Via School for Startups Radio: Please welcome to the show, Mike Papantonio. He is senior partner at a law firm called Levin Papantonio Rafferty, one of the largest plaintiff firms in the United States, taking care of cases against big pharma, tobacco, weapon manufacturers and other bastions of corporate greed. But the reason we’re going to be speaking with him today is about one of his new books, a legal thriller titled, “Inhuman Trafficking.”
*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.
Jim Beach: Please welcome to the show, Mike Papantonio. He is senior partner at a law firm called Levin Papantonio Rafferty. He is one of the largest plaintiff lawyers in the United States taking care of cases against big pharma, tobacco, weapon, weapon manufacturers, and other bastions of corporate greed. But the reason we’re going to be speaking with him today is about one of his new books. He has written about, I don’t know, I lost count 10 books or something, in the fiction space, legal type thrillers, but he’s also written some interesting books that caught my eye. One is called, “In Search of Atticus Finch,” a book about how to be a lawyer, which I think would be fascinating. Mike, welcome to the show. How are you doing today?
Mike Papantonio: Good, Jim. How are you doing?
Jim Beach: I am well. Who is the greatest literary lawyer out there? Is it Atticus Finch? Is he our greatest?
Mike Papantonio: I would say so.
Jim Beach: Fiction lawyer.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, I would say so. He’s had a big impact on a lot of lawyers over the years because, you know, he had, he had all those parts. His family mattered to him. His profession mattered to him. His community mattered to him and he wasn’t afraid to jump into those tough cases. And a lot of times with lawyers these days, especially, I don’t know what it is, I don’t know whether it’s a generational thing or what, but you find that lawyers are just unwilling to move outside of their, outside of their comfort zone. Kind of before we got on, I was telling you about your book, “School of Startups.” That was one of the themes. You have to move outside your comfort zone. And Atticus Finch was somebody that always operated out of his comfort zone, but nevertheless, he had all those moving parts. And great father.
Jim Beach: So how many books is it? Is it eight, nine books.
Mike Papantonio: No, it’s, it’s.
Jim Beach: How many fiction and how many nonfiction?
Mike Papantonio: Okay. So there’s, there’s three, there’s three fiction, excuse me, four fiction and three nonfiction. Yeah.
Jim Beach: Okay.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Jim Beach: All for lawyers or about lawyers?
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. The, the, the first, the first books that were the, the, the nonfiction books, they were actually kind of instructional, like you did with school of startups, which is to tell people that there are things that you ought to think about when you in your career want to do some remarkable things. And so they talked to lawyers about that. For some reason, right at the first few years of my practice, I was hitting very big verdicts in very difficult areas. And so I was called on to give speeches about what is it that, that you did different and so out of there came those three books, “In Search of Atticus Finch,” “Resurrecting Aesop” and “Clarence Darrow, The Journeymen.” And they were just really, they, they talked about the same thing, Jim, that you talked about in your books and that there’s, there are some things that you need to be able to embrace and say, I need to change this aspect of what I do. And one of the, one of the constant themes is, as I say, that you seem to have some kinship with is you can’t be afraid of rejection and you can’t, you can’t be afraid to try that new thing.
Jim Beach: I’m a great dater Mike, because I don’t have any fear with, of rejection, thousands of girls have said no to me and so.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. It’s law of ave, it’s kind of law of averages, isn’t it?
Jim Beach: That’s right. You only need one to say yes.
Mike Papantonio: Yes, that’s correct.
Jim Beach: You know, and I found two. So, anyway.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, before school I sold books door to door, and many summers, University of Florida, they had it, it was a big program. You’d go out all over the country and sell books, Bibles and children’s books in areas that you, you know, completely foreign to you. But you would make so much money and I found that the greatest closers, the people who really could close a deal, once they forgot that it was all about law of averages, they just fell apart. And that’s, that’s just true with everything we do, isn’t it, whether we’re writing a book like, you know, sometimes these books work, sometimes they don’t. I think this one, “Inhuman Trafficking,” is going to work.
Jim Beach: So men either want their own restaurant bar, they want a, oh, great American novel or 21 year old twins. I guess your dream was to write the great American legal thriller.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Yeah. We’re all, you know what, it really didn’t start out like that. And I don’t know that it’s there yet, but the problem is the cases that I handle, Jim, are just they’re, they’re not, you know, I don’t do one 800 auto crash or come see me for workers’ compensation. The kind of cases I did that, matter of fact, the tobacco litigation started right here with my law firm. We helped write it and launched it in the United States. The opioid case that’s going on right now, we launched that case. We’ve probably launched 44 of the biggest pharmaceutical cases in the country, 12 of the biggest environmental cases. So every time you’re doing that, you have to say, well, this is, you know, taking on big tobacco, God, I think we were $28 million into that before we could turn it around. On opioids, I think we’re probably similar amount of money. So, so the point is you, that.
Jim Beach: Well, to make sure that we understand, you spent close to $30 million prosecuting the case.
Mike Papantonio: Oh, of course, yeah. Yeah, of course. So.
Jim Beach: I don’t think most people would know that. Where does money like that come from?
Mike Papantonio: Well.
Jim Beach: Obviously you have corporate support?
Mike Papantonio: No, not at all. We don’t, we don’t take any loans from Wall Street. Most of the time we’re suing Wall Street. You know, we just had some big breaks, Jim. Early on I tried some of the first asbestos cases ever tried in America. And, you know, it was such an awful case. They were killing, they were killing blue collar workers by the, by the thousands literally. And, you know, we came across some documents that were just the worst. One document said, these men make a good living with asbestos, they can die with asbestos. You can, you can imagine what juries did to react to that. So we had a, I had a whole run of very successful trials and so we, we’ve, we’ve always been fortunate. I mean, this firm’s always been fortunate. We’ve called a few wrong, but not, not often. But again, getting back to your theory, some things you have to do and you don’t have, sometimes you don’t have a roadmap, right? You just don’t have it. There is no roadmap that’s, that’s laid out. There’s no template that says here’s how you get to, to, to cobra street or whatever it may be. Here’s how you get there. It doesn’t happen. You got to write your own template.
Jim Beach: All right. So this year’s thriller “Inhuman Trafficking,” what’s the case and what’s the book?
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, so.
Jim Beach: How close is the real case to the book? Give us the whole rundown.
Mike Papantonio: Oh, it’s very, it was very close. We filed a case up in Ohio for a national case, it was a, had to do with human trafficking and in there in the cases that we’re filing now we’re filing, let me give an example. Girls are trafficked from LA to the East Coast. They’re, they’re brought in semi trucks where they split up the trucks into maybe seven, eight kind of bedroom areas behind an 18 wheeler. They stop at truck stops along the way, they call ahead, hey, we’ve got 14 and 15 year olds that are coming in. You can have sex with them and leave. That goes on. It’s, it’s a huge industry. That’s one of the cases that we’re handling. Another case we’re handling is where you have probably the biggest pornographer in the world called MindGeek they’re out of California.
Well, excuse me, out of Canada. And so they, they, they needed financing, right? Because it takes big money to do what they do. So they get, and, and these people rely heavily on traffickers, heavily, heavily on traffickers. So while they were being investigated up in Canada, parliament actually was, had them in questioning them and cross-examining them, it didn’t stop Wall Street from coming in and giving them huge loans. Even though they understood that what that trafficker did, Jim, is they would call that, that porn entity called MindGeek would call traffickers and they’d say, hey, we need a film. This is what we’re looking for. And the trafficker would put five girls in a hotel room and they would film whatever needed to be filmed. And for two weeks, you know, you’d get, be at a place called like a Marriott or, you know, a main chain hotel where the folks at the hotel act like nothing’s going on.
And, you know, cameras are being brought in, lights are being brought in. These girls are walking around the premises for two weeks. And everybody says, well, hell, I mean, I didn’t know what was going on. So I mean, you know, it’s, there’s, it’s such an ugly process and we, we think of the movie like Taken, which by the way was, was a good movie, but it doesn’t tell the picture. We, we handle those kind of cases. One of the, it’s called a recruiter case. A recruiter goes to the Ukraine and they tell these girls, hey, how would you like to, how would you like to work in the United States and in learn the guest industry? So they bring them over here. They put them in a restaurant greeter for a week and then they say, oh, by the way, we have a, we have a strip club right down the road.
Would you like to work in there because you’ll make more money? So they put them as a greeter there, and then they say to them, hey, you know, we’ve got these poles. You want to dance on the pole because you can make five times what you’re making now? And then they put them on the pole and it’s called a step up. And then the next thing that happens, hey, Tom here wants to meet you and when Tom meets them, it’s all over because Tom is the trafficker. So this book talks about all of those. It doesn’t do it in a, you know, it’s not a preachy book, Jim, it’s just a story. But it incorporates all of these stories because, well, I’m real familiar with them because I’m in the middle of doing it. Right now as we speak, we have depositions getting ready to start on these, on these times, these kinds of cases. So it’s, it’s.
Jim Beach: So who are the bad guys and the good guys? I mean, who’s out there to kill who, at the end?
Mike Papantonio: Well, I mean, that’s, okay, that’s the issue. We think the bad guy is some cat that has some pimp that has four or five girls working for him and that’s all there is to it. The bad guys are the enablers. You know, there was a time, for example, in the Atlanta airport where Atlanta was used as a centerpiece.
Jim Beach: Yes. There’s signs now all over the Atlanta airport about that.
Mike Papantonio: Yes. Okay. You know why they’re signs? Because.
Jim Beach: We used to be the number one center, supposedly.
Mike Papantonio: That’s exactly right. And until they found out we were going after them years ago, I mean, it’s been for years now. And so, so what they would do, Jim, is they would bring in people, these underage girls from all over the world, they’d put them in a hotel room for a week or so, people would fly into Atlanta, have sex with these underage girls and leave and then the girls would be shipped back to, back to where they came from. If they’re lucky. Sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes they were put into a, just a slavery encampment. You know, people have no idea how bad this is, man. I mean, you know, they, it just doesn’t affect them until it affects them. You know, you’re, you, you you’d be amazed at the number of cases we have to where these girls come from, you know, middle America, man.
I mean, you know, they were high school cheerleaders and the next thing you know, they’re strung out on opioids in their human trafficked. So I don’t know why we have, you know one reason, you know one reason that we’re so in the dark is because corporate America, excuse me, corporate, corporate media, those folks, NBC, CBS, ABC. They don’t tell these stories anymore because advertisers a lot of times don’t let them. How are they going to tell the, how are they going to tell the story about a Wall Street fund that’s funding this type of thing if the Wall Street fund is actually advertising and spending $10 million a year or hotel chain spending $10 million a year. You’re not going to have in MSNBC cover a story like. I used to do MSNBC. I’m used to, I used to be a contributor for MSNBC for years with a guy named Ed Schultz. I don’t know if you remember Ed, but he called him big red. He was.
Jim Beach: I do.
Mike Papantonio: Well Ed, a dear friend of mine and we used to do the show together and we’d be getting ready to do a story. It might be a story about Bayer making a product that’s killing people and I’d be in the short count, 10, 9, 8, 7, Pap, you got to change the story and then they throw me something inane like, you know, constitutional law or whatever it may be. So, so corporate media is dead. It’s dead and dying where it comes to telling stories like we’re talking about here about human trafficking, or the opioid crisis. The opioid crisis, that’s another case I’m handling now. It only happened because corporate media would not tell the story and regulators wouldn’t get involved. So what I found is the best way sometime to tell the story is with fiction, you know, it’s not preachy. It’s not, it doesn’t look like a textbook. It’s just telling a story and the story by the end of the time they’re finished with it, you know, you go, wow, that’s a good story. But I learned something. I came away, I didn’t know this. I didn’t know this was true. And so, I think every book I’ve written has that theme to it, whether it was the first book I ever wrote, had to do with a product that DuPont was making that you’re going to hear more and more about it’s called C8, PFAS. Well, hell, it’s killing people all over the world. I mean, it’s in your drinking water for God’s sakes.
Jim Beach: What is it? I’ve never heard of it.
Mike Papantonio: It’s a, it’s a fluorocarbon and if you, if you, they’re, they’re, I have zero doubt right now, as we speak, I have zero doubt that it’s in your drinking water. It causes, it causes liver cancer. Causes testicular cancer. Causes birth defects. And DuPont and 3M, two of the biggest corporations in the country, were allowed to continue putting it in the water. It got into your aquifer and ended up in your drinking water. Well, you know how many years ago we tried to tell that story? There’s a great movie, go watch it. It’s called, The Devil We Know. It’s a, it’s about this story. It’s where they followed me around for a year and a half and told the story and still even as we speak corporate America, corporate media doesn’t tell that story because their advertisers will get angry with them and they’ll cut back their money. I mean, for God’s sakes now Bayer and 3M, what if you got a call from 3M and you’re MSNBC barely hanging on and you get a call from an advertiser that says, hey, we’re going to pull the ad because you want to run this story.
What do they do? They pull the story. What does the regulator do? The regularity takes the low road because he’s told, hey, if you help us with this, when you come out of there we’re going to give you a job. We’re going to pay you four times what you’re making as a, as a bureaucratic regulator. Where do you think that goes? So these stories, these, these books, the first one was called, “Law and Disorder.” The second was called, “Law and Vengeance.” The next one was called, “Law and Addiction.” This one’s called, “Inhuman Trafficking.” They all center around these cases that I’m talking about. And again, my goal is not to be, you know, preachy or sound like a college professor. It’s to educate them while they’re being entertained. You can grab one, layout at the beach, read it in a day and come away and you’ve learned something. Hopefully you’ve been entertained.
Jim Beach: I can’t believe you won’t tell, is there a, who’s the good guy though, is there a hero? We have to.
Mike Papantonio: Oh yeah, yeah. In the story. Oh, in the book. Yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot of heroes. There’s a lot of heroes.
Jim Beach: Are you the hero in the book?
Mike Papantonio: No there’s a.
Jim Beach: Are you writing about yourself, Mike?
Mike Papantonio: There’s a character named Deke and everybody says, well, Pap, you know, you wrote it about yourself. Deke is a composite, Jim. He’s not, you know, there’s no, there’s no definite lines. It’s not good or bad. He just.
Jim Beach: He’s a composite of all seven of your personalities?
Mike Papantonio: He’s a, no, he’s a. No schizophrenia involved. He’s involved, he’s a composite of some of the best lawyers and some of the worst lawyers I’ve met in my career. You know, it’s too often that the author goes, let me create this superhero. Deke is not a superhero. He’s simply human. I mean, my God, he’s a hugely successful lawyer that’s got gremlins just like everybody else has got. The last book I created, I think a really interesting character. Most people have never even heard what a PJ is, they’re called a Pararescue men. And he, this Pararescue man named Michael comes to work with the law firm and he doesn’t really, he’s a lawyer that doesn’t really play by the rules because he wasn’t trained to play by the rules. He was trained to jump out of airplanes at 40,000 feet out of a halo jump, swim two miles to shore and then rescue somebody who’s being held a prisoner.
That’s what a PJ is. They train them right down the road from where I live at the air force base. They’re just bad, bad cats. I mean, the way they pick them, is they say, we want somebody who can operate independently without a team and go get it done. And so he’s a character I think you’ll really like here, Jim, he’s just an interesting character that’s been added to it. And then some of the old characters had been brought. Carol Morris who’s a private investigator, a couple of other folks that, you know, on the face, they’re totally dysfunctional, but they’re great lawyers. So it mixes it all up.
Jim Beach: So, do you follow closely then the media legal cases as fodder for the next book? Are we going to get a book soon about Epstein and his relationship with some prince?
Mike Papantonio: Well, you know what, that stuff bores the hell out of me by about week three. You know, it’s not, it’s not.
Jim Beach: Yeah, it’s not up there with you getting rid of bad chemicals in my food. I mean, it’ doesn’t compare.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, it, it, it, it, exactly. So the next book you’re going to hear about, it’s an interesting topic. It has to do with we’re handling a case, one of the biggest cases in the country, against banks who are washing money for terrorists. Okay. These are banks that have already pled guilty to funding terrorism and they understand exactly what the causation connections are. They, we had an attorney general for God’s sakes, Eric Holder under Obama, who let these people sign a document, pay, HSBC, hey paid $1.2 billion. They signed a document.
Jim Beach: Yeah, I remember that.
Mike Papantonio: And admitted, yeah, we know we killed some people. Yeah, we know we gave money to terrorists. But gee, Eric, could you just slap us on the hand? So they paid $1.2 billion. They made $20 billion washing money for terrorists. That’s our new norm in this country, Jim, that’s the new norm. So that’s the next thing you’re going to be reading about coming from me. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s about the terrorist case and it’s really interesting. It’s an interesting case.
Jim Beach: I’m currently following this Murdaugh family in South Carolina. I, you got to think that he killed his wife and his son, don’t you? I mean, what else is there?
Mike Papantonio: It sure.
Jim Beach: That’s the obvious.
Mike Papantonio: It sure points that way. That would be great, that would be a great book. It’s, it’s not the kind of thing I write, but it would be a great book at, because there’s, you know, anytime you hear facts where you can conclude, you know, come on, this is what happened. It makes for a good story because it’s intuitive, isn’t it? I mean, you intuitively you’re turning chapter to chapter and, you know, okay, this is making sense. Sometimes the difficulty with the books that I write is people are so far removed from the realities behind it, you see. We want to believe that we’re safe from, from corporations that sometimes are nothing short of sociopath’s. I mean, there’s the only way you can describe it. Most, most of the time I’m in depositions or in trial and I’m across the, the, across the table from a true to life sociopath. And if I had a DSM 4 and I was going to check, yeah, they have this quality check. They have this quality. They would, they would line up for every element of being a sociopath. No question about it. So the point.
Jim Beach: Are you talking about the CEO or the vice president or?
Mike Papantonio: Oh yeah. Oh my, oh my, all the way to the top, Jim. What we’ve, see, but you don’t.
Jim Beach: Up and down.
Mike Papantonio: Here’s, here’s.
Jim Beach: When you look at Facebook right now, Mike, do you think that everyone at, because I think that everyone at Facebook deserves to be in jail.
Mike Papantonio: Oh, total.
Jim Beach: I think those people
Mike Papantonio: Totally. My God, look what they’re doing to you or me, Jim I.
Jim Beach: Or my poor nine-year-old daughter, who’s allowed to use it.
Mike Papantonio: Of course.
Jim Beach: What stupid parent does that?
Mike Papantonio: Of course. Well, I mean, how are you going stop it? Look here, here’s the, here’s where in this way you ask about, you ask about the CEO. In America, especially, we look at a CEO and he’s, he’s wearing an Armani suit. Okay. He’s got a Rolex watch. He’s got a Bentley that he drove up in for the deposition or the trial. We look at that person and we can’t see them as a criminal because they don’t look like a criminal. They don’t look like the cat out on fourth avenue with a hoodie on that’s selling packages of marijuana that might end up in prison for the rest of their lives. We treat that person differently. We say, hey, you just pay a big fine brother. You know, you’re a white collar criminal. Eric Holder was the worst attorney general that I have had in my lifetime that allowed white collar criminals to get away with kind of stuff we’re talking about. They did, so, so let’s take a case like the terrorism case, right? The terrorism case, they pay $1.2 billion. It’s only a cost of doing business. Nobody’s perp walked. Nobody goes to prison. How about the, how about the opioid case. Right now do you, 150 people died every day and are still dying every day. It’s manslaughter. You heard anybody going to prison about that?
Jim Beach: And that’s the Sackler family, right?
Mike Papantonio: Well, it’s not just the Sackler, you know, the Sackler family was the low hanging fruit. The part of the case I handled were, was the distributors, you know, the big distributors and. But, you know.
Jim Beach: You mean, like CVS? Is that what you mean by a distributor in this case?
Mike Papantonio: Well, no, C, CV, C, CVS is being tried by a good friend of mine right now and he’s gonna really hammer them up in Ohio. He, there’s, there’s parts to that case. The C, the, the pharmacy case with CVS, Walmart, Walgreen, you know, Rite aid, the part I handled was the distributors. The, Amerisource Bergen, Cardinal, McKesson, the people who actually delivered, they were the delivery guys. But the point here. So, so that, that case is covered pretty well in the last book I wrote it’s called, “Law and Addiction.” It’s, it’s a great book. I, you know, I hate to sit here. I know what I’ve got a good book. That was a good book. I mean, it just, it just lays the whole opioid story out. And I mean, you know, people, I mean, my God, I, I could name 12 families that lost their brother, lost their son, lost their daughter to overdoses And it’s just, but nevertheless, we look at that and say, well, no, they don’t look like criminals, man. They, they, you know, they drive a nice car. They went, they, they have an MBA from Yale. How could they be a criminal?
Jim Beach: Mike very, very quickly. Give me your process for writing a book. You’re a little bit busy with your legal career taking down the Titans. So how do you actually have time to do this? When do you fit it in? What’s your process?
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, yeah. So leave, I have a big, I have.
Jim Beach: Is it a big long yellow legal pad, like Bill Clinton?
Mike Papantonio: I, you got it, brother. I’ve got a lot of advantages. I can walk out of a courtroom and have a chapter done because what happened in that courtroom was so interesting. I can walk out and have a chapter. The book writes itself truthfully because it’s half, it’s, it’s, it’s real time, Jim. It’s, it’s really happening. I’m really having this hearing. I’m really having this happen with a CEO in a deposition. I’m really dealing with this regulatory bureaucrat idiot. So all that’s every day. And so the book kind of writes it, the book writes itself because of that, you know.
Jim Beach: How do we find out more, get a copy of everything, all of that?
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, any books, any bookstore. Amazon, I always, you know, Amazon’s an easy source. There’s all kinds, it’s, it’s going to be everywhere in about another week or so. But, you know, Amazon is the quick, you know, quick delivery, I guess, best price. I don’t know. And, I think you’ll like it, Jim.
Jim Beach: But all of them are five star rated with 70, 60, 50 reviews. So I’m sure this one will be up there for you as well, brand new out, few days ago.
Mike Papantonio: Jim, give yourself a prop, give yourself a prop for school of starters, it’s a good book, school for startups. It’s a good book.
Jim Beach: Oh, thank you. I’ve gotten 105 star reviews, 125 star reviews and hopefully it’s changed some people’s lives, getting them off the, I just want people to get off the sofa, Mike, and destroy the remote control.
Mike Papantonio: Let’s, let’s, let’s set.
Jim Beach: And take control of their own lives.
Mike Papantonio: Let’s set another one. You, and I will just talk about that. I know a lot about that topic. Okay.
Jim Beach: I’d love to.
Mike Papantonio: All right, Jim, thanks a lot, man. I appreciate it.
Jim Beach: Thank you.