Facts from the courtroom
January 3, 2023

Setting the Record Straight on Allegations Against Veolia in the Detroit News

As we have said previously, fault for the Flint Water Crisis lies exclusively with the government officials who made all the decisions in Flint. Under the First Amendment, Veolia North America (VNA), has every right to defend itself and its people against baseless accusations about VNA’s role in Flint and to share our perspective on a matter of public importance.

The allegations reported in the Detroit News article dated September 9, 2022, that VNA ran “targeted digital advertisements” during the Flint water trial, are not true, nor is the repetition of these allegations in a December 6, 2022 article, in which the Detroit News purports to have “uncovered a targeted digital advertising campaign.” Let us make one thing clear: At no point did VNA or its parent company, Veolia Environnement, try to influence the trial or target jurors or potential jurors via any out-of-court communications. We provided the full file of Google AdWords data to Attorney Stern in response to his burdensome requests. The person in charge of the Google AdWords account for VNA also testified under oath that VNA did not target jurors.

We told the Detroit News this, both before the article was published, as well as just a few days after the September 9 article was published, and we asked them to take the article down, do a thorough fact-check, and come to us for any additional information they wanted. Here’s the letter: link. They didn’t agree.

If we take a step back in the story, as a wrongfully accused party in this situation, we have a particularly acute need to make our voice heard. A number of stakeholders—customers, shareholders, media, and members of the general public—have inquired as to the company’s position. We are honor-bound to give them answers and defend our company’s reputation against these allegations of professional negligence that we know to be false. Fortunately, the First Amendment protects this right, even if some don’t like it.

To that end, we set up a website www.veoliaflintfacts.com in the summer of 2016, when a number of allegations were made about VNA’s work in Flint in February and March 2015. After the trial began in 2022 and, importantly, after the jurors were selected and instructed not to do any online research, read news reports, or social media posts, we set up a Twitter account to accompany the website, which would update on the events of the trial. This trial, the first trial ever to address the Flint Water Crisis and broadcast on Zoom, was important to us. The account is here: Twitter. Feel free to read it. It tells the story of the trial from our perspective, and links to our website.

However, it got the attention of some attorneys, who tried to use the discovery process to investigate it in the middle of trial (which the Court, correctly in our view, found had nothing to do with the claims or defenses at issue).

We haven’t hidden the fact that the website and the Twitter account are written from our perspective (it’s right there in the name).

It’s not like we bought a generic URL, like www.lead123.com, to drive you to our website, like Attorney Stern has done, where he also feels free to criticize our company in a way we think is biased. He can also call us liars, or tell a podcaster that the over-$600 million settlement with the State of Michigan and City of Flint is just the “gravy” compared to the “steak” he expects to get from suing us.

Even though we disagree with what he says, he’s entitled to his opinion. Just like we’re free to think it’s a shame that Governor Snyder, Gerald Ambrose, and the other public officials responsible for this crisis are able to use the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying in front of a jury. Or how we think that the bone lead scans used by plaintiffs’ expert Aaron Specht are not reliable and potentially dangerous (just like Flint doctors Mona Hanna-Atisha and Lawrence Reynolds have said). We also are free to point out that the MDEQ, the City of Flint, Emergency Manager Ambrose, and the EPA all knew about extremely high levels of lead at a Flint resident’s house, and didn’t tell VNA about it, all while VNA was preparing the report it’s now being sued for.

Mr. Stern has taken to calling what we’ve said “disinformation.” We don’t agree and think he simply doesn’t like what we’re saying.

It won’t work. The First Amendment protects our right to comment on a matter of crucial importance to us and the people of Flint. Try as he may to shut us down, we remain as committed as ever to providing our side of the story.

See you at www.veoliaflintfacts.com and on twitter.