Ashton Marra Published

Government Set to Wrap Case Against Blankenship

Don Blankenship

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has called its final witness in the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. FBI Special Agent Jim Lafferty took the stand Tuesday morning. 

The government guided Lafferty through a number of documents he testified he’d reviewed during the course of his investigation, including a number of daily violation reports, filings with the federal Securities Exchange Commission and examination books kept by miners at the Upper Big Branch mine. 

At least a portion of Lafferty’s testimony focused on Blankenship’s compensation in two of his final three years at Massey and how that compensation was calculated. 

In 2008, according to Lafferty’s testimony, nearly $8.8 million of Blankenship’s total compensation was directly linked to the company’s coal production, stock prices and profits. In 2009, that compensation connected to those three stipulations jumped to $15.4 million. 

On cross examination, defense attorney Jim Walls questioned the FBI agent about how Blankenship’s salary was determined. Blankenship’s total compensation package was determined by a committee of the Massey Board of Directors then approved by the full board, like most if not all other publicly traded companies.

In 2009, an outside, independent consulting agency helped write that compensation package, according to minutes from a Massey board meeting.

On Friday, former Massey Chief Administrative Officer John Poma testified Blankenship was heavily involved in writing and negotiating that compensation package every year. 

Lafferty is expected to be the final witness in the government’s case. Defense attorneys will continue their cross examination of the witness Thursday morning.