Via WSRE PBS: Jeff’s guest is trial lawyer, author and media personality Mike Papantonio. He is noted for litigating cases against large corporations with questionable ethics and business practices. From pollution to opioids, Papantonio has stood tall against corporate giants who have put profit before people. He is the author of several books, the most recent of which is “Inhuman Trafficking”.
*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.
Jeff Weeks: Trial lawyer, author and media personality. Mike Papantonio on this edition of conversations. Papantonio is a well-respected trial lawyer, but if you’re a big corporation with questionable ethics and business practices, you’re probably not going to invite him to the company picnic. Pap, as he’s known to those close to him, has mowed down some major adversaries over the years, from pollution to opioids, Papantonio has stood tall against corporate giants who have put profit before people. When he takes a break from trying cases, you might find him writing novels. He’s just released his fourth in a series it’s entitled, Inhuman Trafficking. We welcome back to conversations, Mike Papantonio. Great to see you again.
Mike Papantonio: Good to be here, Jeff. Thank you.
Jeff Weeks: Fourth novel here that you’ve written kind of in a series focused around one particular character there, Deke. This is called, Inhuman Trafficking. What’s it about?
Mike Papantonio: Well, yeah, it’s a 40, it’s a $42 billion industry is the whole human trafficking is a $42 billion industry. And this book takes and takes a look at where is all that money coming from and where’s it going. And people think of trafficking, they think it’s just one person that maybe has one or two people that he’s trafficking and that’s so far from the truth. It’s, it’s become a corporate entity. If I think of this book, for example, covers a couple of cases that I’m handling. One being where you’ve got the trucking industry that, that they, they end up trucking girls from LA across say, I-10 to the Eastern seaboard and they, they, they take the 18 wheelers and they break them up into little bedrooms. And then they end up stopping at truck stops and people come in and have sex with these mostly minors, you know, 14, 15 year old girls. And then they leave. Well, the truck stop knows about it. The truck stop that they’re doing business with. It’s a chain, actually, there’s a couple of chains involved. I don’t want to name names right now.
Jeff Weeks: Sure.
Mike Papantonio: But the chains know exactly why they allow this to happen. It brings in business, people have to buy fuel, they have to buy food. They sometimes stay overnight. So it’s a business decision to let that happen. That, that’s one example of what I’m talking about. But it’s, it, the second part is also corporate. We have corporations that go over to place like Ukraine. You may remember the case just 10 years ago over in Destin where they had all the Ukraine H2B workers come in, right, and then they found out that they would invite them over here. How would you like to work as a greeter in the restaurant?
Well, they put them in the restaurant and then they say, you can make more if you want to work as a greeter over here at the strip club. And oh, by the way, you can make even more money if you want to get up on the pole and dance as a pole dancer. And this is where it ends. How would you like to meet Tom? Tom wants to meet you and they meet Tom and that’s the last we see of them. That happened 40 miles down the road, 50 miles down the road, Destin, Florida, however far it is and it happened right here. You know, and so this, this book, this book takes those stories and it takes, it makes it into a fiction novel, although it’s all true. My goal is to show that the corporate media has been typical corporate media. If there’s an advertiser involved, they won’t tell the story because they don’t want to offend the advertiser.
Here, you have Wall Street involved. One part of the case is you got a Canadian company that is the central, they centralize most of the pornography that takes place all over the globe. That company ran out of money. They were heavily into child pornography, Wall Street, huge funds came in and kept, propped them up. Loaned them somewhere around $700 million so they could stay in business, actually took an equity interest in that company. Let me tell you quickly what they do. They have a Rolodex of traffickers. They’ll call a trafficker, say we need a, we need a scene with a 14 year old girl being raped in a hotel room. So they call the trafficker. The trafficker pulls into the hotel. Buys, he gets a suite, maybe two suites for two weeks. They bring in, because this is their filming time, they bring in cameras, they bring in lights.
People at the hotel clearly know what’s going on. They got little girls running all over the place and, and they, they see that some kind of filming is taking place up in the suite and they let it happen. You got the hotels that look the other way. You’ve got this corporation in, in Canada that’s being propped up by, by Wall Street. We, we want to think that this is just some kind of really isolated problem that’s not a problem. It’s a huge problem. I just hired a lawyer who was trafficked when she was 14 years old, she got out of trafficking, went to, made her way to UCLA, got an MBA, got a JD and has worked, works for us now. She lived in trafficking for four years.
Jeff Weeks: How, how do young ladies get into this? How, how, how are they seduced into it, I guess?
Mike Papantonio: It’s a whole series of problems. Okay. Sometimes we, we want to believe, well, they just came from broken homes. We want to say, they’re foster care children. We want to say, they’re, they’re just intrinsically they’ve got psychological problems and they ended up going there. They got drug problems and they end up going there. But that’s not true. It could be your neighbor. This girl that I’m talking about was upper middle class, and she got pulled into it with what they called the Romeo routine. And the Romeo routine is very complex. They’ve worked, it’s taken a lot of time for them to work it out, but it works. If you want to hear about it, I’ll be glad to tell you.
Jeff Weeks: Please do.
Mike Papantonio: It’s as simple as they, they, they take a good looking guy, a good looking girl, put him at the bar, okay. They meet some girl. They say, how would you like to go to our party? They don’t look suspect, they don’t act suspect, because they’re fairly refined. They know the deal. They know exactly how to pull it off. They take that girl to a party and we never see her again, happened down here in Perdido last year. So the problem is that we don’t understand it because corporate media has done a terrible job telling the story. The second thing about it is the Department of Justice may as well be totally utterly useless because they won’t take it on.
Jeff Weeks: And why is that?
Mike Papantonio: Well, I think it’s because they, they, with the Department of Justice that we’ve seen over the last 20 years, if it’s not low hanging fruit, they won’t prosecute. I remember having so much hope for Eric Holder when he came into office under Obama, I said, maybe this is the guy that’s going to do something. He did just the opposite. He let more white collar criminals get away than anybody I’ve ever seen. That’s what’s happening here. If, if it’s not low hanging fruit, the Department of Justice doesn’t go after it.
Jeff Weeks: Mike, when, when, when you’re talking about what’s going on, like, for example, in the hotel rooms, obviously with young women and camera crews and all that, why doesn’t someone inside that hotel notify law enforcement or do they? And.
Mike Papantonio: No, that’s the problem. They don’t.
Jeff Weeks: Why, do you think?
Mike Papantonio: Because it’s business, Jeff, it’s business, and these are big chains that understand it’s business. I could name, I, I wish I could name them right here. Take a look at the lawsuit you’ll see who they are.
Jeff Weeks: Right.
Mike Papantonio: But we gotta, I don’t, I don’t, I’m going to show that there is a pattern that they have in place and some of these hotel rooms have figured it out. Some of these hotel chains. They have standards that they’ve written up and they tell their people you got to follow these standards, but it’s all lip service. It’s just like the Atlanta airport. If you go into Atlanta airport right now, they’ll have signs about trafficking. If you suspect this or suspect that. You know why that is?
Jeff Weeks: Why is that?
Mike Papantonio: They used to, they used to take girls to Atlanta, put them in a hotel there. Right. Right there on the, right there on the facility, right there on the airport. They would say, I’ve got, I’ve got seven, eight, 14 and 15 year old girls come here. They fly them in, people flying in from Europe, South America, all over the country to have an afternoon to have sex with those girls and then they fly home. So it was a central hub for, for, it still is. It still is. But it was simple, a central hub for, for trafficking. The only reason they put those signs up is they knew we were looking at them. They knew that people like me understood that the airport industry understood exactly what was going on in Atlanta.
Jeff Weeks: How did you first become aware that this problem was so prevalent?
Mike Papantonio: Well, I mean, we get calls. We got calls from people and they, they first call we’d go, well, I, you know, I don’t, I don’t think we’ll pay attention to that. But by the time we get third or fourth call you just start saying, there’s something to all of this and let’s take a look at it. Kim Adams, who is with my office is really the person who’s most responsible for putting us where we are. She’s a brilliant, she is a brilliant trial lawyer. She grabbed a hold of this and has not let go. Most law firms would look at this and they said, this is just too big. We can’t do it. But you know, we, big is our brand.
I mean, tobacco, opioids, I think we’ve handled 40 of the largest pharmaceutical cases in the country. We’ve handled 12 of the biggest environmental cases in the country. So big doesn’t bother us, but it takes somebody like Kim Adams to look at it and say, I got a heart for this, and I’m going to stay with it. She has a wonderful relationship, not only with the women, with our clients, but she has a wonderful relationship with a lot of support groups all over the country who understand, if we succeed here, we can accomplish something.
Jeff Weeks: Now you are, you’re going after them civilly with the idea that also, I guess, somewhere along the way, criminal will come in play, as well?
Mike Papantonio: I never have, I, look, I’d love to say that that’s true. But I have so little confidence in law enforcement at the DOJ level. We have sent them, in the opioid case that we, we did all the work on that. We did the discovery and all the work on it and we send, if we send them a package and say, look, here it is, go prosecute somebody. They won’t do it, Jeff, because that person that we’re asking them to prosecute has an MBA from Harvard or Yale. They’re dressed up like you, they look nice. They don’t look like a criminal. They have a Rolex watch on, they’ve got a Bentley in the parking lot. So we look at them differently.
Jeff Weeks: Right.
Mike Papantonio: We don’t think that they’re the person that’s a problem. And if we, if we contrast that with a child out selling marijuana on a street corner that gets caught three, four times, they’re going to prison for life.
Jeff Weeks: Right, right.
Mike Papantonio: These people kill people by the thousands and we won’t prosecute them because they’re, they just, they have a special exception. You see, they’re educated, they have a degree from a college and they don’t look like criminals.
Jeff Weeks: You wrote this book as, as you said, as, as fiction and, and with characters in a story and to, to keep it interesting, as opposed to the news media. Why do that versus just a straight, you know, nonfiction book, I guess?
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. There’s a real good reason for it. My, my goal when I first started writing these books all the way back to Law and Disorder and Law and Vengeance, Law and Addiction, is I understand something about the media and the media is if, even if you get them interested, it’s got a shelf life of about 24 hours. Right. So it makes a lot more sense to, to A, give them a book where they’re entertained. It’s a good story. They want to know how is this going to end? What happens to this character? They going to be okay? And they, you know, can read a book like this at the beach on a weekend and you close the book and you come away and you’ve learned something that other people would have never told you about. It’s stuff you’ve never heard of before and it’s fact. And so the idea is to be able to merge both of those things, entertain people, and at the same saying, by the way, you might want to know this. This is a fact that we think is important and you want to pay attention to it.
Jeff Weeks: Well, for example, in the, in the Law and Addiction book that you wrote and, and I read, and it was amazing to me, I mean, I learned an awful lot from that. And what was kind of amazing to me is as time went by, a lot of that information did start to come out after the fact. But, you know, after some of the lawsuits, which brings me to the next question. Where, where are you on that as far as the opioid settlements?
Mike Papantonio: We’re close. I mean, we, the first phase of it, we’ve negotiated Peter Mougey with our office and Troy and myself, and a whole team of us had been working on this. But we’ve asked Peter to try to get it finalized, but $26 billion is what they have on the table and we’ve accepted it. But we have to then get cities and counties to accept it and I think we’re going to do that. It’s a fair settlement. It’s only the first part of it though. There’s, there’s two other parts, actually three other parts. So we got to get past this first part, start paying attention to two and three.
Jeff Weeks: Right, right.
Mike Papantonio: And so.
Jeff Weeks: But definitely progress had been, has been made.
Mike Papantonio: Oh, huge progress. Jeff, when I first started this case, I, it started in, it actually started in Las Vegas at a program that I put on, it’s called Mass, MTMP. It’s one of the biggest lawyer programs in America. We do it twice a year.
Jeff Weeks: Mass, Mass Torts.
Mike Papantonio: Mass Torts. Yeah. And, and so it started there just like this, this human trafficking has started there. But what we do is we launch there. Now, when we first tried to launch it, we had huge resistance. You can’t do that. It’s not going to work. You can’t, these distributors, you can’t see the distributors. You got to sue. It was just, it was chaos. And so the trick to anything this big is to take that chaos and bring some semblance of order to it. Tobacco was the same way. You know, it’s, sometimes things seem so big. And I think what we’ve tried to do with our law firm is we’ve tried to distinguish ourselves and say, look big is okay with us.
We do big, we do big and, you know, people handling auto cases and comp and that’s important. I mean, people gotta be represented, but we, we have a different approach to it at our firm and it is to say, what are the legacy cases? My daughter’s practicing law with me now. I remember when she was 10 years old, she said, dad, what do you do? You know, you’re traveling all over the country and you’re trying cases and, but she says, what do you do? And I was proud to be able to say, well, I, I clean up ecosystems, you know.
Jeff Weeks: Right.
Mike Papantonio: I get bad drugs off the market. I, I do things, I help mom and pop who’ve lost their pension programs because of unscrupulous Wall Streeters. That’s what I do. And not to say I’d been just as proud I guess to say, I handle auto cases, but that’s not what I do.
Jeff Weeks: Right.
Mike Papantonio: You know, it’s just not what I do.
Jeff Weeks: Well, you’re trying to make meaningful change and, and clearly you and your firm have over the years, like you said, from tobacco.
Mike Papantonio: I hope we have.
Jeff Weeks: Opioids and, and, and so on. You also have had a pretty thriving media career over the year and so, over the years, as, as a pundit and also you’re, you’re, you’re doing something called America’s Lawyer. What’s that?
Mike Papantonio: As you’re talking about all this, it makes me tired. I feel tired between books and practicing law. Yeah. I started out, as you might know, matter of fact, right here at this studio. We used to do MSNBC from here. Right.
Jeff Weeks: Right, right.
Mike Papantonio: And I was a contributor.
Jeff Weeks: Right.
Mike Papantonio: I’d be called into to give analysis, legal analysis on various things. So I started with MSNBC and then did a little bit of CNN, not much. And then I was also, I was also a commentator for Fox news. They’d put a bunch of people on the other side of me to argue with me. I gave that up because I’d get home and my wife would say, what in the world are you doing? Why are you doing that? Because it was, it was just such a, such a conflict situation and she said, you got enough conflict in your life without doing that. And so now I’m doing America’s Lawyer.
Jeff Weeks: And, and what is that program about?
Mike Papantonio: That is, it’s, America’s Lawyer is on Russian television. And the way I got involved with it is because they used to, they used to watch me on, on TV and they needed somebody to do legal commentary. And a fellow named Ed Schultz, who I used to work with a lot, big red, wonderful man has since passed away.
Jeff Weeks: Passed away awhile back.
Mike Papantonio: But I used to do shows with him and they, they just called me and they said, how would you like to do this, this legal show? And I said, sure. The reason I liked doing America’s Lawyer is because I don’t have any advertisers to worry about. There were so many times when I did MSNBC, I’d be trying to tell a story and they’d interrupt the story because they thought I was offending the advertiser. I, I would be in, in a short count, 10, 9, 8, 7, I’d get to seven and they’d say, Pap, we have to change the story because Bayer corporation called and they know you’re doing this story and we have to kill the story. I don’t have that problem with America’s Lawyer. Not, I have never gotten a call from Putin or anybody in Moscow and said, hey, we can’t do that story.
Jeff Weeks: Right.
Mike Papantonio: So that’s what, I guess that’s what I like about it. You know, that’s what I think is so important.
Jeff Weeks: Yeah, the freedom. What’s next on your agenda? I mean, this, I understand this is a big undertaking, as you.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Jeff Weeks: But what else is on your radar, so to speak?
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, the, well, the next book I’m working on is a book called Law and Terror and it’s about, it’s about the big banks washing money for terrorists. You might remember HSBC got fined $1.6 billion for taking money from terrorists, washing it and, and, and in the end, under Eric Holder, rather than Eric Holder prosecuting them, he let them sign a document. You know what the document said? It said, yes, we are washing money. Yes, we know it’s costing American lives because of what we’re doing. Yes, we made, we made, I forgot how many billion dollars, 10, $15 billion. And so, and then he made him pay a $1.6 billion. It’s, it’s cost of doing business.
Jeff Weeks: Right.
Mike Papantonio: Nobody was, nobody went to jail. I mean, he, in the document, HSBC had to admit that American lives were lost, contractors and soldiers, their lives were lost and that was okay. So that’s, that’s a book that’s coming out. It’s a big case, a young lawyer with our firm, Chris Paulos, who again, is a very talented lawyer. He’s committed to trying to see this thing through and so he’s the one also handling the, the shooting case, the terrorist shooting case that took place at NAS.
Jeff Weeks: Naval Air Station in Pensacola.
Mike Papantonio: So we’re, we’re into the terrorist cases now. We’re, we’re taking a real look at where did the money come from? And it comes from a lot of different sources. We like to think it just comes from places like Iran and, you know, some of the, some of the enemies of the state, but it doesn’t.
Jeff Weeks: You guys are really kind of turning over some interesting ground. I mean, almost, almost like from a, approaching it from a criminal type standpoint, aren’t you?
Mike Papantonio: Well, yeah, we have to. I, I don’t think there’s any case that I’ve looked at and anything I’ve described to you where I haven’t said this really is a criminal case. So I, I have to talk myself into, first of all, accepting it’s a criminal case and nothing’s going to be done about it because these are white collar criminals and we, we let them go. We have a double standard. So I treat everything like a criminal case because it’s always criminal conduct. The criminal conduct in this case that I talk about in Inhuman Trafficking it’s about as criminal as it can be, but nobody goes to jail, you see. Now, no, not nobody goes to, the one guy out there that’s operating by himself that might have trafficked two girls. He may go to prison. But what about Wall Street who’s enabled all this to happen, you see, nothing happens without their money.
Jeff Weeks: So what was your thoughts on the whole thing with Epstein, Jeffrey Epstein? And, and.
Mike Papantonio: Well, the, the whole Epstein story tells, tells you a lot, doesn’t it?
Jeff Weeks: It does.
Mike Papantonio: It tells you hubris is alive and well in this country and it tells you that people who believe they’re above the law really are above the law. If you look at the names that were implicated in that, and it tells you that we have a culture that seems accepting of that, because right now the only person that’s really under the gun is Maxwell. Right. Look at the names they had there, everything, everybody from Bill Clinton to, you know, I don’t, I don’t think Trump was actually implicated, but, but all these names like Bill Clinton flew on an airplane back and forth to, to the islands. Well, you know, we got to look further, don’t we? And it’s not just Bill Clinton, it’s all these people that believe that they’re above the law, that they can do something that nobody can do because they have money, because they have influence.
Jeff Weeks: Well, what else do you have on the agenda? It’s not like that’s not enough, but anything else we need to be looking out for? Working on a new lawsuit.
Mike Papantonio: Well, well, I mean, there’s so, there’s so many things kicking around out there and they’re all based, there’s so many, the numbers of new cases that are coming out right now are, are just amazing because we have just looked the other way. Regulatory is dead and dying. Okay. Regulatory, we used to believe we had an FDA and SEC, EPA that worked. Now, it doesn’t work anymore because they, they’re captured by industry. The reason you have so many bad drugs out there right now is because some cat working for the FDA is making maybe making a hundred thousand dollars a year and, you know, some Pfizer comes to them or Johnson and Johnson comes to them and says, you know, we really need to break. You need to help us on these clinicals. Yeah, they weren’t perfect. But we need to, we need a break on this to get this product out on the market. Well, and oh, by the way, Joe, if you do that for us, we’re going to give you a job when you get done here. So it’s, we, we don’t have regulatory oversight. We don’t have media oversight because the corporate media is become, become infotainment. What we’re doing here at the kind of show you do here all the time, that’s, that’s not the norm.
Jeff Weeks: Right.
Mike Papantonio: Infotainment, what, what’s Kim Kardashian going to win, wear to the next celebrity event. So there’s a lot of new things developing.
Jeff Weeks: Mike Papantonio, he doesn’t pull any punches. Doesn’t really seem to matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican or whatever. Always enjoy having you. We have, you know, you’re cranking out this series of books, and this is your fourth one. We’ll look forward to the fifth one. It’s called, Inhuman Trafficking, a legal thriller. And, also I’ll give Alan, Alan Russell a mention who was also.
Mike Papantonio: Oh, yeah, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful editor.
Jeff Weeks: You can see more about Mike and his books at mikepapantonio.com. Thanks my friend, appreciate it.
Mike Papantonio: Well, thank you, Jeff. I appreciate it.
Jeff Weeks: You bet. By the way, you can find interview along with some of our other interviews with Mike and many other conversations online at wsre.org/conversations, as well as on YouTube. I’m Jeff Weeks, thank you so very much for watching. Take wonderful care of yourself and we’ll see you soon.