Smoking Gun : The Unlikely Figure Who Rocked the U.S. Tobacco Industry
Merrell Williams, the mole who became the tobacco industry’s worst nightmare, hardly seemed suited to the role. He had floated from one dreary job to the next, never staying very long in one place. Unfortunately for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., after Williams was hired as a lowly document analyst with access to company secrets, he grew intensely committed to his work. For four nerve-racking years, Williams led a secret life in Louisville, Ky., stealing and copying thousands of pages of confidential records. When he funneled the documents to Congress and the press in 1994, the impact was immediate and profound.
Hardened industry critics, accustomed to thinking the worst of the cigarette makers, were shocked by the disclosures. The papers became the focus of two books and an entire issue of the Journal of the American Medical Assn. They triggered a perjury investigation of top tobacco executives, who had testified in congressional hearings that nicotine was not addictive, just before the documents hit Capitol Hill.
Emboldened by Williams’ audacious act, other whistle-blowers and defectors--such as Brown & Williamson’s Jeffrey Wigand and Philip Morris’ Ian Uydess--began coming forward with disclosures of their own.
In fact, Williams, now 55, and the purloined documents figure heavily in all of tobacco’s current woes--from multibillion-dollar damage suits and pending criminal investigations to the threat of regulation by the Food and Drug Administration. With the ripples still surging outward, neither Williams nor the mighty industry will ever be the same.
Whatever judgment is made about his character and motives, the documents themselves assure Williams’ place in history. Hundreds of individuals, perhaps even thousands, were well-positioned to do as he did, and some no doubt were so inclined. Only Williams was (choose your adjective) brave, reckless or devious enough.
Not surprisingly, tobacco foes see him as a moral hero in the mold of Oskar Schindler, or Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers’ fame. Rep. Pete Stark (D-Hayward) even introduced a resolution to honor Williams with a congressional medal for exposing “the plot to murder millions and millions of Americans.”
But such testimonials have barely soothed Williams’ battered morale. A lonely and troubled man whose story tumbles out in rambling and disjointed fragments, he is alternately morose and defiant, a captive of his notoriety and obsession with tobacco. Hunkered down in this coastal town, where hot winds fan the murky waters of the Gulf of Mexico, he waits for the other shoe to drop.
Because he violated a court order in Kentucky that prohibits him from disseminating the documents, Williams could be sent to jail. And B&W; has pursued him through the courts, portraying him in two lawsuits as a conniving opportunist.
The third-leading U.S. cigarette maker, whose brands include Kool and Viceroy, has marshaled some intriguing facts to bolster its claim.
About the same time he leaked the documents, the impecunious Williams benefited from spectacular generosity. His benefactor was Richard Scruggs, a prominent anti-tobacco lawyer from Pascagoula, Miss., who piled the stolen documents into his Learjet and airlifted them to Congress.
In May 1994, Scruggs bought Williams a three-bedroom house in Ocean Springs, just west of Pascagoula, for about $110,000. He also bought Williams a $15,000 sailboat and co-signed loans for two cars. When a couple of paralegal jobs Scruggs arranged for Williams did not work out, Scruggs began giving him $3,000 monthly for living expenses--help he provides to this day.
As far as B&W; is concerned, Williams did nothing more noble than trade stolen property for expensive goodies.
“In any circumstance other than the tobacco companies, everyone in the world would be horrified to learn that a legal employee who is supposed to hold your business confidential has breached that trust [and] escaped off with some stolen documents,” said Richard A. Schneider, an attorney for King & Spaulding of Atlanta, one of B&W;'s law firms.
“It is indicative of the times we are in if this guy is going to be perceived as a . . . hero.”
Williams and Scruggs insist there was no quid pro quo.
“Merrell Williams is not the first person I have helped who I thought needed help and I thought had done a public service,” said Scruggs, who made a fortune in asbestos litigation.
Williams “was down and out, he was broke, and he was beleaguered,” Scruggs said. “I made the decision to help him out. I thought he did a very brave and wise thing. He didn’t steal documents with the idea that he was going to peddle them.”
Besides, said Scruggs, he merely made a loan.
“He owes me the money,” Scruggs said. “I hope he will pay me back.”
Merrell Williams makes no pretensions to sainthood. As the sun dropped behind the marshy expanse of Fort Bayou one evening last month, he nursed a glass of wine on the veranda of a waterfront restaurant and offered a less-than-glowing self-assessment.
“I’m a little bit of a good guy, and I’m a devious person,” he said.
“You can call me Robin Hood. . . . You can call me a prostitute. [But] I met my goal. The documents got out.”
It was January 1988 when Williams stumbled into the $9-an-hour job with Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs--a Louisville law firm hired by B&W; to help with the defense of tobacco lawsuits. He was nearly 47, and his life was off the tracks.
Two marriages had failed and a third would also end in divorce. His dream of a career as an actor or playwright had died long before. Despite a PhD, he had bounced from one low-paying, dead-end job to the next.
He had never been involved in anti-smoking work or social action of any kind.
Richard Daynard, a Northeastern University law professor and head of the Tobacco Products Liability Project, a group that promotes anti-tobacco litigation, said Williams brings to mind the life of Schindler, the callow, self-seeking German businessman who wound up consumed with the horrors of the Holocaust and saving the lives of Jews.
“Anybody whose earlier life would have given the slightest indication that they ever did anything simply because it was right would have been disqualified from the job from the very beginning,” Daynard said.
One Cool Dude
Williams was born in Louisiana, one of two children of middle-class parents. In 1959, he enrolled at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where, he said, he dedicated himself to acting, drinking and raising hell. He fell in with the Brazos River Society, a band of campus contrarians stuck between two eras--too young to be beatniks and too old to be hippies.
In a photo of the group, Williams is a cool young dude in shades, with a cigarette in his fingers and a raffish smirk on his lips--Joe Camel without the nose. Cast as a chain-smoking ad executive in a college play, he had started smoking Kools, B&W;'s flagship brand, and quickly became hooked.
After brief stints in the Army and looking for acting work in New York, Williams ultimately got his degree from Baylor. In 1971, at the age of 30, he earned a doctorate in theater arts from the University of Denver.
For several years, he taught college speech and theater. But he made little effort to fit in. At one Mississippi junior college, Williams made a habit of strolling into class 10 minutes late, delivering his lecture and leaving before the period ended.
“It was just my arrogant way,” Williams said. He was not invited back for the next semester.
By the early 1980s, Williams was tending bar on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast and thinking of becoming a shrimper. He had two young daughters and a second wife, Mollie, who was fed up with his lack of financial ambition.
“I never thought of money,” he said. “I thought if I ever made $20,000 [a year] that would be a real surprise.”
To appease Mollie, Williams agreed to move to her hometown of Louisville, to provide a more cosmopolitan setting for their girls. There he was a waiter, sold cars for several dealerships and even worked odd manual labor jobs when there was nothing else to do.
In 1987, Mollie took the kids and left. Williams was 46 and on his own, nearly penniless and deeply depressed by the loss of his daughters.
Then his life took a turn. He had taken some law classes in hopes of becoming a paralegal. Late in 1987, he heard about an opening at Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, the largest law firm in Kentucky.
Williams was thrilled by the prospect of making $9 an hour. He was desperate for a steady income, and a job with a prestigious law firm might help him win joint custody of the girls.
He recalled being asked during the interviews: “ ‘Do you have a problem with smoking?’ I said, ‘I smoke, but I could quit.’ ” He could only guess this was a good response. It was not until after he was hired--and sent to orientation at B&W;'s headquarters--that he learned what the job was all about.
Williams and others had been hired for a massive document-coding project. They were assigned to B&W;'s research center, a few miles from the firm’s downtown headquarters, to review a vast collection of letters, memos and research studies. It was damage control, as the papers were being sought by plaintiffs in smoking and health lawsuits. The documents were to be coded by subject matter and sensitivity, with the “hot” ones to be scrutinized by lawyers up the line.
Getting the Documents
At the time, tobacco’s legal battles had entered a crucial stage. Smoking and health litigation--which first flared in the 1950s, then all but vanished in the 1960s and ‘70s--had again roared to life. The very week Williams reported for work in January 1988, a historic cigarette trial was beginning in Lexington, Miss.
Nathan H. Horton was a black contractor and Pall Mall smoker who died of lung cancer at age 50. His family’s wrongful-death claim against American Tobacco Co. would end in a hung jury--up to then, the closest shave for an industry that had flicked away every damage claim.
Williams knew nothing about tobacco litigation. Although a smoker most of his adult life, he says he was so ignorant about tobacco generally that he was 40 before he even knew it was a plant.
Still, he concluded early on that he had joined the wrong team. For one thing, it bothered him the way the young Wyatt Tarrant lawyers would belittle the Horton case. They joked about “this black man who had cancer,” Williams said. “I got really sympathetic.”
As he perused the documents, his resentment grew. He was to find memos on nicotine dependence and smoking-related illness dating from the time he was a dopey young smoker himself--and even before. One 1957 memo from British-American Tobacco, B&W;'s parent company, discussed smoking and lung cancer--a linkage so unspeakable the disease was identified by the code word “Zephyr.”
Williams recalled his father being wheeled to an ambulance after a heart attack and puffing a Lucky Strike to calm his nerves. He remembered his dad grinning proudly at Christmas as he treated his son to his favorite cigarette brand.
“He wanted me to be happy, so he gave me two cartons of Kools,” Williams said. “Would my daddy have bought me a poison?”
The documents had never seen the light of day--which Williams found exhilarating but disturbing. Among them were strategy memos by tobacco attorneys on how to shift control of health research from company scientists to lawyers--so they could invoke the attorney-client privilege to keep the research from coming out.
Williams’ brief legal training had imbued him with a sense of the law as an ethical calling. Yet this looked to him like a blueprint for a cover-up.
“I didn’t have the contemporary view of the lawyer as a scumbag,” Williams said. “I took the law very seriously . . . [and] I knew what fraud was.”
Still, it would be months before he stole his first document.
At first, Williams merely took his thoughts home at night and wrote what he remembered. Security seemed lax, but he thought it must be better than it looked. So he experimented--going to the bathroom and stuffing little notes in his shoe to see if an alarm would sound when he went home.
He smuggled out his first big stack about Christmas 1988. Soon he was taking more documents, and “I got really good at it,” he said. “I couldn’t believe no one else had done it.”
Usually, Williams took the papers to different photocopy shops, returning the originals the next workday. It helped that he had access on the weekends, when no one was around.
Even on workdays, supervision was lax. Co-workers, their eyes glazing over, would break the tedium by playing miniature golf--banking golf balls off cartons of records into plastic foam cups.
Williams tried appearing calm and above suspicion, relying at times on gallows humor. He joked about “Three Days of the Condor,” a film about intelligence agents being brutally killed because they knew too much.
He made contingency plans to have the papers sent to authorities should anything happen to him. In 1989, he loaded two boxes of documents into the trunk of his car and moved them to a location in Jackson, Miss.
Later, he took the stash to Orlando, Fla., to the home of Nina Seltz, an old chum from the Brazos River Society. As Williams smuggled out more documents, he sent them to Seltz for safekeeping.
A Long Search
But his secret life was taking an emotional toll. On the one hand, he was fascinated and obsessed by all he had absorbed. And he was pleased by the thought that he had found his destiny as a saboteur of a harmful business.
But Williams was also a nervous wreck and in constant fear of going to jail--or worse. In Kentucky, he thought, people get killed for less than this. And if some fringe wacko decided to get even, there were others to think about too. Once again, Williams had a family--his daughters had moved in with him in 1991 after he was married a third time.
About 1990, Williams took his first halting steps to get the documents out. It was tricky, because he wanted to avoid getting crushed in the process. His efforts, therefore, were on and off again and would not succeed for years.
He got in touch with the tobacco liability project, Daynard’s group in Boston. Daynard was intrigued, and flew to Florida to meet him at Seltz’s home.
But Daynard was not encouraging.
“He said: ‘You can’t do anything. You’ll go to jail,’ ” Williams recalled.
As Daynard remembers, Williams was not yet “sure what he wanted to do with this stuff. . . . He was being very careful. He sort of wanted my advice, and my advice was I thought there could be some kind of criminal exposure.”
However, Daynard put Williams in touch with Morton Mintz, a respected investigative reporter who had retired from the Washington Post but was still doing hard-hitting freelance articles, some on tobacco. They met in Louisville to discuss a book project, but Mintz ultimately abandoned the idea.
Mintz knew the minute he questioned B&W; about the documents, all hell would break loose. As a freelance writer, he no longer had the backing of a staff attorney. B&W; would try to tie him to the theft of its property, and he would be thrust into a legal battle he couldn’t afford.
Said Mintz: “I thought about it and decided it’s one thing to think about being a martyr for some productive reason, but there’s no sense in being a martyr for no productive reason--which is, who’s going to print all of this?”
Williams struck out in other directions, including contacting federal authorities in New York.
In June 1992, he saw a news report that the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn had opened a fraud investigation involving the Council for Tobacco Research, which the industry had created in the 1950s, ostensibly to learn the truth about smoking and health.
Williams spoke to Tony Valenti, an investigator in the U.S. attorney’s office. But he still worried about how to protect himself, and nothing came of the discussions.
After four years with Wyatt Tarrant, Williams received a layoff notice in February 1992.
On his last day in March, Williams said goodbye to his supervisor and, in the bright light of day, walked out with a box of personal belongings--and a final cache of documents.
But Williams’ departure did not resolve his quandary. Worse, he was unemployed and would remain so for nearly a year. His third wife, Sherry, who ran a small business, suddenly found herself supporting her new husband and his daughters.
In February 1993, Williams finally got a job, with a car dealer. Within a month, however, he was found to have severely blocked coronary arteries and underwent emergency quintuple bypass surgery. The surgery was successful, but Williams’ brush with death lent new urgency to his situation.
He had always been an indifferent provider, as his frustrated wives could attest. The $27,000 he made one year at Wyatt Tarrant was by far the most he had ever earned. He was as happy in a shirt from Goodwill as from a fine department store. But after his bypass surgery, Williams heard the sound of opportunity knocking.
He shared his secret with Louisville attorney J. Fox DeMoisey. And in a remarkable letter on July 9, 1993, to Wyatt Tarrant, DeMoisey dropped the bomb.
The letter said DeMoisey had a client who had worked for Wyatt Tarrant, who had suffered a serious illness that cut his life expectancy, and who would be filing a liability claim.
The client’s illness, DeMoisey said, stemmed from the effects of smoking and distress at learning--while working on tobacco-related matters--about “the fraud and hoax being perpetrated upon the government and the American people.”
The client had considerable evidence for his claim, since he had removed documents from Wyatt Tarrant. DeMoisey was returning these papers in a sealed box. But unless a settlement could be reached, the client would sue and demand return of the papers as evidence in his case.
DeMoisey did send the documents. Unknown to him, however, Williams had kept copies of those papers and others besides. Williams admits he lied to DeMoisey about this.
Wyatt Tarrant and B&W; perhaps expected as much. They launched a preemptive strike, suing Williams for fraud, theft and breach of contract.
DeMoisey proposed these settlement terms: a payment to Williams of $750,000 and an additional $1.75 million to him and his children over time. The terms were rejected.
Williams insists he could not have been bought off. He said he would have taken the money because his health claim was valid--but never would have kept the documents secret.
In any case, Wyatt Tarrant and B&W; had no intention of giving him money. And they got a court injunction requiring Williams to return any more papers he had and prohibiting him from discussing them with anyone. Until modified more than a year later, the order even barred Williams from discussing the documents with his defense lawyer, DeMoisey.
Talking in ‘Riddles’
Williams was now more isolated than ever. He had been outed without getting the documents out--and now the risks of leaking them were extreme. B&W; was calling him a thief on the front page of the Louisville Courier-Journal.
In other ways, his life was falling apart. He did not have a job, and given his notoriety and mental state, he wasn’t likely to find one. There were medical and legal bills to pay, and the financial strain on Sherry was growing.
“I was obsessed,” Williams said. “I drove Sherry crazy. I mean, I was talking about tobacco. I was talking about the lawsuit. . . . She was oppressed. The children were oppressed.
“I figured I had one year to live if I continued to live under the pressure of Louisville.”
He decided to move to Mississippi. In February 1994, he faxed a note to Don Barrett, a Lexington, Miss., attorney whose work on behalf of the Horton family he had admired. Williams suggested they get together for a social chat. He would soon be in Jackson to visit his mother and look for work. They agreed to meet at that time.
They met one night in early March at a Jackson restaurant. Barrett brought along Richard Scruggs. Unknown to Williams, Barrett and Scruggs, along with other private attorneys and Mississippi Atty. Gen. Mike Moore, had been plotting a novel legal assault on the industry.
In late May, Mississippi would become the first of several states to sue tobacco companies seeking recovery of tax funds spent treating smoking-related ailments. At the time of the Jackson meeting, the lawsuit was in the development stage.
Williams “was scared, nervous, looked sick, talked in riddles,” Scruggs recalled. “We met with him for perhaps an hour or hour and a half, and when he left, Barrett and I looked at each other and said, ‘What did he say?’ ”
Williams did make clear that he needed a job. Within days, Scruggs placed him as a paralegal with a Pascagoula firm, and gave him money to tide him over until his first paycheck.
In March and early April, Williams and Scruggs talked some more. With the injunction hanging over Williams, discussing the documents was taboo, and he was deeply afraid of going to jail. But he also feared for Nina Seltz, the college friend who was holding smuggled documents for him. Williams mentioned his concern to Scruggs.
“With a little bit of caution, I said I have this material and I need to get it out of the hands of my friend,” Williams recalled.
Scruggs volunteered a safe place: a bank vault he owned in Pascagoula.
‘These Guys Are Toast’
On April 15, Williams and Scruggs boarded Scruggs’ Learjet in Pascagoula for the trip to Orlando. Seltz met them at the airport and delivered three boxes of documents, along with a written narrative by Williams.
As he perused the records, Scruggs was flabbergasted. Coincidentally, on the day before the pickup, tobacco chief executives, including B&W;'s Thomas Sandefur, had testified before Congress that nicotine was not addictive. Yet here were secret papers that seemed to contradict them.
One, a 1963 memo by Addison Yeaman, general counsel for Brown & Williamson, stated, “We are then, in the business of selling nicotine, an addictive drug effective in the release of stress mechanisms.” Recalled Scruggs: “I said, ‘These guys are toast.’ ”
Scruggs invited Don Barrett to Pascagoula to review the documents. Atty. Gen. Moore also had a look. Ordinarily, they would have been obliged to return private papers that were stolen or might be covered by the attorney-client privilege. But legal ethics make an exception for evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
“When I first took a look at the documents, it was quickly apparent to me that there was evidence there of possible fraud and other crimes,” Moore said. “There was obviously information there that was very important, I thought, to the public health of this country.”
They decided to deliver the papers to the proper authorities--in this case, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), whose House subcommittee had just questioned the tobacco executives about nicotine’s effects.
The anti-tobacco lawyers also had practical motives for exposing the documents. Should the papers be widely publicized by Congress and the media, B&W; would have a tough time blocking their admission as evidence in court.
On May 6, a delegation led by Moore and Scruggs flew the documents to Washington and presented them to Waxman. By then, the hottest memos--"the greatest hits,” as one pundit put it--had already leaked out and were circulating on Capitol Hill and to a few members of the press.
The New York Times published the first lengthy story on the Brown & Williamson papers on May 7, 1994. It was Kentucky Derby day, and the story was picked up in Louisville by the Courier-Journal.
“I got a call from Sherry,” Williams recalled, “and she said, ‘You’re all over the front page where the horses normally are.’ ”
From Washington to California, B&W; launched courtroom battles to recover the documents--but the genie was out of the bottle.
Within a few weeks, the Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into whether tobacco executives lied to Congress about the effects of nicotine.
Mail From ‘Mr. Butts’
Stanton Glantz, a leading tobacco foe and a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, got the documents in the mail from a “Mr. Butts"--the name of the cartoon tobacco shill in the Doonesbury comic strip. Glantz made the papers public by giving them to the UCSF library and putting them on the Internet. He and four colleagues also wrote “The Cigarette Papers,” a 450-page book.
The documents were “the key to open the door,” said John P. Coale, an anti-tobacco lawyer in Washington.
“It was the first documented proof that the public saw that they [tobacco firms] were lying. I mean, everyone knew they were liars, but proving it on paper is another thing,” Coale said.
“When people look back and wonder why in the hell anyone smoked in the first place, people will . . . see that this guy [Williams] could have been responsible for the end of it.”
However, Williams had more to consider than his place in history.
His daughters’ lives were in turmoil. His youngest, Sara, heard from a schoolmate that there was a hit man looking for her father. Williams wanted to move the girls down from Louisville but could not afford a suitable home.
On May 11, 1994, M&S; Enterprises, a partnership controlled by Scruggs, purchased a three-bedroom house for Williams in a leafy subdivision of Ocean Springs. In July, M&S; transferred title to Williams.
Within a few months, M&S; also bought Williams a 30-foot sailboat and co-signed loans for cars for him and his older daughter.
Williams’ efforts to resume his family life were a failure. Sherry had a business to run and decided not to make the move. A few months later--emotionally scarred and financially ruined by the bills Williams had left her--she divorced him.
Williams’ daughters didn’t stay long, either. They missed their friends, and in the fall of ’94 went back to Louisville. After they left, “I found myself weeping on a regular basis,” he said.
Williams’ legal problems escalated as well.
His dealings with M&S; were of no small interest to B&W.; In February 1995, the tobacco firm sued Williams a second time, alleging that he had conspired with M&S; and unnamed anti-tobacco lawyers to provide “confidential information that Williams had obtained as a member of B&W;'s legal defense team” in exchange for “a house worth in excess of $100,000 and other substantial, valuable consideration.”
The lawsuit, which is pending in federal court in Biloxi, Miss., was amended earlier this month to add Scruggs as a named defendant.
Scruggs and Williams deny they struck a deal--although Williams acknowledged that “the appearance is there, [and] that will never change.”
But he added: “I’m not in any position in my life where I’m enjoying the fruits of anybody’s gift giving. . . . I would not have wanted this under any circumstances. I fell into it.”
For Williams, the risk of jail remains. After hemming and hawing and taking the 5th Amendment through six depositions with B&W; lawyers, Williams finally testified in March at a deposition in Pascagoula that he gave the documents to Scruggs. He thus admitted violating the court injunction.
He also struggles with loneliness and depression. On a sweltering May afternoon, as he piloted his boat into Biloxi Channel, it was clear that even sailing brought little solace.
“There’s a certain point in life when you realize you’re a total failure,” Williams said. “I mean, in my opinion, I’m a total failure.”
Just as abruptly, he turns defiant and proud.
“I was dealing with a bunch of people who’d been killing people for a long time,” Williams said.
“My point always was to get the son of a bitches. . . . I want people to think that I beat ‘em.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Merrell Williams: A Chronology
January 1988: Merrell Williams is hired by law firm of Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs to work on document-coding project for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. in Louisville, Ky.
Christmas 1988: Williams begins to smuggle out and copy secret documents.
1990-92: Williams begins contacting tobacco foes and law enforcement authorities in unsuccessful effort to publicize the documents.
March 1992: Williams is laid off by Wyatt Tarrant.
March 1993: Williams has emergency heart surgery.
July 1993: Williams’ attorney informs Wyatt Tarrant that a former employee plans to file liability claim for health damage from smoking and job stress. Says his client has taken documents and will use them as evidence to support his claim unless settlement is reached.
September 1993: Wyatt Tarrant and B&W; launch preemptive strike, suing Williams for theft, fraud and breach of contract.
January 1994: Injunction is issued barring Williams from disseminating or discussing documents.
March 1994: Williams meets with anti-tobacco lawyers who are assisting Mississippi’s attorney general in preparing lawsuit against the industry for recovery of public money spent on smoking-related illnesses.
April 14, 1994: Seven tobacco chief executives testify before Congress saying they do not believe nicotine is addictive.
April 15, 1994: Mississippi anti-tobacco lawyer Richard Scruggs flies Williams to Florida to retrieve thousands of pages of documents Williams has stored at the home of a friend. Among them are 30-year-old memos in which tobacco officials describe nicotine as addictive.
May 6, 1994: Scruggs and Mississippi Atty. Gen. Mike Moore fly documents to Washington and give them to Rep. Henry A. Waxman, (D-Los Angeles).
May 7, 1994: First major news report on B&W; documents appears in New York Times.
May 23, 1994: Mississippi files suit against tobacco companies, and several other states soon follow.
June 1994: Justice Department says it has opened investigation into whether tobacco executives perjured themselves in testimony about nicotine.
February 1995: B&W; files second lawsuit against Williams, accusing him and a Scruggs partnership of conspiring to provide confidential and stolen papers to plaintiffs’ attorneys. Suit is pending.
March 1996: Williams admits in deposition that he provided documents to Scruggs in violation of court order.