Former Massey CEO Blankenship Indicted

A federal grand jury in Charleston, West Virginia has returned an indictment charging Donald L. Blankenship, former chief executive officer of Massey Energy Company, with four criminal offenses in connection with an April 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine that killed 29 miners.


Federal officials alleged that Blankenship “knew that UBB was committing hundreds of safety-law violations every year and that he had the ability to prevent most of the violations that UBB was committing.”

Despite this knowledge, Blankenship “fostered and participated in an understanding that perpetuated UBB’s practice of routine safety violations, in order to produce more coal, avoid the costs of following safety laws, and make more money.”

Federal officials alleged that Blankenship was “fully aware of UBB’s practice of routinely violating mandatory federal mine safety standards,” that Blankenship “could have drastically reduced violations of mandatory federal mine safety standards at UBB by taking reasonable steps to follow the law,” but that he chose instead to “routinely violate and cause routine violations of mandatory federal mine safety standards at UBB.”

The indictment charges Blankenship with conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and securities fraud.

The indictment alleges that Blankenship conspired to commit and cause routine, willful violations of mandatory federal mine safety and health standards at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine, located in Raleigh County, West Virginia.

The indictment alleges that during this same period of time, Blankenship was part of a conspiracy to impede and hinder federal mine safety officials from carrying out their duties at Upper Big Branch by providing advance warning of federal mine safety inspection activities, so their underground operations could conceal and cover up safety violations that they routinely committed.

After the major, fatal explosion occurred at Upper Big Branch on April 5, 2010, Blankenship allegedly made and caused to be made false statements and representations to the SEC concerning Massey Energy’s safety practices prior to the explosion.

The indictment alleges that, after this explosion, Blankenship made and caused to be made materially false statements and representations, as well as materially misleading omissions, in connection with the purchase and sale of Massey Energy stock.

The four counts charged carry a maximum combined penalty of 31 years imprisonment.

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