Via America’s Lawyer: Congress unveils a report outlining sky-high levels of toxic heavy metals found across popular baby food brands. Was the FDA asleep at the wheel? Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss more. Then, executive director of Public Justice Paul Bland joins Mike Papantonio to explain major cases on the SCOTUS docket this spring, including class-action disputes against TransUnion, antitrust allegations against the NCAA, and a review of whether Goldman Sachs is stopping misled investors from pursuing litigation.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             A new report has revealed shocking levels of dangerous heavy metals in baby food and FDA has been asleep at the wheel as usual. I have Farron Cousins with me to talk about it, he’s the editor of the trial lawyer magazine and honestly, I don’t, I just say this for the right reason, one of the best progressive reporters in this business, I really do mean that.

Farron Cousins:                  Thank you.

Mike Papantonio:             Farron, I looked at this story and I wasn’t all that surprised, you know, it’s the FDA, but lay this story out. Here we have, we have baby food that has cadmium, lead, arsenic in it and the FDA has been diddling around with this for a generation, almost. Take it from there.

Farron Cousins:                  It, it really has. What this report tells us and they’ve been looking into this for several years, because they had inklings, they had reports, they had internal documents that showed, okay, well, these baby food companies know they’ve got some heavy metals in their food. So let’s find out how bad the problem is. They didn’t compel any of these companies to cooperate, which is a big, big misstep by the way. But then we find out not only are there shocking levels, I mean, we’re talking about hundreds of parts per billion more than what would be considered safe, but the FDA also has no limits. There’s no limits on most baby food.

Mike Papantonio:             See, see that’s the problem. They don’t have limits on things like PFAS, for example, that’s in our water because they haven’t studied it. They, the politics have, have prevented it. They don’t have limits on things like, like arsenic. They’ve got a limit on lead, which is one part per billion in baby food, which is way crazy because lead, because, because lead is cumulative. It’s bio-persistent, and it’s cumulative and it’s bioactive in the system, causes neurological disease. But who, okay, so who are these companies? Let’s call some names, Gerber, Beech-Nut, Happy baby, Campbell Soup and any time, by the way, anytime I see Nestle involved.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah, Nestle’s Gerber.

Mike Papantonio:             Nestle is Gerber. What an awful company. I mean just the worst of the worst predator company. And so here, here’s the point, they’re saying this, which I think is ridiculous. Well, you know what, we tested each of the components. If we used rice, we tested the rice. If we use whatever we tested it, doesn’t make any difference.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             They never tested the end product, which is the composite of all of these metals.

Farron Cousins:                  Right. So, so they would take like, okay, well, the rice has some mercury in it. The, the, the carrots have some arsenic in it. The peas, they’ve got some lead, but we’re just going to mix them all together and add all of these horrible things into this horrid concoction that you’re feeding your child. We’re not going to tell you about it. The FDA doesn’t care about it. And it took Congress to finally say, hey, uh, companies, could you, would you be willing to hand over your studies? You don’t have to if you don’t want to.

Mike Papantonio:            Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  This, this is systemic failures across the board.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. Please do it voluntarily.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             You understand they do the same thing with the pharmaceutical industry.

Farron Cousins:                  Yeah.

Mike Papantonio:             Please, please would you please, oh, would you please give us this information? This is what they’re doing here. Now, just to give you a sense of it. Okay. Beech-Nut, 800 parts per billion in lead, 800 parts per billion, 300 parts per billion of cadmium. Now we, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand, go Google it. See what cadmium can do to the neurological centers of your, of your body. See what lead can do. See what arsenic can do. These are all heavy metals. They collect in the body. They stay there. They don’t move through the body and it’s here today and gone tomorrow. That’s why every time you see these lead paint cases, these kids that have been eating paint off the side of the wall, they’re permanently damaged the rest of their life.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             The IQ is affected. Looks, they, they develop Asperger’s disease, things that look like autism and so we know what the problem is and these companies, they know that they could go to certain places in the world where we have less cadmium in the rice, less lead in the rice. They could go there, but they say, oh, no, let’s go over here because we get a better deal.

Farron Cousins:                  Right.

Mike Papantonio:             They’re going to send us rice that, yeah, it might be infected with, with lead or mercury, but we’re getting a good deal.

Farron Cousins:                  Well, and people need to start asking questions as to why are there no limits on these heavy metal toxins in baby foods? You’re talking about the most vulnerable portion of any population anywhere is these developing children. You know, from the time they are, most of them about three months old, when they start eating foods like this, they’re still developing. Their brains have not finished. You know, their neurological system has not finished being put together and you’re already putting toxic metals into them. Why did the FDA never decide, wait a minute, maybe we shouldn’t poison kids?

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. Farron, how about this. So Campbell Soup and Walmart said, no, we’re not giving you our stuff and the FDA has said, okay. That’s ok. The FDA needs to be completely just start from scratch again, get all of these political pimps, all of these corporate pimps that worked for the FDA that all they care about, they’re always looking for their next job. If I get mad at Campbell Soup, or I get mad at Walmart, they might not give me a job when I leave the FDA. And we see it all the time in pharmaceutical cases, you know, we see, we see, hey, here’s your way out of the FDA. You’ll see Pfizer or Merck, here’s your way out of the FDA. Because if you work with us on this Joe or Mary, you know what we can’t promise you, but when you get out, we might have a job for you that pays a million and half dollars and it’s better than your $125,000 a year.

Farron Cousins:                  Right. And the, the person who goes and fills the vacant spot at the FDA also typically comes from that company too. That’s the revolving door.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah.

Farron Cousins:                  You know, Pfizer will send their people to the FDA, they’ll take in the FDA’s people. It’s, it’s worse with all the drug companies.

Mike Papantonio:             It is so corrupt. It is just so corrupt and the American public, maybe they’ll pay attention to this. I mean, these are their children. Because most people say, ah, I don’t want to get involved. I don’t understand it.

Mike Papantonio:             Congressional hearings with CEOs from big tech have cast antitrust violations in the spotlight and the Supreme Court is about to tackle multiple other cases, which revolve around corporate accountability. Executive director, from Public Justice Paul Bland, he’s going to join me now to talk about this. First of all, Bland, Mr. Bland, the first case on the docket is against TransUnion and its, it has to do with terrorist watch list. Now from a, let’s avoid legalees, walk us through why that’s important for the average American. Okay.

Paul Bland:                            Okay. So TransUnion is a credit reporting agency. So they keep information about you and they sell it to anyone who’s thinking of giving you a loan, people who might hire you. If you try and get an apartment, you know, most landlords check your credit report. So they put in 8,500 people’s credit files that they were members of either terrorists. They were either on a terrorist watch list or drug dealers, and they were wrong for all 8,500 people. But they don’t keep records of who they sell information about you to. So what they say, what they’re arguing to the Supreme Court is that a $60 million jury verdict against them has to be thrown out because the plaintiffs could only prove that 1500 of the 8,500 people who were falsely on this list, that their information was actually sold. But TransUnion is the one who should be keeping that record, not, not the consumer. How would you know if they sold your information?

Mike Papantonio:             And what makes it so unusual, Paul, is the idea of punitive damages usually are not quantified like that. If a company’s done wrong, the punitive damages is across the board. It’s a really unusual analysis that I saw. The courts they need to, they need to rework that. They need to come up with a solution that says, A, you can’t do that and B, you’re going to be punished if you do. It’s pretty clear. Next up though, is a case against the NCAA for refusing to compensate college athletes. We’ve done this story so many times. We, we just are so down on the NCAA, and, and their position here. Talk to us a little about that and how do you see this playing out?

Paul Bland:                            So, so I mean, the argument, it’s an antitrust argument. They say these companies, these, these entities, the schools get together and they set a price and they set the price for zero for the athlete. So the schools make a lot of money. I mean, there are schools that make tens of millions of dollars off their football program and they aren’t paying the athletes. So the lower court said, well, you know, the argument that they’ve, that they were con that they were getting together and conspiring and setting prices, that’s, that depends on the facts. Let’s look into what the facts are because we just got together and we have rules for ourselves. It doesn’t matter any other facts. The only thing you need to know is that we decided that this is the right thing for the students and therefore we’re exempt from the antitrust law. So they had this really sweeping, crazy theory that would just blow a hole through the antitrust laws.

Mike Papantonio:             Hasn’t there been a, there’s been this effort year after year, Paul, to go after the NCAA, it seems like they’re almost bullet proof. I mean, case after case, where you say, A, your, your idea of saying that we’re, we, we can’t let athletes get any extra money because of the amateur protection. This, this, this theory that they’ve had, they’re trying to make it sound like it’s the high ground. Like, well, we’re giving them an education. Well, no, they’re not really giving them an education. Most of these students can’t even buy food. They’re doing everything they can just to hang on because they have to do practice. They have to do all these other parts and yeah, they may say, well, we’re not going to let you pay for a tuition and we’re going to give you a place, place to live. But when you drill down on the quality of life for these athletes, it’s pretty disturbing. This might be the first end road let’s hope. And, and finally, we’ve got a case with Goldman Sachs, attempting to stop investors from banding together. I mean, come on, what’s the motive here? Goldman Sachs, anytime you hear their name, simply follow the money and you will find corruption after corruption. Give me your take on this case.

Paul Bland:                            So this one comes out of the 2008 financial crisis and basically what they were doing is they’re selling a bunch of securities to investors and they say, these are really safe. They’re in mortgages. You know, if, if the person doesn’t pay, then we still have the house and so forth. So they knew privately internally that there was tons of fraud in the mortgage market and that a lot of these securities were in bad luck. So at the same time, they’re urging investors to buy them and they’re saying, these are great investments, they’re shorting them themselves. And they have a few select investors who they’re shorting them for, you know, selling them for less. So they know these things are not worth that much and they’re betting against their own investors. So it gets to the Supreme Court and they have two arguments, essentially. One is they’re arguing that the court shouldn’t be able to assume that, that securities markets, you know, the stock market relies on information. So that if there’s false information, each investor has to come in and like testify separately that they relied on the fake information. Then the other thing they say as well, you know, some of the statements we made that you’re saying are untrue. Like we told investors, we would always put their interests first. That’s so general you can’t sue us about it. Well, that’s crazy. How can it be so general that they can say, we will always put you first?

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. Paul, thank you for joining me. We’re going to continue covering these stories in the Supreme Court. Let’s see how, let’s see if there’s a change. Thanks a lot.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.