An article published in The New York Times “misrepresents the facts” surrounding Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s handling of cases involving consumer fraud, Koster said in a response Wednesday.
The article alleged that Koster was successfully lobbied in lawsuits against 5-Hour Energy, Pfizer, and AT&T by the D.C.-based firm of Dickstein Shapiro through lavish trips and campaign contributions.
“Contrary to the inferences contained in today’s New York Times article, this office reviews each case on its merits,” said the Oct. 29 release.
The Times’ allegations seemed to center around an April 2013 settlement with Pfizer. Koster’s office opted to settle separately from other states also investigating the pharmaceutical company for selling off-label drugs, ultimately receiving about $750,000 or 75 percent of the $1 million each state got in the multistate settlement.
Koster’s office said in an Oct. 3 letter to The Times that a staff attorney had missed a filing deadline for the multistate action, and had to settle separately. Emails provided to Missouri Lawyers Weekly by the attorney general’s office explained to The Times that the lower settlement amount was due to the fact that Missouri was negotiating on its own, after the multistate deal had already been resolved in Dec. 2012. Emails from Eric Slusher, spokesman for the Attorney General, stated that the other state to negotiate a solo deal, Oregon, received $3.3 million because they negotiated ahead of the multistate settlement, and Oregon state law allows more favorable terms.
Speaker of the House Tim Jones said in his own release that he is “deeply disturbed by the multiple examples of apparent pay-to-play” the article alleges. He also stated that he is looking at legislative options to investigate the article’s claims and hold Koster “accountable for his actions.”
The Times also pointed out that around the same time as the Pfizer settlement, Koster was invited to speak at a conference the company hosted. The article also pointed to campaign finance documents that show Koster had received $13,500 in campaign contributions from Dickstein Shapiro and $20,000 directly from Pfizer.
“Attorney General Chris Koster’s willingness to accept large campaign donations in exchange for ending investigations of violators of Missouri law exposes Chris Koster’s real record,” Catherine Hanaway, Koster’s gubernatorial opponent, said in an Oct. 29 release.