PR executive says 'intimidation' accusation is 'ridiculous' and 'untrue'

Ann Knef Apr. 28, 2011, 6:36am


Public relations executive Jayne Thompson said that an attempt to characterize a litigation support strategy for Madison County class action defendant Syngenta as a campaign of intimidation is "ridiculous" and "untrue."

Thompson, founder and CEO of Jayne Thompson & Associates in Chicago, also said in an interview Thursday morning that a portion of its 2005 proposal that Circuit Judge William Mudge quoted in an order last week is "specifically excluded" from its contract with Syngenta.

Mudge ordered the proposal be turned over to plaintiff attorney Stephen Tillery, who represents Holiday Shores Sanitary District in a class action against Syngenta involving the herbicide atrazine.

In his April 20 order, Mudge characterized the proposal as one that castigates the Madison County judicial system in a negative light.

Among other things, he wrote that the proposal mentions adopting themes such as, "Another Madison County class action case going amuck" and "Now Madison County is going after family farmers."

Thompson said the firm's strategy, as outlined in a formal agreement with Syngenta, does not include using those themes as action items.

There also is no reference in the proposal that indicates the firm would proactively communicate disparaging remarks about the Madison County judiciary, she said.

Plaintiffs' counsel has been in possession of its consulting services agreement "for some time," she said.

She said Tillery had not yet seen its 13-page proposal when he made a statement on the day the order was entered that Mudge's ruling "cuts to the heart of the campaign of intimidation."

She said that "any fair reading" of the proposal would conclude that it was not intended to intimidate. She also said that she and her client "certainly did not" contemplate intimidation.

In the proposal, Tillery is named as an "aggressive and proactive class action trial lawyer" who would engage in a "publicity assault" in the atrazine cases.

Thompson said Tillery was named in the proposal because he had filed the lawsuit and because he had "a great deal of visibility as a proactive class action lawyer."

She said there are many reasons why a company facing major litigation would want to employ a public relations firm, including providing an audience with an accurate description of what is happening in the courtroom and providing accurate reports on the subject matter.

In this case, she said it was important for atrazine's safety record, regulatory history and its impact on the agricultural community to be accurately messaged.

Thompson said she "respectfully" disagreed with Mudge's characterization of the firm's proposal as written in his order.

"It's important to recall that in October 2005, at that time, there was a lot of intense media on the (Madison County) judiciary," she said. "The references we make (in the proposal) are in quotes."

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