West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a billionaire and the state’s richest man, says his business experience qualifies him for the post. Despite a long list of debt-collection cases, the governor maintains his companies always pay what they owe.
But in the most complete analysis of Justice’s legal record to date, ProPublica found hundreds of lawsuits, including many brought by workers, vendors, business partners and government agencies, all alleging they weren’t paid. In all, plaintiffs have won judgments or reached settlements worth more than $128 million in cases against the Justice business empire.
Below is a breakdown of 32 lawsuits in which the governor’s companies have been ordered to or agreed to pay at least $500,000.
The amounts reflect the best available information about how much a Justice company owes. In some cases, it’s unclear what those firms ultimately paid; Justice companies sometimes worked out settlements after a court order that could result in a lower amount, but the terms of the agreements were confidential.
Lawyers for the Justice companies have said they plan to appeal the $35 million judgment in the case of New London Tobacco Market, which alleged unpaid coal royalties. And an appeal could still be filed in the case of Drummond Coal Sales, which last month won a $6.9 million judgment in a coal shipping dispute.
Representatives of Justice’s companies declined to comment. Justice and his reelection campaign did not return emails, letters and phone calls seeking comment. Last week, after a ProPublica reporter sent a list of detailed questions, the governor’s campaign sent out a preemptive email to supporters, calling this line of reporting “fake news.”