Jeffrey Wigand Essay.
Jeffrey Wigand is the whistleblower and alleged hero who was a top-level executive at Brown & Williamson Tobacco in the late eighties and early nineties who illegally breached two separate confidentiality agreements Tobacco in the late eighties and early nineties who illegally breached two separate confidentiality agreements by leaking trade secrets to a television network (CBS) and the federal government. Wigand is the son of a mechanical engineer, a dad who stressed independence; he grew up in a strict Catholic home in the Bronx, the oldest of five children.
A gifted student, he flourished in the quiet atmosphere of science labs and planned to study medicine, until he exploded at home and announced that he was dropping out of college to join the Air Force.
In 1961, Wigand was posted to Misawa, an American base in Japan where he worked in the base hospital O.R. He learned Japanese and, a jogger at college, became acquainted with martial arts. Back in the States, he continued his education at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, earning his doctorate with distinction.
He began work at a health-care company. He met his wife, Lucretia, in 1981 at a sales conference at Ortho Diagnostic Systems, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, where he was a director of marketing. They married in 1986. Wigand moved up the corporate ladder into more responsible positions and work stress. A perfectionist, his tendency to say what was on his mind did not endear him to management.
After 17 years in the health-care field, Wigand went to work for Brown & Williamson, the tobacco company, in December 1988 with an initial assignment of developing a new, healthier cigarette to put into a competitive market. His department budget was more than $30 million and he had a staff of 243. Wigand found his lab outdated and saw no evidence of health standards in the tobacco research. Even in the ’60s, documents were beginning to claim that cigarettes were addictive and caused cancer but Wigand claimed he did not learn of these studies until later. Wigand soon learned that in the tobacco-patter, “increased biological activity” was code for cancer and other diseases. Notes were not allowed at certain meetings and status reports that included medical findings were screened.
The litigation department had a budget in the millions to keep any case from proving that a smoker was damaged from the use of the product. The B&W personnel kept closed ranks and Wigand soon learned to trust no one. In 1991, his evaluation at work read that he had “a difficulty in communication.” He was becoming a problem with his questions and criticism. In late 1992 he objected to the use of coumarin in cigarettes when it was proven to cause cancer in rats and mice and was told that the removal would impact sales. His anger began to focus and take shape, and Wigand concentrated his research on the properties of additives. On 3/24/1993, Wigand was fired and escorted from the building, with his diary and papers confiscated.
Wigand’s daughter suffered from Spina Bifida and he needed insurance coverage. In order to get his severance benefits, he signed a confidentiality agreement that he would not divulge company policy. In September, B&W sued Wigand and suspended his health insurance and severance benefits, contending that he violated his confidentiality pledge by discussing the terms of his severance with another company executive. They were aware that Wigand had been called to testify as part of a 1993 U.S. Justice Department investigation into Philip Morris’ “fire safe” cigarette program.
They tightened their hold by insisting that Wigand sign a tougher agreement of nondisclosure. A producer of “60 Minutes,” Lowell Bergman met with Wigand while producing a story on Philip Morris’ “fire safe” cigarette. Bergman asked Wigand to help him interpret secret internal Philip Morris documents anonymously sent to him in late 1993. On 2/28/1994, ABC’s newsmagazine, “Day One,” broadcast a story contending that Philip Morris “spiked” the nicotine content of its cigarettes. On March 27, “60 Minutes” aired its story on the Philip Morris’ research, the full impact of which was killed by Philip Morris for fear of negative legal ramifications. During the course of the story’s production, Wigand was reportedly paid an estimated $12,000 for his time and expenses as a consultant.
In July, The Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into possible perjury by seven top tobacco company executives who testified at April 14 congressional hearings that “nicotine is not addictive.” Wigand was named as an expert defense witness for ABC. On August 3, after a summer of indecision, Wigand and his wife agree to an interview with Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes.” On August 21, ABC News agreed to a carefully worded apology for the “Day One” report on 2/28/1994 that said Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds controlled and manipulated nicotine levels to addict smokers.
ABC also agreed to pay all legal fees – an amount that totaled some $15 million, rather than face a libel suit that would cost a great deal more. Parts of the Wigand transcript leaked to the New York Daily News. Wigand reportedly said that B&W Tobacco Corp. had vetoed plans to make a safer cigarette and continued to use a flavoring in pipe tobacco known to cause cancer in lab animals. Moreover, he supposedly said the company’s former CEO Thomas Sandefur was guilty of perjury when he told Congress that nicotine was not addictive.
Wigand agreed to speak to The Wall Street Journal as an anonymous source, which printed essentially the story that “60 Minutes” found too hot to tackle, that internal reports showed that leading U.S. tobacco companies enhance nicotine delivery to smokers by adding ammonia-based compounds to cigarettes, chemicals that increase the potency of the nicotine inhaled. In 1996, the Journal won a Pulitzer Prize for this story. At the request of anti-tobacco plaintiffs’ lawyers, Jeffrey Wigand provided a deposition in a civil action against tobacco manufacturers brought by the state of Mississippi.
The state sought reimbursement for the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses over the years. Wigand supported previously publicized contentions that Brown & Williamson lawyers improperly controlled research programs in an effort to limit potential liability in injury lawsuits filed against the company. By 1994, Wigand was out of work and being threatened and slandered. He was drinking heavily and his marriage was suffering badly from the fallout of his public battle as well as the illness of his daughter. Wigand and his wife both blame B&W for placing an unbearable strain on their marriage, one that led to a later divorce. In 1995, Wigand took a job teaching Japanese at a fraction of his former salary.
He moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Louisville and appeared content. Brown & Williamson sued Dr. Wigand, accusing its former vice president of theft, fraud, breach of contract and other offenses. The lawsuit was dismissed as a condition of the 6/20/1997 historic settlement between the Attorneys General of 40 States and the tobacco industry. Wigand has received numerous awards and public recognition for his action in revealing tobacco company research and marketing practices. He continues his efforts to reduce teen tobacco use through a non-profit organization he formed, Smoke-Free Kids, Inc.
While Wigand’s efforts may have created some positive results, the question remains whether or not Wigand was ethically right in exposing his employer. Wigand’s motivation must be explored; it appears that many of his actions were retaliations to actions of B & W. Wigand broke the law by breaking his confidentiality agreement. Much of the information he supplied was not new information, instead he appeared to be vindictive against his former employer and trying to harm them. I do not believe Wigand’s actions were altruistic he was working for the best interest of Wigand, not the general public.
Brown & Williamson sued Wigand for breach of contract for disclosing details of his separation agreement and wanted to take away his medical benefits. Wigand reluctantly settled and signed a life-long confidentiality agreement. Wigand got in touch with Lowell Bergman, senior producer for CBS “60 Minutes.” Word started to filter out that Wigand was telling CBS secrets about Brown and Williamson. That’s when an FDA agent called Wigand, asking him if he would help the agency find out about tobacco companies activities. Industry-paid detectives were following him and he was facing a lawsuit from Brown & Williamson for breaking a confidentiality agreement.
The Insider movie
For over 30 years, the CBS news program “60 Minutes” has broadcast thousands of probing stories on every topic imaginable. Now one story they hesitated to air is the subject of a new film and a renewed controversy. Actor Al Pacino, This guy is the ultimate insider. “The Insider” tells the story of “60 Minutes” producer Lowell Bergman, as portrayed by Al Pacino, and the tobacco company executive and whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand, played by Australian actor Russell Crowe. In 1995, Bergman convinced Wigand to break a confidentiality agreement with his former employer and reveal the inner workings of the tobacco industry to “60 Minutes.”
But CBS executives, fearing a multibillion-dollar lawsuit from the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, Wigand’s former employer, pulled the interview before it was broadcast. After several months and much public embarrassment, “60 Minutes” finally aired the Wigand interview on Feb. 4, 1996. Producer Bergman sees the film as a tale of corporate media setting survival above principle. “60 Minutes” Executive Producer Don Hewitt, in a November 1998 interview with the “News Hour,” defended himself and his program against the charge that they knuckled under to corporate demand. Broadcast the story.
They said it’s their transmitter, it’s their network. However, the movie paints Hewitt as little more than a tool of CBS management. Criticisms of the film have centered on Director Mann’s acknowledgment that he compresses time in the film, combines some actual events, and invents others. The film still adheres to the larger truth of the story. If something is not faithful to what occurred or not faithful to the truth or events, it deserves to be condemned, but the picture is not. The picture is faithful to what happened. Lowell Bergman quit. He quit “60 Minutes.” He had a contract that he could have renegotiated to his great advantage. He scooped the Unabomber, he had gotten the show on the air and he would not work there anymore.
Bergman accusingly points out to CBS management that CBS is being sold to Westinghouse, and that the top brass are expecting million dollar payoffs and thus cave in to Tobacco to protect their stock. Bergman’s power comes from his ability to manipulate, from the inside, the connections which control the mouthpiece of capital, that is, the mass media. His bold physical presence is merely one expression of self for he is always using other media to extend and multiply himself to exercise power across town or across the world. He is himself a medium, outmaneuvering his opponents through a more sophisticated utilization of media pathways.
Westinghouse electric co. the profitable Monroeville-based subsidiary of British Nuclear Fuels could be sold by the British government, the company’s chief executive said yesterday. But Steve Tritch, who also is president of the nuclear power company, said if a sale were to happen, it would not be as traumatic as its 1999 divestiture from the former Westinghouse Electric Corp. The former Pittsburgh conglomerate shed its industrial remnants after changing its name to CBS it later merged with Viacom and moving to New York. There are people in the (British) government considering whether Westinghouse ought to continue to be part of BNFL or whether Westinghouse ought to have a new home. Tritch told a breakfast meeting of the Pittsburgh Technology Council.
“From my customers’ point of view and from my employees’ point of view, we’re not nearly as worried about that as we were in 1999, when we were no longer going to be part of the big Westinghouse conglomerate”. Since its acquisition by BNFL, Westinghouse has grown, aided by the absorption of BNFL’s fuel manufacturing facility in the United Kingdom and the nuclear business of Swedish-Swiss engineering and technology giant ABB. Annual revenue stands at about $2.1 billion, up from less than $1 billion when Westinghouse was acquired, and it employs about 8,500 worldwide, including about 3,000 locally. Its principal businesses are servicing, building and providing fuel for nuclear plants.
Tritch said the experience of the last several years made it clear to him that ownership matters. Once freed from management that was more interested in faster-growing broadcast properties than the sluggish industrial arena, Westinghouse grew. For one, the name still holds an honored place in the nuclear arena about half of the world’s 434 operating commercial nuclear plants use Westinghouse technology.
Moreover, it is a vibrant business with only two major competitors in the world, General Electric and the French nuclear group Areva. Growth has occurred mostly outside the United States. Perhaps the company’s best hope of getting contracts to build new power plants lies in China, which hopes to build 30 nuclear reactors between now and 2020. Westinghouse has a bid in to build the first four and should know the results of the contest by year’s end.
The most obvious difference between print and electronic media is the way people retrieve the news. Print can be read at leisure in a busy waiting room or on a long bus ride. However, television and radio news may be more scheduled. Scripts for news anchors and reporters are written to get to the heart of a story without as much mention of details. In print the writer can incorporate specifics like some ones’ full name and title, or a complete address when writing about a particular location. In a brief news segment a reporter wants to keep the audience interested without giving too many boring specifics.
A journalist working for a television or radio network may do just as much probing and research as a writer for the news paper. Yet the journalist must present the news in a straight forward and unbiased fashion while a columnist has more freedom to express a certain view point on a particular topic. The motive of a reporter for radio is to inform or educate the public based on reliable information.
A reporter has the tedious task of finding out what the people want to know and then delivering the news as an objective professional. Newspaper writers often chose to write about a particular story because they want to use print as a way to reach and influence their readers whether it be political or otherwise. Both types of journalists must base their findings from sound sources. However, a columnist may manipulate the presentation of info to reflect their own opinion or one accepted by the paper they write for. The only time electronic media can manipulate the truth to illicit a certain way of thinking, is by leaving out details.
It was never Jeffrey Wigand’s ambition to become a central figure in the great social chronicle of the tobacco wars. By his own description, Wigand is a linear thinker, a plodder. On January 30, when he went at the sports bar at the Hyatt Regency in Louisville, he is in the first phase of understanding that he has entered a particular American nightmare where his life will no longer be his to control. His lawyer will later call this period “hell week.” Wigand has recently learned of a vicious campaign orchestrated against him, and is trying to document all aspects of his past. He is deluged with requests for interviews.
TV vans are often set up at DuPont Manual, the magnet high school where he now teaches. In two days Wigand, the former head of research and development (R&D) at the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. Wigand is trapped in a war between the government and its attempts to regulate the $50 billion tobacco industry and the tobacco companies themselves, which insist that the government has no place in their affairs. Wigand is under a temporary restraining order from a Kentucky state judge not to speak of his experiences at Brown & Williamson (B&W). He is mired in a swamp of charges and countercharges hurled at him by his former employer, the third-largest tobacco company in the nation, the manufacturer of Kool, Viceroy, and Capri cigarettes.
In the bar, Wigand sits with his security man, Doug Sykes, a former Secret Service agent. Wigand is worn out, a fighter on the ropes. He has reached that moment when he understands that circumstances are catapulting him into history, and he is frightened off his moorings. He wears silver-rimmed aviator glasses, which he takes off frequently to rub his eyes. Investigators called Jeffrey two am in the morning he is becoming a rational figure. He is going to lose economically and going to lose his family. All through dinner, Wigand keeps his cellular phone on the table. It rings as he and his friend is having coffee.
He explodes in anger into the receiver: “Why do you want to know where I am? What do you want? What do you mean, what am I doing? It’s 10 o’clock at night. What do you need to connect with me for? I am not a trained dog. You are going to have to explain to me what you are doing and why you are doing it so I can participate”. Wigand narrows his eyes and shakes his head at his friend as if to signal that he is talking to a fool. He is beyond snappish now. He realized that jeffrey is speaking to one of his legal investigators, who has been putting in 16-hour days on his behalf, mounting a counterattack against his accusers.
“You can’t just drop into Louisville and have me drop what I am doing. No, you can’t! I am not listening. Wigand slams the telephone on the table. “Everyone on the legal team is pissed off because I am in Louisville. You know what the team can do! If he was going to come down today, why didn’t he tell me he was coming?” They walk out of Kunz’s and trudge back through the snow toward the Hyatt. Across from the hotel is the B&W Tower, where Wigand used to be a figure of prestige, a vice president with a wardrobe of crisp white shirts and dark suits. “I am sick of it sick of hiding in a hotel and living like an animal.
I want to go home,” he says with desperation in his voice. Jeffrey Wigand and his friend met at an anti-smoking-awards ceremony in New York on January 18. Wigand was receiving an honorarium of $5,000, and former surgeon general C. Everett Koop was going to introduce him. Wigand radiated glumness, an unsettling affect for a man who was in New York to be honored along with such other anti-smoking activists as California congressman Henry Waxman and Victor Crawford, the former Tobacco Institute lobbyist, who died soon after of throat cancer. “I am not sure I should be here,” Wigand told him moments after they met.
“Something terrible has happened to me. Brown & Williamson has gotten private records from the Louisville courthouse. A local TV reporter has come to my school to ask about my marriage. They are trying to ruin my life. When I get back to Louisville, I may not have a job. A public-relations man in New York named John Scanlon is trying to smear me. I have five sets of lawyers who are representing me, and no one can agree on a strategy.” Then he said, without any special emphasis, “If they are successful in ruining my credibility, no other whistle-blower will ever come out of tobacco and do what I have done.”
One hour later he was on the stage accepting his award and giving a halting history of his conflict with B&W. “My children have received death threats, my reputation and character have been attacked systematically in an organized smear campaign,” he said his voice breaking. When he saw Jeffrey Wigand for the first time in Louisville, he was at the end of one crisis and the beginning of another. We had been scheduled to meet for our first formal interview that evening, and he waited for jeffrey to call him. Out of necessity, Wigand has become a man of secret telephone numbers and relayed phone messages; there is an atmosphere of conspiracy around any meeting with him, with tense instructions and harried intermediaries.
By the time Wigand decided to move temporarily into the Hyatt, it was 10:30 P.M. His friend walked downstairs and knocked on his door. He was surprised by the change in his appearance in just one week. He leaned against the TV on the wall, diminished and badly shaken. “I have lost my family. I don’t know what I am going to do,” he said. The anti-tobacco forces depict Jeffrey Wigand as a portrait in courage, a Marlon Brando taking on the powers in on the Waterfront. The pro-tobacco lobbies have been equally vociferous in their campaign to turn Wigand into a demon, a Mark Furhman who could cause potentially devastating cases against the tobacco industry to dissolve over issues that have little to do with the dangers of smoking.
According to New York public-relations man John Scanlon, who was hired by B&W’s law firm to help discredit Wigand, “Wigand is a habitual liar, a bad, bad guy”. It was Scanlon’s assignment to disseminate a wide range of damaging charges against Wigand, such as shoplifting, fraud, and spousal abuse. Scanlon himself, along with B&W, is now the subject of an unprecedented Justice Department investigation for possible intimidation of a witness. For First Amendment specialist James Goodale, the charges and countercharges B&W has attempted to level against Wigand represent “the most important press issue since the Pentagon Papers” Goodale who represented The New York Times.
It has become a dramatic convention to project onto whistle-blowers our need for heroism, when revenge and anger are often what drive them. There is a powerful temptation to see Jeffrey Wigand as a symbol: the little guy against the cartel, a good man caught in a vise. However, Wigand defies easy categorization. As a personality, he is prickly, isolated, and fragile “peculiar as hell” in Mike Wallace’s phrase but there seems to be little doubt about the quality of his scientific information.
Wigand is the most sophisticated source who has ever come forward from the tobacco industry, a fact which has motivated B&W to mount a multi-million-dollar campaign to destroy him. National reporters arrive in Louisville daily with questions for Wigand. How lethal are tobacco additives such as coumarin? What did B&W officials know and when? And what does it feel like, Dr. Wigand, to lose your wife and children and have every aspect of your personal life up for grabs and interpretation in the middle of a smear. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, 3 million American’s under the age of 18 consume one billion packs of cigarettes and 26 million containers of snuff every year.
For a cigarette company, the potential for profits from these sales illegal in all 50 states is immense, more than $200 million a year. Wigand came to feel increasingly that there was “no sense of responsibility” on the subject of teenagers and smoking. At 60 Minutes, the on-air personalities were involved in six or seven stories at the same time and took a deserved share of the credit for the show’s singular productions, but the staff was well aware that the producers actually did the backbreaking reporting.
In most cases, the producers had complete freedom to develop stories, and it was they, not the correspondents, who were in hotel rooms in Third World countries at all hours bringing along reluctant sources. Later, the correspondents stepped in. Only rarely did correspondents know the explicit details of stories other teams were developing. n late November, the litigator Stanley Arkin, one of more than a dozen lawyers working for B&W to head off the Justice Department’s investigation into the tobacco industry, recommended that B&W hire public-relations man John Scanlon and Terry Lenzner, the former Watergate deputy counsel who is the head of Investigative Group Inc., a firm that specializes in legal work for corporate takeovers.
Since his days as a liberal Republican lawyer, Lenzner has traveled philosophically from being someone who out of principle forced the Nixon administration to fire him to being an ambitious investigator in his 50s who would like to compete with Jules Kroll, a leader in the field. Like Arkin, Lenzner is attracted to the game of big-time corporate litigation, but, according to several former partners, his business has suffered recently. Lenzner’s assignment was to prepare a lengthy dossier that B&W could use to torpedo Wigand’s reputation with Jimmie Warren, the innovative Justice Department prosecutor running the investigation into the tobacco executives at Central Justice, the elite unit of the Justice Department which monitors national policies.
Wigand, Jeffrey. “About Dr.Wigand”. 2000. http://www.tripatlas.com/jeffrey_wigand.
“Smoke free kids”. 22 Sep 2005. http://www.jeffreywigand.com/insider/bio.html
Enrich, David. “Jeffrey Wigand”. PBS: 22 Sep 2005. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/settlement/deal/people/wigand.html
Wigand, Jeffrey. “The Inside that blow smoke at big tobacco”. Truth tellers. 2004.
US news and World reports. 24 Sep 2005. http://www.usnews.com/usnews/doubleissue/heroes/wigand.htm
Moyer, David. Wall Street Journal. 26 Jan 1996.