[Ed. Note: Dr. KSS writes about medicine and biotech stocks for the Irregulars. He has agreed to our trading restrictions, he chooses his own topics, and his words and opinions are his own. You can see his biography, previous columns and most recent comments on his Stock Gumshoe page.]
“We ran the race, the race was won…
by running slowly.”
—–Jethro Tull, “We Used to Know”, Stand Up
The scene makes you rapt: Arthur Edens (played by Tom Wilkinson), a defense attorney with extreme fixity of purpose, has been taking depositions for a case in which his high-dollar 600-attorney Manhattan law firm Kenner Bach is defending fictional agrochemical giant United North. In an Erin Brockovich-style story, U. North are accused of making a highly carcinogenic pesticide that has sickened hundreds and killed dozens. Poisoned plaintiffs are now in class action against U. North. Edens, who is U. North’s primary defense attorney, has somehow recently come into possession of a supposedly non-discoverable document revealing that U. North knew years earlier that its chemical caused cancer, and pushed it anyway.
The film is Michael Clayton.
Edens has a kind of non-discoverable trait of his own: bipolar disorder. The new document as well as his exhaustion from working this case for years cause him to escalate into clinical mania. During a deposition in Milwaukee, he begins babbling, rips off all his clothing, and rants that instead of defending U. North from its litigant class that he may switch sides and make the plaintiff case.
Edens is called home to New York by Kenner Bach senior partner Marty Bach (played by Sydney Pollack in his final role before his death from lymphoma). Edens is forced to load up on his psychiatric medicines while he is sequestered and sussed out by his partners, who realize Edens has become fixated on switching sides, on making the plaintiff case, something that could topple Kenner Bach in legal malpractice judgements. Edens shortly turns up dead, the work of two corporate espionage agents hired by U. North who stun him electrically, give him an amyl nitrate popper, and then inject succinylcholine, a paralytic agent, into a vein in his foot. They make Edens’ demise appear to be suicide by leaving his floor strewn with Edens’ ample supplies of psychotropic pills, hoping that how his corpse is found will persuade the coroner to forego an autopsy.
At a gathering to mourn ...