Attorney General Bill Barr has been cleaning house since he took over from former Sen. Jeff Sessions who was President Donald Trump’s first attorney general.
The Department of Justice announced on Tuesday that Timothy Litzenburg, 37, of Charlottesville, Virginia, former Monsanto Roundup attorney, has been indicted in connection with an extortion scheme.
Prosecutors said that Litzenburg attempted to extort an unnamed company into paying a $200 million consulting fee to his legal firm.
“According to the criminal complaint, in approximately October 2019, Litzenburg approached a company (Company 1) and threatened to make public statements alleging that Company 1 had significant civil liability for manufacturing a purportedly harmful chemical used in a common household product used to kill weeds. Litzenburg allegedly also said that after making these statements, he would use media and other means to find plaintiffs to sue Company 1. Litzenburg allegedly threatened that he would only refrain from any such public actions if Company 1 (and its parent company) paid Litzenburg and his associates $200 million in “consulting fees.” In exchange for the $200 million, Litzenburg allegedly indicated that he would not tell any existing or future clients about Company 1 or its purported role in manufacturing the product. Litzenburg also allegedly made clear that the $200 million would not be a settlement for any clients, but rather would be a payment for Litzenburg and his associates,” The Justice Department said in a press release.
“Litzenburg allegedly communicated his extortionate demands by telephone and email and during an in-person meeting. During the in-person meeting, Litzenburg allegedly threatened that he and his law associates would be Company 1’s “biggest problem” unless they received the $200 million payment, and that the public disclosure of the purportedly damaging information about Company 1 would cause a “40 percent stock loss,” and “public relations nightmare” for Company 1’s publicly traded parent company,” it said.
He told the company that if they paid him $200 million in consulting fees he would “take a dive” during a civil deposition of the company’s toxicologist in order to prevent any of his clients or future platiffs from suing the company.
“Monsanto is not a party to this matter,” a spokesman for Bayer, owners of Monsanto, said to CBS MarketWatch.
Federal prosecutors said that Litzenburg made his demands to the company in phone calls, emails and in person repeatedly.
He warned the company that paying him $200 million would be cheaper for them than if their case becomes the next “Roundup” litigation and that they could suffer a 40 percent stock loss to start.