J. Dudley Butler, Administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA), is the latest in a string of Obama appointees to draw scandal to their posts. A former trial lawyer who made his living litigating against poultry processors, Mr. Butler is now in charge of altering the very regulations he wrestled in the private sector. The Obama administration has yet to address this serious conflict of interest.
As a regulatory arm of the USDA, GIPSA is tasked with overseeing the trade of various meats, grains, and other agricultural products. As an attorney in the Butler Farm and Ranch Law Group in Canton, Mississippi, Mr. Butler filed multiple lawsuits against poultry companies for alleged irregular and illegal business practices. These suits met with limited success because of pre-existing GIPSA regulations. Now, having been made Administrator of GIPSA by President Obama, Mr. Butler is changing the troublesome regulations to favor plaintiff’s attorneys, whose ranks may well again include him after his stint in public office. This underhanded policy scheme was shoehorned into a GIPSA rulemaking mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill; straying from the proposed content on “undue preferences,” Mr. Butler wedged language into the final rule that opens the door to broader and more profitable litigation in the future. Mr. Butler, to his credit, has been quite open as to what this regulation will accomplish:
“When you have a term like ‘unfair, unreasonable or undue prejudice,’ that’s a plaintiff lawyer’s dream. We can get in front of a jury with that. We won’t get thrown out on what we call summary judgment because that’s a jury question.”
And that’s not all:
“There are only certain things a violation of the regulation, if you will, written regulation, that they can fine on, I think a maximum is $11,000 that they can fine $11,000 a day, but the real money that you are talking about comes from the section dealing with damages, compensatory damages, to other types of damages that DOJ can either seek or you can seek in a private right of action.”
“Real money?” Real corruption. Calls for Mr. Butler’s resignation have been increasing in number and volume. The funny thing is, neither Mr. Butler nor Mr. Obama is willing to seriously tackle accusations of these shenanigans, transparent though they may be. In the words of former congressman Bob Barr, “Butler is actively pushing to expand the scope of the decades-old Packers and Stockyards Act — which will make it easier for trial lawyers (such as Mr. Butler) to successfully sue meat and poultry companies.” It’s easy to see why Mr. Butler wants to ram his rule through and skip all the way to the bank, but Barack Obama’s silence is perplexing. What are you, Mr. President…chicken?