Mike Moore vs. the opioid industry

Mike Moore explains how he got a $20 billion settlement to help pay for the Gulf oil spill. Now he wants to do the same with opioid manufacturers

CBS All Access
This video is available on CBS All Access

This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Bill Whitaker interviews Mike Moore, a self-proclaimed "country lawyer from Mississippi" who has engineered two of the most lucrative legal settlements in American history.

Moore's current legal targets are the manufacturers and distributors of opioid painkillers, but he has vast experience suing — and settling with — huge corporations.

During a confidential meeting with BP's top executives in 2015, Moore hammered out a $20 billion settlement regarding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

"We explained to them what we thought it was going to cost them to get out of this," Moore said in the clip above. "They explained to us what they thought they could do. And within 90 days, the federal government's case, 485 cities' and counties' and all five states' cases had been resolved."

The $20 billion that Moore talked BP into paying helped compensate both the federal government and states and counties bordering the Gulf for environmental damage caused by the spill.

In a 2010 investigation, 60 Minutes examined the causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which leaked some 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the largest marine oil spill ever.

2010: Blowout: The Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Before BP, there was Big Tobacco

The BP settlement followed a "playbook" that Moore initially used as the Attorney General of Mississippi, when he filed the first suit against all the major American tobacco companies. He claimed the companies hid evidence of smoking's health risks.

When Moore filed the case in 1994, it was met with skepticism — and even derision. Mississippi's governor held a press conference to call it a "foolish" lawsuit.

"There was nobody who thought we had a chance to win," Moore told 60 Minutes. "I heard from farmers, I heard from businesspeople. I had a deluge of people coming to me telling me that was the dumbest thing I've ever done and I'll never get re-elected to office."

But Moore did get re-elected, repeatedly. He eventually convinced all 50 states to join his legal quest against big tobacco.

"There was nobody who thought we had a chance to win." - Mike Moore

60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace interviewed Moore for a report about tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, but after facing legal threats from the industry, CBS corporate lawyers initially refused to allow the story on the air.

"We're thinking to [ourselves], 'Look, if 60 Minutes is afraid of these guys, then what about us?" Moore said. "We had faith that things would come around, and they eventually did."

The 60 Minutes segment finally aired in early 1996, after Wigand's story was told in the Wall Street Journal.

Jeffrey Wigand: The big tobacco whistleblower

By 1998, Moore and his allies convinced the tobacco industry to settle what by then had become a tsunami of lawsuits. Big tobacco agreed to pay $250 billion over 25 years, but Moore said the settlement extends beyond that.

"It keeps going," he said. "As long as they make cigarettes in this country, they keep on paying, so there's no limit. They will keep making those payments they're making right now — plus inflation — forever."

To watch this week's 60 Minutes interview with Mike Moore, click here.

The video at the top of the page was edited by Matthew Lev. It was originally published on December 16, 2018.