Ex Massey CEO Don Blankenship Indicted Over UBB Mining Disaster

November 14th, 2014 by Julie Ferguson

Keeping two sets of books has come to be the cliche for fraud and deceit. You expect it to be confined to the realm of cartoon villains, but it was one of many damning indicators reported to inspectors during a more than four-year investigation into circumstances surrounding the mining disaster that claimed 29 lives at the Massey-owned Upper Big Branch Mine. One book especially for the inspectors, one book for operations.

Yesterday was the day that many of the surviving family members thought would never come. Longtime Massey CEO Don Blankenship was indicted on four criminal counts: three felonies and one misdemeanor, which carry a maximum combined penalty of 31 years imprisonment.

“A federal grand jury in Charleston charged Blankenship with conspiring to cause willful violations of ventilation requirements and coal-dust control rules — meant to prevent deadly mine blasts –during a 15-month period prior to the worst coal-mining disaster in a generation.

The four-count indictment, filed in U.S. District Court, also alleges that Blankenship led a conspiracy to cover up mine safety violations and hinder federal enforcement efforts by providing advance warning of government inspections.”

The the 43-page indictment outlines a long list of sins: repeated and serious violations of safety laws; actions designed to impede and deceive regulators and inspectors; and coverups and deception during the disaster investigation. It also includes charges of deception to the SEC and “…materially false statements and representations, and materially misleading omissions, made in connection with the purchase and sale of Massey stock.”

Ken Ward, Jr. has been covering this in great detail both in the Charleston Gazette and on his Coal Tattoo blog. See his Blankenship indicted post – he links to a timeline of events, reactions of family members, a summary of convictions so far.

Other media coverage

Prior related posts