Sen. Elizabeth Warren worked on more than 50 legal matters during her career as a professor at Ivy League law schools, charging as much as $675 an hour to advise a variety of clients, from people with asbestos disease to a corporation facing possible liability over ruptured breast implants.
Warren’s presidential campaign released a list of 56 cases on her website on Wednesday night, revealing a far higher number of cases than Warren (D-Mass.) had previously disclosed and lending detail to an aspect of her career that she rarely discusses in public.
When she first ran for the Senate in 2012, Warren came under pressure from her Republican opponent and the news media to discuss her legal work. At the time, she released a list of just 13 cases without saying whether it represented a full accounting; at least one other case came to light during the race.
“Elizabeth was one of the nation’s top experts on how to make sure victims hurt by bankrupt companies eventually got paid,” Warren’s website said Wednesday night. “Throughout her career, she worked to help set up trusts and other mechanisms to return $27 billion to victims and their families.”
In a separate review, The Washington Post found that a wave of Warren’s legal work came in the early 2000s as manufacturing companies whose products contained asbestos were forced into bankruptcy by waves of personal injury claims.
A nationally recognized expert in bankruptcy law, Warren consulted for more than a dozen committees representing claimants and creditors in these cases, often in partnership with the law firm Caplin & Drysdale, for an hourly rate of $675.
Warren also worked for a number of corporate clients; she disclosed some of them in 2012. In 1987, she advised the former directors of Getty Oil during Texaco’s bankruptcy. In 2003, she served as an expert witness for the Fuller-Austin Insulation Co. in a case against insurers. In 2005, she provided testimony that bolstered the case of private equity firm Platinum Equity in a contractual dispute.
One of her most controversial clients was Dow Chemical, which she advised in the mid-1990s. A subsidiary that manufactured silicone gel breast implants faced hundreds of thousands of claims from women who said their implants caused health problems. Dow Chemical denied that it played a role in designing or making the implants and sought to avoid liability as its subsidiary, Dow Corning, declared bankruptcy.
“In this case, Elizabeth served as a consultant to ensure adequate compensation for women who claimed injury from silicone breast implants who otherwise might not have received anything when Dow Corning filed for bankruptcy,” Warren’s list of cases read. “Thanks in part to Elizabeth’s efforts, Dow Corning created a $2.35 billion fund to compensate women claiming injury from Dow Corning’s silicone breast implants.”
The Post could not immediately verify this figure.
In the list released by the Warren campaign, most items include a summary in which Warren was cast as saving jobs by representing the interests of a company or advocating on behalf of aggrieved victims.
For example, Warren’s work on behalf of Fairchild Aircraft, a case that arose after a plane crash in which the manufacturer was not found at fault, was described as protecting “hundreds of jobs.” When she represented the interests of asbestos claimants, her work was described as advocating for victims.
Details about Warren’s compensation were scant in court records. Documents reviewed by The Post showed that Warren made at least $462,321.75 from her work in 13 cases, although the total for those cases might be much higher. Warren has released only her last 10 years of tax returns, and much of her legal consulting work is not reflected in those documents.
The Post found that Warren took on outside legal work in as early as 1991, when she was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. The work appears to have picked up in 1995, when she joined the faculty at Harvard Law School, and intensified through the early 2000s as she worked on a series of mass tort bankruptcies.
Warren’s roles in these cases varied. At times, she served as an expert witness or filed briefs; at other times, she advised fellow attorneys or represented clients directly. She worked in more than 20 different courts, including the Supreme Court, where she worked on at least eight cases.
The asbestos cases included work on behalf of Travelers Insurance. In that case, which the Boston Globe first reported in May 2012, Warren helped the company gain immunity from asbestos litigation by forming a $500 million trust for current and future victims. But after Warren was no longer involved with the litigation, Travelers was able to preserve its immunity but avoid paying the $500 million, an outcome that Warren told the Globe she hadn’t foreseen.
Another case, this one on behalf of LTV Steel, put Warren at odds with Richard Trumka, who was then the president of the United Mine Workers and is now president of the AFL-CIO.
In that instance, Warren argued in a document to the Supreme Court to help LTV battle a new law that required it to put aside millions of dollars to fund health care for retired coal miners, according to the Globe. Warren maintained that she was supporting an important legal principle that would help workers receive needed aid sooner.
In testimony before Congress, Trumka argued that there shouldn’t be an exception to the rule. “When it unravels, you will have roughly 200,000 miners and beneficiaries out there that will lose their health care,” he told Congress. Trumka didn’t appear to hold a grudge, and subsequently campaigned for Warren’s 2012 Senate bid.