Federal prosecutors yesterday filed a criminal complaint against Timothy Litzenburg, who represented people affected by the herbicide Roundup, on charges that the Virginia attorney attempted to extort $200 million from a global chemical manufacturing company.
Litzenburg faces charges of "transmitting interstate communications with intent to extort, attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion and transmit interstate communications with intent to extort," according to the Justice Department.
The unnamed manufacturing company is referred to as Company 1 in the suit, and the parent company is referred to as Company 2.
In October, Litzenburg approached Company 1 and threatened to make public comments in the media alleging that Company 1 had been manufacturing harmful chemicals in a product used to kill weeds, according to the complaint.
Litzenburg also allegedly threatened to find plaintiffs to sue Company 1 if the firm did not pay him and his associates $200 million in "consulting fees," according to DOJ.
Federal prosecutors said he allegedly communicated his demands by phone, by email and during an in-person meeting where he told Company 1 that he and his associates would be its "biggest problem." Litzenburg threatened to release damaging information that would cause a "40 percent stock loss" and a "public relations nightmare" for Company 2.
He was arrested yesterday and appeared before Magistrate Judge Joel Hoppe of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. He was later released on bail.
Litzenburg has been involved in litigation against Monsanto Co., which is a chemical company that manufactured the weed killer Roundup.
He represented a client that won $289 million in a verdict against Monsanto in August of 2018. The verdict was later reduced to $78 million by the judge presiding over the case.
Studies have linked an active ingredient in Roundup known as glyphosate to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
In a late October email to an attorney for Company 1, Litzenburg wrote: "The [Company 1] non-Hodgkin lymphoma litigation that we are planning will be ‘Roundup Two,’ and I’m excited to lead that charge again. This time, to my great financial benefit."
The criminal complaint adds that Litzenburg told Company 1 that if he received the money, he would "take a dive" during a deposition of the company’s toxicology by not asking relevant questions and would prevent any of his clients or future clients from suing the company.
When an attorney representing the unnamed company asked where the $200 million would go, an associate of Litzenburg’s said the money would be paid toward Golden Ratio LLC, an active Virginia corporation that was registered in late October after Litzenburg made his first demand to the company, according to the complaint.
Litzenburg did not respond to requests for comment.
"There are only a small handful of attorneys willing to actually go to trial on these cases, and I am one of them," Litzenburg wrote on his website.