Former Massey Energy CEO Indicted

Former Massey Energey Co. CEO Donald L. Blankenship has been indicted by a West Virginia federal grant jury on charges that he conspired to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, conspired to impede federal mine safety officials, made false statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and committed securities fraud.

Former Massey Energey Co. CEO Donald L. Blankenship has been indicted by a West Virginia federal grant jury on charges that he conspired to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, conspired to impede federal mine safety officials, made false statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and committed securities fraud, Southern District U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced Nov. 13.

Blankenship headed the company when an explosion occurred at its Upper Big Branch South underground coal mine on April 5, 2010, killing 29 miners. Massey Energy later was purchased by Alpha Natural Resources. In December 2011, MSHA issued the largest fine in its history, $10,825,368, after its investigation into the explosion. MSHA concluded Massey's corporate culture was the root cause of the tragedy and issued Massey and Performance Coal, a subsidiary, 369 citations and orders, including for 21 flagrant violations.

According to a news release posted by Goodwin's office, the November 2014 indictment alleges that from about Jan. 1, 2008, through about April 9, 2010, "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. The indictment further alleges that after a major, fatal explosion occurred at Upper Big Branch on April 5, 2010, Blankenship made and caused to be made false statements and representations to the SEC concerning Massey Energy's safety practices prior to the explosion. Additionally, 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 maximum penalty available for the four counts on which Blankenship is charged is 31 years.

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