PICAYUNE — Former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove is none too pleased with Gov. Haley Barbour’s criticism of his big drug lawsuits. Musgrove called me up to tell me so. This led to me sitting down with him for a couple of hours to hear his side of the story.
Some background for those who didn’t read my original column on this subject: Barbour claims Musgrove’s lawsuits are a shakedown of drug companies for merely following screwed up state regulations. Further, Barbour claims Musgrove is getting millions while the state gets peanuts, since the state has to refund the money back to the feds. Even further, Barbour says Musgrove, as governor, had every chance to change the screwed up law, but instead is now making millions off of it.
We’re talking big money here. Musgrove, hand picked by Attorney General Jim Hood, has already settled $45 million in claims against 15 drug companies. Many more settlements are in the pipeline. Musgrove is working through the Jackson law firm of Copeland, Cook, Taylor and Bush. Contingency fees average 20 percent. Musgrove’s personal cut is undisclosed, but it won’t be chump change.
It’s quite interesting being in the middle of this battle, which is an echo of their gubernatorial contest. Both governors are utterly convincing.
I have always liked Ronnie. He’s about as nice and personable as a man can be. I walked out of my meeting with him thinking I had gotten it wrong. Later, reading the lengthy court opinions, I realized that I had fallen under the Musgrove spell, much like the jurors of these class action lawsuits.
Musgrove’s big beef is with Barbour’s claim that 80 percent of the money will have to be refunded to the feds. In a way, they are both right.