Weinberg Group

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation. Help expose the truth about the tobacco industry.

The Weinberg Group, which has the motto "science minds over business matters", describes itself as "an international scientific and regulatory consulting firm that helps companies protect their product at every stage of its life. We help our clients improve manufacturing processes, clear regulatory hurdles, and defend products in the courts and the media." [1]

Under investigation

In February 2008, ABC News reported that the U.S. Congress was investigating the Weinberg Group. Representative John Dingell (Democrat of Michigan) said the firm's practices "raise serious issues about whether science is for sale." The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which Dingell chairs, asked the firm for records of its work on Bisphenol A and other chemicals. Some studies have indicated that small amounts of Bisphenol A, which is present in a wide range of plastics, "can disrupt hormone systems in laboratory animals and possibly increase the risk of cancer or other serious illness," reported ABC. [1]

Finding a chemical harmless, for a fee

In a April 2003 pitch to DuPont, The Weinberg Group proposed a strategy to help defuse the growing controversy over the health impacts of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a compound used to make Teflon. Weinberg's Vice-President of Product Defense, P.Terrence Gaffney, wrote, "DuPont must shape the debate at all levels." One of his suggested strategies was to facilitate the "publication of papers and articles dispelling the alleged nexus between PFOA and teratogenicity as well as other claimed harm." (Teratogenicity is used to describe the damaging effects of an agent on a fetus.) [2]

Gaffney also proposed to "develop 'blue ribbon panels' of thought leaders on issues related to PFOA" and to "coordinate the publishing of white papers on PFOA, junk science and the limits of medical monitoring." DuPont confirmed to reporter Paul D. Thacker that they had hired the Weinberg Group to help with "scientific third party experts," probably on PFOA issues. [3]

The five-page 2003 letter also states that the Weinberg Group "has helped numerous companies manage issues allegedly related to environmental exposures. Beginning with Agent Orange in 1983, we have successfully guided clients through myriad regulatory, litigation and public relations challenges posed by those whose agenda is to grossly over regulate, extract settlements from, or otherwise damage the chemical manufacturing industry." [4] PDF file of letter

Work for the alcohol industry

In an editorial that ran in the British Medical Journal, Martin McKee, a professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, criticized the Weinberg Group for writing a white paper on alcohol regulation for the european alcohol industry. "Its approach is remarkably similar to the tobacco industry reports, contending that there is insufficient evidence that alcohol causes as much harm as is alleged or that preventive measures would be effective[5]."

Tobacco industry ties

The Weinberg Group has also worked closely with the tobacco industry. Myron Weinberg is described as a tobacco industry consultant in a thesis paper produced by Elisa Ong of the University of California San Francisco titled "Tobacco Industry Efforts Subverting the International Agency for Research on Cancer's Secondhand Smoke Study."--PDF page 75. The consultant relationship is confirmed in tobacco industry documents. Myron Weinberg is listed in a Philip Morris grants and projects budget as being paid $50,000 U.S.D. in 1995 alone for "Consulting Related to ETS [Environmental Tobacco Smoke] Projects." [6] PM Worldwide Scientific Affairs (WSA) department budgeted $250,000 for the Weinberg Group for Feb-Dec 1998 to organize a risk management conference and help develop and publicize a body of academic literature on risk management that would be favorable to the industry. [7]

The Weinberg Group also assisted the tobacco industry's law firm, Covington and Burling, with implementing a multinational Environmental Tobacco Smoke scientific witness program (also known as the "Whitecoat Project.") The Project was an effort by the industry to clandestinely find, recruit and train third party scientists to act as credible, disinterested third parties who would speak, write and testify in the industry's favor on the subject of secondhand smoke without disclosing ties to the tobacco industry.

A Philip Morris internal document dated 1989 and titled TI Consultants on ETS - Status Report (Tobacco Institute Consultants on Environmental Tobacco Smoke-Status Report) describes the Weinberg Group as a "witness search firm," and describes their role in the ETS project. It says the tobacco industry "used [the Weinberg Group] 4-5 years ago in initial effort to identify scientists on ETS" and that they "found 8-9 scientists, many of which have since fallen by the wayside...Today even more resistance among scientific community to working with the industry." The Weinberg Group at that time provided Covington & Burling (C&B) with the names of 33 potential scientists to recruit into the project. C&B "reviewed their resumes and bibliographies, and ensured that the selected scientists held no negative [to the industry] views on ETS, that their position on primary [smoking] is that it is no more than a 'risk factor,' and that they are not retained by other companies as potential court witnesses." [8]

In 2001, a researcher wrote about interviewing for a job at the Weinberg Group in Science Magazine. She wrote, "The Weinberg Group presented itself more like a law firm: The formal office environment was cold, stark, and way too quiet for my tastes. As soon as they mentioned the phrase 'billable hours' and that they had some tobacco companies as clients, I knew it was not for me. I ended the interview shortly after it began."[9]

United States Department of Justice lawsuit against the tobacco industry

The Weinberg Group was mentioned in United States District Court Judge Gladys Kessler's Final Findings of Fact in United States v. Philip Morris et al, a massive lawsuit brought against the U.S. tobacco industry by the United States Department of Justice in 1999. The court found the tobacco companies guilty of committing 50 years of fraud and conspiracy against the American people. On page 176 of the Findings of Fact, the Court found that in November of 1989, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requested comments on a draft document it had produced titled "Environmental Tobacco Smoke: A Compendium of Technical Information," a companion document to its forthcoming Environmental Tobacco Smoke Risk Assessment. In its February 1990 comments to EPA, the Tobacco Institute relied heavily on the conclusions of the McGill Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) Symposium, an industry-funded and managed conference, for which the industry did not disclose its connections. In support of its arguments opposing the compendium's conclusions, the Tobacco Institute cited published papers by industry consultants, including the Weinberg Group. Neither the industry nor the Weinberg Group disclosed their mutual ties.

DOJ's Findings of Fact also revealed that the Weinberg Group was one of the consultants funded through Tobacco Industry Special Account Number 4, an account designated for secretly recruiting and funding environmental tobacco smoke consultants. [2]

Clients

On its website the company states that "our clients represent a broad range of industries, including pharmaceutical, medical device, chemical, consumer product, cosmetic, environmental, and food." [10]

Personnel

Contact details

1220 Nineteenth St, NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
USA
Phone: 202.833.8077
Fax: 202.833.7057 (fax)
Web: http://www.weinberggroup.com/

SourceWatch resources

External links

References

  1. Justin Rood, "Congress: Science for Sale? Congress Launches Probe Into Firm's Work on Chemical Used to Make Many Plastic Bottles," ABC News, February 6, 2008.
  2. United States Department of Justice Final Findings of Fact in U.S. v Philip Morris et al. Final conclusions of the judge in the 1999-2006 federal trial in which tobacco companies were found guilty of conspiracy, racketeering and defrauding the public; at Page 176

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