” Unfortunately for the company, Tuttle did not fully obey orders. He took pos- session of some of the juiciest documents and kept them. Just why he rebelled isn’t clear. Perhaps it was because Tuttle, a plain little guy who admits he isn’t the smartest attorney in the world, was tired of having his employers push him around, which they often did. He says he did it because he was ashamed that “I personally lacked the courage” to challenge the order and “I wanted some sop for my own conscience as an attorney.” Whatever his motivation, Tuttle sat on the purloined files for nearly ten years. He moved on to other jobs, finally winding up, a born-again Christian, on the Oral Roberts University law faculty. Watching the Daikon Shield trials from afar, troubled by the plaintiffs’ inability to cope with A.H. Robins's coverup, Tuttle finally decided to step forward and provide the material their attorneys needed for the big breakthrough. A lucky windfall like that is the only way victims can overcome the tremendous imbalance in legal firepower. In the way they muster defense, corporate murderers bear no resemblance to the broken-down, half-nuts, penniless drifters on death row, dozens of whom have no attorney at all. Corporate killers are like 6 Clinton St. Quarterly