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New Flint water crisis lawsuit targets large U.S. financiers

J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Stifel all accused of negligence
Michigan's attorney general announced the $600 million settlement Thursday.
Michigan's attorney general announced the $600 million settlement Thursday.(File)
Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 11:04 AM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Some of the largest U.S. financial institutions are named in a new lawsuit accusing them of negligence with the Flint water crisis.

A partner at New York-based Levy Konigsberg filed the lawsuit against J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Stifel Nicolaus this week on behalf of 2,000 people under the age of 19 who were affected by the Flint water crisis. The lawsuit is seeking an undisclosed financial judgment.

The lawsuit claims the financial institutions underwrote municipal bonds to pay for the ill-fated switch to drawing drinking water from the Flint river in April 2014. The lawsuit claims all three companies knew substantial infrastructure upgrades were necessary to protect public health before the switch, but they also were aware that the work wasn’t going to be completed.

The lawsuit claims J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Stifel committed professional negligence for continuing to provide funding anyway despite the clear public health risks. Without their financing, the lawsuit claims the Flint water crisis wouldn’t have happened.

“Flint is merely a microcosm of environmental justice crises taking place all over the country, where corporate greed gives way to the destruction of innocent lives," said attorney Corey M. Stern, who filed the lawsuit. “We may live in a country where money sometimes overtakes morality, but we also live in a country with a system of laws that must hold bad actors accountable for their actions.”

He worked on the $600 million settlement between the Flint community and Michigan state government announced earlier this year. That settlement is still awaiting approval from a federal judge.

Dozens of other lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, consultants and others accused of wrongdoing in the Flint water crisis are still pending in the courts.

The Flint water crisis happened when the city, which was under state management at the time, switched from Detroit’s water system to drawing drinking water from the Flint River. The more corrosive river water required treatment that was never done.

As a result, the corrosion ate away the protective lining inside lead-based water service lines, which allowed tiny particles of lead to enter the water inside homes and poison residents. An outbreak of Legionnaires' disease also was reported during the crisis.

Flint switched back to Detroit’s water system in 2015 and signed a long-term contract to continue receiving water from the Great Lakes Water Authority in 2018.

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