“Toyota calls in Exponent Inc. as hired gun

“Toyota calls in Exponent Inc. as hired gun”
2010 LA Times
“The California engineering firm is known for helping big corporations weather messy disputes. It denies accusations that it skews results to benefit its clients.”
“When some of the world’s best-known companies faced disputes over secondhand smoke, toxic waste in the jungle and asbestos, they all turned to the same source for a staunch defense: Exponent Inc. . .

“If I were Toyota, I wouldn’t have picked somebody like Exponent to do analysis,” said Stanton Glantz, a cardiologist at UC San Francisco who runs a database on the tobacco industry that contains thousands of pages of Exponent research arguing, among other things, that secondhand smoke does not cause cancer. “I would have picked a firm with more of a reputation of neutrality.” .  .

The firm was hired by Exxon to show that a double hull probably would not have prevented the Valdez disaster of 1989.  . . .

Swiss Re, an insurer of the World Trade Center, hired Exponent after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to argue its case that it should have to pay only half the $7 billion in claims sought on the grounds that the collapse of one tower would have compromised the entire complex even if the second tower had not fallen.

Last May, the Amazon Defense Coalition alleged that an Exponent study finding that dumping oil waste in the Ecuadorean rain forest did not increase cancer rates was tainted because the firm’s largest shareholder was a member of the board of Chevron Corp., which commissioned the study. . .

Cindy Sage, an environmental consultant in Santa Barbara who specializes in electromagnetic interference, said that much more extensive testing than described in the report would be necessary to find a potential problem.

Sage, who has faced off against Exponent witnesses on safety issues in the past, said Toyota’s hiring of Exponent was telling.

“The first thing you know is that when Exponent is brought in to help a company, that company is in big trouble,” she said.

ken.bensinger @latimes.com

ralph.vartabedian @latimes.com”