According to the Department of Justice, a pair of Virginia attorneys pleaded guilty to federal extortion charges on Friday.
38-year-old Timothy Litzenburg and 41-year-old Daniel Kincheloe admitted to participating in a scheme to extort $200 million from multinational chemical company Monsanto. According to the DOJ, the lawyers threatened financial and reputational harm if the company didn’t hand over money disguised as a “consulting agreement.”
Around October 2019, Litzenburg approached Monsanto and threatened to publicly state that the company may be liable for manufacturing an allegedly harmful chemical, particularly Roundup weed killer.
The lawyers admitted to proposing a “consulting arrangement” with the company, which would create a conflict-of-interest and stop them from representing their clients as plaintiffs against the company.
After they made the demand, the lawyers threatened litigation that would become “an ongoing and exponentially growing problem ... particularly when the media inevitably takes notice.” The lawyers said the fallout would cost the company “billions.”
Litzenburg even said that he was willing to “take a dive” during a deposition of a toxicology expert to deter potential future litigation.
If any further doubt remained, the pair even set up a company that they planned to use to receive the payoff and split it amongst themselves and their associates. None of the money would have gone to existing clients.
Litzenburg and Kincheloe will be sentenced on Sept. 18, 2020.