FTI Consulting investigates claims its employee posed as journalist in Monsanto trial

FTI Consulting has launched an official review into one of its employees misidentifying as a journalist to gain access to a court case involving client Monsanto.

An FTI employee is being investigated for attending a Monsanto court case as a 'journalist'
An FTI employee is being investigated for attending a Monsanto court case as a 'journalist'

The FTI employee, whose name has been withheld by Agence France Presse (AFP), the news agency that broke the story, claimed to be a freelance journalist who worked for the BBC and tech news site The Inquirer – a commission both media companies refute.

She was attending a landmark trial in San Francisco about the health risks of Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup, in a suit brought by a Californian couple.

The trial was one of three Roundup cancer cases the agrochemicals company lost and has been ordered to pay damages of up to $2bn.

AFP was unable to find any evidence the employee had written or published posts about the trial on social media.

FTI Consulting spokesperson Matthew Bashalany told PRWeek the employee had been instructed to attend the court case, "for the express and exclusive purpose of taking notes on the proceedings".

He added: "Upon learning that said employee misidentified herself during the conduct of that assignment, the firm initiated an internal review and will take necessary and appropriate steps consistent with that commitment.

"FTI Consulting is committed to operating under the highest standards of ethical conduct, so we take this matter very seriously."

Western Wire complaint

The AFP report also cited a separate complaint in January by environmental group EarthRights, which claims two "Exxon-sponsored consultants posing as journalists" questioned the NGO’s legal counsel in a Colorado climate-change suit.

The pair were working for the Western Wire website, a joint initiative between the oil and gas funded Western Energy Alliance and FTI.

In response, FTI issued a statement by Western Wire editor Aaron Johnson, stating: "We have been transparent and forthright about Western Wire’s pro-industry perspective".

"Recently, Washington D.C. lawyers representing the City of Boulder contested the legitimacy of the news outlet. They published a blog post and that piece was picked up by Climate Liability News. The assertions made by these two entities, which are not transparent with their own funders, are misleading."

The full statement can be red on the Western Wire website.

Meanwhile, the successful lawsuits against Monsanto leaves parent company Bayer facing around 11,000 pending lawsuits relating to glyphosate, which has been the active ingredient in Roundup since the 1970s.

Although Monsanto has frequently defended the safety of its weed killer, the landmark win paves the way for a flurry of litigation and is a thorny issue for Bayer across the world.

Since Bayer – a German pharma giant – purchased Monsanto last June, its share price has plunged by 40 per cent.

Last week, Bayer took the extraordinary step of suspending FleishmanHillard for reputational work in France, which involved compiling a controversial list of more than 200 people, including journalists, politicians and agricultural and non-profit leaders.

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