Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Thursday, June 1, 2000


Cornyn Says Return of $6.8 Million Raises Troubling Questions

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn today said that tobacco trial lawyers have returned $6.8 million in overcharges for expenses in the Texas tobacco case. The check from the tobacco trial lawyers accompanied a May 30, 2000 letter from Walter Umphrey to an attorney for one of the tobacco companies.

The admission by the tobacco trial lawyers comes one year after attorney Marc Murr chose to return $1 million in attorneys fees to the tobacco industry and gave up a claim to an additional $259 million against the state treasury, in an effort to avoid answering questions under oath about his role in the tobacco litigation on behalf of the State of Texas.

Additionally, on Nov. 9, 1999, Cornyn was successful in his attempts to force the tobacco trial lawyers to drop a $2.3 billion attorneys fee claim against Texas taxpayers.

Although throughout the past 18 months the tobacco trial lawyers repeatedly claimed they had spent $40 million in expenses, they now have reduced their claim to about $33 million - a drop of some 17 percent.

In addressing their return of $6.8 million, Cornyn stated:

"This is an incredible admission by the tobacco trial lawyers.

"Their misrepresentation of expenses just raises more questions and strongly reinforces the need to determine what happened in the tobacco case. After 18 months of assuring the people of Texas that their expenses were justified in every way, and claiming that they acted ethically, these tobacco trial lawyers are now returning millions of dollars with no satisfactory explanation as to why.

"I have vigorously pursued an ethics investigation into their activities, yet they repeatedly have resisted my attempts to get to the bottom of this matter. In April of this year, I filed a request to take the sworn testimony of the tobacco trial lawyers about a number of matters, including their expenses. Now, on the heels of my move to take their sworn testimony, they return $6.8 million to avoid questions about their overcharges. This further underscores the importance of continuing my investigation until the people of Texas receive the answers they deserve."

- 30 -

Contact Mark Heckmann, Heather Browne, or Tom Kelley at (512) 463-2050