New Records Suit: Where is MN AG Ellison’s Half-Billion Dollar Contract with ‘Climate Nuisance’ Tort Firm?
The government-transparency group Energy Policy Advocates filed a public records suit in Minnesota today.
In July 2020, EPA requested various records pertaining to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s relationship with ‘climate nuisance’ tort law firm Sher Edling, LLP, including a contract which does now apparently exist, which contract a Minnesota good-governance law makes clear required approval but which, apparently, has not received approval. The AG’s Office ignored the request.
EPA’s complaint lays out the facts making this of great public interest:
- On June 24, 2020, the State of Minnesota filed suit against the American Petroleum Institute, Exxon Mobil Oil Corporation, Koch Industries, Inc., Flint Hills Resources LP, and Flint Hills Resources Pine Bend, alleging, inter alia, violations of Minnesota’s consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices, and false statements in advertising statutes. The suit seeks, inter alia, restitution for asserted harm and injury caused to the State, and disgorgement of all profits made as a result of the alleged unlawful conduct. The case was removed to the Federal District Court for the District of Minnesota on July 27, 2020.
- The State did not seek a specific dollar amount of damages, but Attorney General Ellison has asserted the damages may be akin to Minnesota’s $7 billion dollar tobacco settlement.
- Other sources also cite the Master Tobacco Settlement ($200 billion, in 1998 dollars) as the starting point for settlement of this litigation campaign.
- On December 18, 2020, the Office of the Attorney General filed motions for admission pro hac vice, seeking to admit Vic Sher and Matt Edling of the law firm Sher Edling LLP as counsel for the Office and the State of Minnesota. The motions were granted on December 21, 2020.
- The Attorney General may not enter into legal services contracts in which the fees and expenses payable by the state exceed, or may be reasonably expected to exceed, $1,000,000 unless the attorney general first submits the proposed contract to the Legislative Advisory Commission and waits at least 20 days to receive possible recommendation. Minn. Stat. §8.065.
- Available information suggests that the Attorney General’s Office has not submitted a contract for legal services including Sher Edling, LLP as a party for review with the Legislative Advisory Commission.
- By contrast, the Attorney General’s Office has submitted a contract for legal services to the Legislative Advisory Commission related to the State’s statutory and common-law claims against JUUL and other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems companies in October 2019.
- The Attorney General filed suit against JUUL Labs in December 2019, alleging, inter alia, violations of consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices, and false statements in advertising. Of particular relevance here, that suit seeks, inter alia, restitution for the alleged harm and injury caused to the State, and disgorgement of all profits received as a result of alleged unlawful conduct.
- Sher Edling, LLP’s contract in other “climate” litigation filed on behalf of a governmental entity, released under California’s public records law, suggests that the firm would receive $546,250,000 in fees if the State of Minnesota receives the $7 billion in damages AG Ellison suggests Minnesota has suffered.
 See, e.g., “Could $200 Billion Tobacco-Type Settlement Be Coming Over ‘Climate Change?’,” Bloomberg Law, June 14, 2016, https://news.bloomberglaw.com/business-and-practice/could-200-billion-tobacco-type-settlement-be-coming-over-climate-change.
 See, e.g., paragraph 4.2 of Agreement Between City and County of San Francisco and Sher Edling LLP and Altshuler Berzon LLP; For Professional Legal Services, https://climatelitigationwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/SF-CC-2018-11-20-Legal-Services-Agreement-SF-SE-AB-FINAL-EXECUTED.pdf.
The suit was filed for EPA by GAO’s Matt Hardin in Lyon County, which is also home to some of the Minnesotans targeted in the lawsuit which Ellison has brought in not one but two Michael Bloomberg-funded lawyers to file, and now a contingency(-ish) fee tort firm to conduct.