in Houston, Texas
View the FBI file on lawyer/kingmaker Fred Baron here
Wednesday, Aug 04, 2010, 03:42PM CST
By Mark Lisheron

Answering an investigation by the FBI into the allegedly unethical handling of clients by attorneys for Baron & Budd, once the biggest asbestos litigator in the country, U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins dashed off a one-sentence letter that said, essentially, case closed.

 

The 2000 letter is part of a 90-page FBI file reviewed by Texas Watchdog on Fred Baron, the flamboyant founder of the Dallas-based Baron & Budd, whose millions in asbestos wealth he distributed to Democratic political candidates, most notoriously former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. Baron died at 61 of blood cancer on Oct. 30, 2008, five years after giving up law to devote his time to politics.

 

There is nothing in the file referring to his role as Edwards' lead fundraiser or that he had raised his own personal funds to pay the moving expenses for Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, to flee tabloid reporters.


The file is one of several FBI files on prominent Texas political figures Texas Watchdog has requested under the federal Freedom of Information Act, which generally allows public access to the FBI's files on people once they die. Texas Watchdog recently posted the file of another prominent Democratic fundraiser and trial lawyer, Houston's John O'Quinn, and has requested to see files on several other prominent figures, both Republican and Democratic.  


The FBI opened the file monitoring an investigation that began when an opposing lawyer in a Baron & Budd asbestos case said he had come into possession of an internal memo he said confirmed that Baron & Budd had established a format for clients to give false testimony. For all intents and purposes, the file ends with Coggins' July 22, 2000, letter that read, "Because of the administrative nightmare created by the McDade legislation we have closed our investigation into the above captioned matter."


The legislation to which Coggins, who has since retired as head of the U.S. Attorney's Northern Texas District and is in private practice in Dallas, was referring was the McDade Amendment, much reviled at the time by federal prosecutors. The amendment made far-reaching federal investigations cumbersome because it required prosecutors to follow ethics guidelines in each of the states where the subject of an investigation was operating. Baron & Budd were said to have handled 20,000 asbestos lawsuits from people all over the world.


The abrupt end to a long-running investigation left unanswered questions raised originally by an investigative report in 1998 and an aggressive follow-up in 2001 by the Dallas Observer.


When Baron, the so-called King of Torts, died, the Dallas Morning News ran a lengthy obituary. The investigation was not mentioned.


Do you have an idea of a prominent political or government figure in Texas who might have an interesting FBI file? Drop us a line at news@texaswatchdog.org


Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org.

Comments
UFP
Wednesday, 08/04/2010 - 05:27PM

So the DMN ran a lengthy obituary- who cares? Get some class for your second-rate "good government" sham.

What are they going to mention in your obit, Lisheron? Failed mainstream journalist? Stringer for a crappy online?

Peace Queer
Wednesday, 08/04/2010 - 06:29PM

Just looking for dirt? Just for the heck or it? While I'm no fan of the government 'poking around', it sounds like y'all are doing the same thing. A case from the year 2000 involving a dead white guy, where the U.S. Attorney said 'case closed'? Is that all you got?

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