Cornucopia’s Take: Industry frequently makes its own science to back its products. Cornucopia has watched, in the food sector, industry players stack the regulatory deck in their favor. When corporations cannot circumvent the law, they hire lawyers to do it for them. Cornucopia remains committed to speaking truth to power and helping citizens vote with their wallets for integrity and ethics in the marketplace.
From Asbestos to Pesticides to Pork
by Myron Levin and Paul Feldman
Big Companies in Legal Scrapes Turn to Science-for-Hire Giant Exponent
The Fall of Icarus is the Greek myth about a youth who gets a pair of wax-and-feather wings but soars too close to the sun–melting the wings and casting him into the sea.
In the 1990s, a consulting firm called Failure Analysis Associates ran tongue-in-cheek ads aimed at corporate lawyers that retold the myth as a courtroom drama. The arty-looking promos boasted that Failure’s expert testimony in “Icarus vs. Wax Aviation” would put the onus on pilot error, getting the company off the hook.
The formula has turned the firm, now named Exponent, Inc., into a publicly traded giant in litigation defense and regulatory science. It’s a go-to destination for major industries with liability problems–even as it is derided by critics as a hired gun whose findings are for sale.
While not a household name, its cases often are drawn from the headlines, such as the National Football League’s “Deflategate” controversy; the General Motors ignition switch litigation; and most recently, the investigation of battery fires in Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones. Other Exponent clients have included BP, ExxonMobil and Dow Chemical, powerful trade groups such as the American Chemistry Council and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and government agencies including the Defense Department.