“He didn’t need to cheat.” Class-Action Lawyer Dickie Scruggs Gets Five Years

He was a lawyer’s lawyer.  The Tom Wolfe of the legal profession with his sartorial splendor.  He was the good guy in the story of Jeffrey Wigand’s battle with the tobacco companies (“The Insider”).  Mr. Scruggs recovered $206 billion in his class-action suit against the tobacco companies.  His fee was $1 billion for that case brought for 46 states.  But, the judge presiding over Mr. Scruggs’s 2007 class-action against an insurance company for Hurricane Katrina damages contacted the FBI about a bribery attempt. There are two theories on how the indictment was able to include exact language of conversations between the judge and others.  One is that the judge and/or his office were wired.  This theory makes more sense because the judge reported the attempt, and other conversations could have been obtained by taps.  Still another theory is that one of the four others Scruggs was working with to bribe the good judge cut a deal with the FBI and agreed to wear a wire. Never trust the people you cheat with.  They will throw you under the bus.The wire captured Mr. Scruggs’s actions and intent.  He entered a guilty plea in March 2008 to various charges.  He was sentenced to five years, the maximum, and will report to prison on August 4. Zachary Scruggs, his son, has also entered a guilty plea and will be sentenced on July 2, 2008.  All of the remaining lawyers involved in the bribery scheme have also entered guilty pleas.

Those in the legal profession are left scratching their heads because Mr. Scruggs was so good, possessed of the skill to win any case.  “He didn’t need to cheat,” was the comment of a representative from the American Trial Lawyers Association.  As for Scruggs, his words at his sentencing were poignant, “I could not be more ashamed to be where I am today, mixed up in a judicial bribery scheme . . . I realized I was getting mixed up in it.  And I will go to my grave wondering why.  I have disappointed everyone in my life, my wife, my family, my son, particularly . . . I deeply regret my conduct.  It is a scar and a stain on my soul that will be there forever.”

Compiled from news reports including, Abha Bhattarai, “Class-Action Lawyer Given 5 Years in a Bribery Case,” New York Times, June 28, 2008, p. B3.

Ashby Jones, “Scruggs Gets Maximum Five-Year Sentence,” Wall Street Journal, June 28-29, 2008, p. A3


About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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One Response to “He didn’t need to cheat.” Class-Action Lawyer Dickie Scruggs Gets Five Years

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