Close Close Comment Creative Commons Donate Email Add Email Facebook Instagram Facebook Messenger Mobile Nav Menu Podcast Print RSS Search Secure Twitter WhatsApp YouTube
Defend the facts. Support ProPublica.

See Who’s Taken Gov. Jim Justice to Court Over Unpaid Bills

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a billionaire and the state’s richest man, has a long list of debt-collection cases. In the most complete analysis of his legal record to date, ProPublica found dozens totaling more than $128 million.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on March 16. (F. Brian Ferguson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP Photo)

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

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.”

Disclaimer: Ken Ward’s wife is an unpaid board member of Mountain State Justice, a nonprofit legal organization in West Virginia. The group represented miners in their cases regarding layoffs and the Justice companies, but she had no role in the litigation.

Claire Perlman contributed reporting.

Filed under:

Protect Independent Journalism

This story you’ve just finished was funded by our readers. We hope it inspires you to make a gift to ProPublica so that we can publish more investigations like this one that hold people in power to account and produce real change.

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that produces nonpartisan, evidence-based journalism to expose injustice, corruption and wrongdoing. We were founded over 10 years ago to fill a growing hole in journalism: Newsrooms were (and still are) shrinking, and legacy funding models are failing. Deep-dive reporting like ours is slow and expensive, and investigative journalism is a luxury in many newsrooms today — but it remains as critical as ever to democracy and our civic life. More than a decade (and six Pulitzer Prizes) later, ProPublica has built one of the largest investigative newsrooms in the country. Our work has spurred reform through legislation, at the voting booth and inside our nation’s most important institutions.

Your donation today will help us ensure that we can continue this critical work. From the climate crisis, to racial justice, to wealth inequality and much more, we are busier than ever covering stories you won’t see anywhere else. Make your gift of any amount today and join the tens of thousands of ProPublicans across the country, standing up for the power of independent journalism to produce real, lasting change. Thank you.

Donate Now

Ken Ward Jr.

Ken Ward Jr. is a Distinguished Fellow in ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network and co-founder of Mountain State Spotlight, a statewide nonprofit civic news organization.

Portrait of Alex Mierjeski

Alex Mierjeski

Alex is a research reporter for the Local Reporting Network at ProPublica.

Latest Stories from ProPublica

Current site Current page