Brown & Williamson Sues Source in ’60 Minutes’ Segment
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ A tobacco executive whose interview with ``60 Minutes″ was spiked for legal reasons was sued for theft, fraud and breach of contract Tuesday by his former employer, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.
Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, former vice president of research for the Louisville-based company, reportedly said in the CBS interview that B&W had scrapped plans to make a safer cigarette and continued to use a flavoring in pipe tobacco that was known to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
He also claimed that B&W lawyers altered documents in an attempt to delete any references to the company’s efforts at making a safer cigarette.
CBS pulled the segment because of legal concerns, but portions of the interview were leaked last week to the New York Daily News. Brown & Williamson accused CBS of leaking the transcript, an allegation that CBS News President Eric Ober denied.
``Our complaint demonstrates that Mr. Wigand has an appalling disregard for the law,″ said Gary Morrisroe, attorney for Brown & Williamson.
After the suit was filed, Circuit Judge William Knopf issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Wigand from talking about any confidential documents. A hearing was set for Monday.
Brown & Williamson contends Wigand signed a confidentiality agreement under which he agreed not to divulge ``competitively sensitive″ information. The lawsuit alleges he held onto such documents after he was fired in 1993.
``Wigand personally profited from B&W information that he unlawfully possessed,″ Morrisroe said. ``While under a pledge of confidentiality and receiving severance payments and outplacement help from B&W, Wigand was secretly selling himself as an `expert’ witness in lawsuits against the tobacco industry.″
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Wigand was paid $12,000 as a consultant on a ``60 Minutes″ report in 1994. Ober said the fee was for an unrelated story on cigarettes posing a fire hazard.
Wigand, now a high school chemistry and Japanese teacher at DuPont Manual High School, wasn’t immediately available for comment at his Louisville home.
The suit was filed after two anti-tobacco congressmen _ Democratic Reps. Ron Wyden and Henry Waxman _ asked House Commerce Committee chairman Thomas Bliley on Monday to investigate Wigand’s allegations.
``We want Wigand for two reasons,″ said Steve Jenning, a spokesman for Wyden. ``One, he’s the whistleblower on the tobacco industry of the highest rank who has come forward. And two, Wigand said Brown & Williamson altered documents that the commerce subcommittee had asked for.″
Wigand is already cooperating with Mississippi attorney general in a separate lawsuit against the tobacco industry to recover state funds spent on smoking-related illnesses. Wigand is scheduled to give a deposition to state lawyers Nov. 29.
Richard Scruggs, a lawyer for Wigand, said, ``He’s glad he’s going to get the chance to testify if the Kentucky judge will let him ... in the Mississippi case or for anybody else who wants him to testify.″