Dr. Phillip C. McGraw is in town helping lawyers for Exxon in the fraud case brought against the huge corporation by the State of Alabama.

He is better known now as Dr. Phil, the advice-giving, diet-promoting, former jury selection consultant who was made a national figure by Oprah.

Oprah met Dr. Phil in Texas where he helped select the jury in a Texas case where she was a defendant, then he became a resident expert on human behavior on the Oprah Show.

This week he’s at the Legends in Prattville helping the lawyers who will defend Exxon in the retrial of a lawsuit against the company brought by the state. I suspect he’ll be in the courtroom this week, so if you’re a juror, remember that the watchful eyes of Dr. Phil will be observing your behavior.

IN DECEMBER of 2000 a Montgomery jury rendered a $3.5 billion verdict against Exxon for defrauding the state out of about $87 million in natural gas royalties. The state’s lawyers argued that if the fraud had continued, Exxon could have cheated the state out of over $1 billion over the life of the gas fields. The jury granted the state 87 million in actual damages, the rest in punitive damages against the company for its wrongdoing.

Last year the Alabama Supreme Court, on a 6-3 vote, reversed the jury verdict, basically on a technicality concerning a document admitted in evidence. The retrial resumes with jury selection this week and that is the area in which Dr. Phil will be aiding the defendant, Exxon. Exxon’s local lawyers are David Boyd and Joe McCorkle of Montgomery’s Balch/Bingham firm. The law firms for the state are Cunningham-Bounds firm of Mobile and Montgomery lawyer Jere Beasley’s firm, which was added this year by Gov. Bob Riley.

Mobile lawyer Bob Cunningham, following the 2000 verdict, said Exxon did a risk analysis and concluded that if they underpaid the royalties and did get caught, all they would have to do would be give the money back with interest. In short, the corporate lawyers at Exxon took us for a bunch of inexperienced hayseeds. One Exxon document went so far as to call state regulators “inexperienced”.

Ironically, it was state auditors and a state employee for the State Conservation Department, attorney Bob Mccrory, who prevented Exxon from carrying out its scheme to steal our tax dollars. McCrory, who testified extensively at the first trial, actually out-smarted the corporate lawyers for Exxon in the drafting of the lease documents. He is expected to take the stand again as the new trial continues before Circuit Judge Tracy McCooey this week.

Meanwhile, Exxon is now trying to extract another deal from the state, this time from the Alabama Port Authority to construct a dangerous liquefied natural gas terminal in Mobile Bay.

This week the Mobile Register opined that the project was too big and that there were too many unanswered questions about the safety of the terminal to move forward.

We should be very wary of doing business with any multi-national corporation, particularly Exxon. However, if we do, I would suggest the Port Authority hire Bob Mccrory to draft the contract.

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