Steinzor in The New York Times: Judgment Day for Reckless Executives

by Brian Gumm | April 08, 2016

On April 6, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to one year in jail and a $250,000 fine for conspiring to violate federal health and safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. The mine exploded and killed 29 miners in April 2010. 

In an April 7 New York Times op-ed, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, explained the significance of Blankenship's conviction and sentence and what it portends for other top managers and CEOs: 

"The first C.E.O. ever to be convicted of conspiring to violate industrial safety standards will soon take his place in prison. 

"The sentence is noteworthy, however, not because of the law, but in spite of it. The Mine Safety and Health Act, the statute under which Mr. Blankenship was convicted, treats the worst criminal violations as mere misdemeanors." 

* * *

"The burden successfully shouldered by the prosecutors in this case…should be a salutary warning to other industrial executives. True, the defendant had a habit, unfortunate for him, of recording the bullying instructions he issued to subordinates, and was notorious in coal country for his contempt for government and regulators. But he also had the best defense money could buy and he represented an industry that brought precious jobs to a depressed ...

Steinzor Reacts to Blankenship Sentencing

by Rena Steinzor | April 06, 2016
Today, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship for conspiring to violate federal health and safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. Upper Big Branch exploded and killed 29 miners in April 2010. CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, issued the following statement: "Although Mr. Blankenship won't spend much time in jail, an outcome determined by a ...

Blankenship Convicted in Massey Coal Mine Disaster

by Rena Steinzor | December 03, 2015
Justice was done today by a hard-working jury in West Virginia that convicted Don Blankenship of conspiracy to obstruct federal mine safety rules.  This conspiracy was the primary cause of an enormous explosion that killed 29 men in the worst mine disaster in 40 years.  Although the jury was not presented with the question of whether Blankenship was directly responsible for the explosion, it did decide that he played Russian roulette with miners’ lives.  By underfunding efforts to comply with and harassing ...

Blankenship Indictment 'An Example for Every Prosecutor in the Country'

by Rena Steinzor | November 13, 2014
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin has set an example for every prosecutor in the country by indicting Don Blankenship, the venal, punitive, flamboyant, and reckless former CEO of Massey Energy. For years, Blankenship demanded updates on coal production every two hours and, the indictment reveals, browbeat senior managers to cut cost and violate crucial safety.  In one handwritten note, he told one such target, “You have a kid to feed.  Do your job.”  When the Upper Big Branch mine exploded, propelling ...

Sending Don Blankenship to Jail: A Legal Argument

by Rena Steinzor | May 20, 2010
Today, the Senate appropriations subcommittee chaired by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) will discuss "Investing in Mine Safety: Preventing Another Disaster" and hear testimony from the notorious Don Blankenship, chief executive officer of Massey Energy, owner of the Upper Big Branch disaster where 29 miners lost their lives on April 5.  Workers safety and health advocates have posted calls over the past months to “send Blankenship to jail,” perhaps under federal racketeering laws, and the FBI opened an inquiry into potential ...

MSHA's Band-Aid Approach Turns Deadly

by Celeste Monforton | April 12, 2010
Cross-posted from The Pump Handle. Last month, the US Dept of Labor (DOL) and MSHA were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act.  Their proclamations said: “…this law represents a watershed moment in the improvement of occupational health and safety in the United States. It was the precursor to the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, which created MSHA, and it was the basis of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of ...

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