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Texans for Lawsuit Reform: Fred Baron’s Hush-Money Payments to Edwards’ Mistress Is Part of a Pattern

TLR Press Release, August 11, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 11, 2008
Contact: Sherry Sylvester
210-241-5296
 
 
Asbestos King Used Lawsuit Wealth to Hide Candidate’s Secret Affair
(Austin, Texas) -- Lawsuit reform advocates across Texas responded today to the news that asbestos lawsuit king Fred Baron has been paying hush money to John Edwards’ former mistress.   Baron and Edwards are both personal injury trial lawyers. Mr. Baron headed up Edwards’ fundraising efforts in his unsuccessful presidential campaign and is among the top contributors to Texas political campaigns. 
 
Texans for Lawsuit Reform Chairman and CEO Dick Weekley said Baron’s payments reflect a pattern of deception:   “We may never know how much money Fred Baron spent to cover up the story of John Edwards’ affair, but covering-up is nothing new for the Asbestos Lawsuit King. Baron routinely makes huge campaign contributions to groups with names like “Texas Values” and “Public Justice” to hide the truth from voters -- that the funding comes from the wealth he acquired as a personal injury trial lawyer.” 
 
Mr. Baron acquired his wealth as a mass tort lawyer, primarily in lawsuits in which scores, or even hundreds, of persons were named as claimants in asbestos exposure lawsuits. It has become clear that the vast majority of claimants in mass asbestos lawsuits, which bankrupted 70 American companies and cost tens of thousands of American workers their jobs or benefits, did not have discernable health impairments at the time the lawsuits were prosecuted.
 
The Dallas Morning News observed that the “most striking thing about this sleazy drama is what it says about Mr. Edwards’ hubris.” But, Weekley noted, Fred Baron also exhibited exceptional hubris in making payments to Mr. Edward’s mistress in an apparent attempt to keep the affair from the public.
 
Weekley said Baron’s admission that he has paid hush money to John Edwards’ mistress shows that another member of the mass tort bar has an appalling disregard for honesty and integrity. In recent months several of the most prominent mass tort lawyers in the nation have admitted wrongdoing, including Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, now serving time for attempting to bribe a judge, and Bill Lerach, who is now in prison for secretly paying kickbacks to lead plaintiffs in class action lawsuits.
 
In Texas, Mr. Baron routinely makes contributions to political committees or self-proclaimed “watchdog” groups whose names conceal the fact that they are personal injury trial lawyer conduits, including the Texas Progress Council, Texans for Insurance Reform, Texans for Public Justice, Texas Values in Action Coalition, and others.   Mr. Baron has contributed $1.825 million in the current political cycle in Texas, making him the second largest single contributor in the Lone Star State. Mr. Baron’s apparent motive in using filter organizations is to try to protect individual candidates from the taint of personal injury trial lawyer money.
 
Texans for Lawsuit Reform is the state's largest civil justice reform organization. TLR is a bipartisan, volunteer-led coalition with more than 16,000 supporters residing in 818 Texas communities and representing 1,266 different businesses, professions and trades. For more information about TLR visit www.tortreform.com.
 
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919 Congress Suite 455 Austin, Texas 78701