BP May Be Trying to Hire Scientists to Protect Against Potential Future Testimony

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MADDOW: Something just happened in the BP oil disaster that can really only be explained using a scene from season five of ” The Sopranos.” OK. So, Tony and Carmela were going to get divorced, OK? They both need to get divorce lawyers. But because Tony is a criminal mastermind, he effectively poisons the well for Carmela so that all the good divorce lawyers are off-limits to her. Do you remember this good plot twist?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Soprano, you needed an attorney.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, hi, great. Thank you. The reason I called — I gave your secretary the broad strokes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re in the middle of a separation, your original attorney retired?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. Bob Greenburg. At any rate, I`m thinking it is time I move forward with the divorce proceedings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Soprano, I`m afraid I`m going to have to cut you short. As far as handling it, I`m afraid I have to recuse myself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you mean? Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, your husband has been in to see me for a consultation last year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband hired you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. But based on our prior meeting, the Code of Professional Responsibility precludes me from representing you because of that consultation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But he met with Greenburg, too, and he was willing to represent me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Mr. Greenburg would have found himself in a bit of ethical soup had he actually moved forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t understand this. Why is my husband so picky? He talked to seven or eight of the top divorce attorneys in New Jersey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you can probably figure that maneuver out for yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Jesus Christ.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand your frustration. If you like, I can recommend a colleague. Someone your husband hasn`t contaminated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, yes. OK.

MADDOW: Someone your husband hasn`t contaminated. Perfect verb for using that plot from ” The Sopranos” to understand what BP has been trying to do to science on the Gulf Coast. All right. The Mobile”Press Register” reports that for the last few weeks, BP has been trying to hire tons of prominent scientists in the Gulf Coast region to help the company defend itself against the inevitable litigation to come. According to the “Press Register,” BP even tried to hire the entire Marine Sciences Department at one Alabama university. That school turned BP down, but it is reported that scientists from several other universities in the region have accepted BP`s offer. Now, the “Press Register” obtained a copy of a contract that BP was shopping to scientists. The contract, quote, “prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data they collect for at least three years.” Scientists approached with the deal told the paper that BP offered to pay $250 an hour for the scientists to help BP with its legal defense and, of course, for them to not say a word to anyone about what their research shows. The head of the Dauphin Island sea lab in Alabama told the “Press Register,” quote, “It makes me feel like they were more interested in making sure we couldn`t testify against them than in having us testify for them.” Think about how this would work. When the government files a natural resources damage assessment lawsuit against BP, the government will have to turn to the scientific community to build their case against BP. The government will start looking for gulf coast regional experts on sharks and marine invertebrates and plankton and marshes and oceanography.

They`ll be looking to those experts for evidence and to use them as experts. But if all goes well with BP`s “buy up all the scientists” plan, all or most of those gulf coast experts will already be on the BP payroll, prohibited by contract from sharing their research with anyone, and prohibited by conflict of interest concerns from participating in the government’s law suit.