Rich Jochum
Rich Jochum is corporate administrator and general counsel for BPI.

Silver lining

In September, the Roths and BPI announced the creation of a $10 million BPI Family Support Fund to provide relief to former company employees who were laid off because of ABC News’ defamation of the company and its LFTB product. In a letter mailed to all former BPI employees in the affected work communities, Eldon Roth wrote: “having successfully resolved this matter, we can refocus on rebuilding BPI and reconnecting with you.”

“My worst day was going to the plants and telling those employees we had to close those plants and they would lose their jobs,” Roth says. “Since that day, we have been trying to right the wrong that was done to the entire company,” he says.

Eldon’s son, Nick Roth, who is also a member of the BPI team, says three plants were closed: Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kansas; and Waterloo, Iowa; and there were layoffs at a fourth facility and corporate offices resulting in 750 people losing their jobs. “Many more saw reductions in the hours they worked, and the impact was obviously felt in the communities we called home, and by our suppliers and customers,” Nick Roth says. “So far, almost 600 of those employees, both former and current, have been able to reconnect with us and complete their applications. They are part of the family.”

Eldon Roth notes, “Our success has always been a result of people helping us and each other, which created a culture in the company that makes this fund a natural extension of the BPI way of doing things.”

He says the fund was established to assist former employees who were adversely affected by the 2012 plant closings and associated layoffs.

Decisions regarding fund participation will be based on criteria such as length of service with BPI, unemployment or other benefits employees may have received from churches and other support groups, Roth says.
Eldon Roth

Final chapter

But the establishment of the employees’ fund by the Roth family is not the end of the BPI/ABC News saga. The latest blow to Disney/ABC’s fortunes comes in a lawsuit filed by American International Group Inc. (AIG), Disney’s insurance company. AIG is attempting to avoid paying the reimbursement costs from BPI’s settlement following the defamation lawsuit. According to Reuters News Agency, in a complaint filed in a New York State court in New York City, AIG urged a judge to reject a $25 million reimbursement demanded by Walt Disney Co. This is related to Disney’s larger $177 million settlement with BPI that took place this past June, under an insurance policy that excluded coverage for claims that allege malice.

AIG said in its lawsuit that Disney’s insurance policy covered some defamation claims, but only if the company first found an outside lawyer to say the statements it planned to broadcast were acceptable. The insurer, based in New York, accused Disney of trying to “create coverage where none exists.”

Rich Jochum, corporate administrator and general counsel for BPI, said the company couldn’t elaborate any further on the settlement based on confidentiality provisions.

Originally BPI was seeking $1.9 billion in damages, which could have escalated up to $5.7 billion under South Dakota’s food disparagement law, so legal observers view the Disney/ABC News decision to settle the case as a financially motivated business decision. An ABC spokeswoman said the TV network concluded that continued litigation of the case with the meat processing company was not in the company’s (ABC’s) best interests.