WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - The former Texaco executive who secretly taped himself and his colleagues plotting to destroy evidence in a race-discrimination case was indicted Thursday after an apparent attempt to get him to testify against higherups failed.
Richard Lundwall, 55, was charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to destroy documents.
Mr. Lundwall had turned over secretly recorded tapes in which he and other Texaco executives belittled blacks and plotted to destroy evidence sought by the plaintiffs in the discrimination suit. The tapes led to a $176 million settlement of the lawsuit late last year.
Mr. Lundwall was arrested in November on an obstruction complaint. He was indicted after plea bargain negotiations collapsed. Prosecutors apparently wanted him to testify against higher-ranking Texaco executives who might be charged.
Without Mr. Lundwall's testimony, the government may have less than it needs to consider prosecuting other company officers or Texaco itself.
U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said only that the investigation continues.
Though Texaco has punished four current and former executives, Mr. Lundwall remains the only one with criminal charges against him. The obstruction charge carries 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Mr. Lundwall's lawyers said negotiations broke down because Mr. Lundwall wasn't allowed to see a report commissioned by Texaco. The report was an investigation by an outside attorney.
"It's time for the federal government to pick on someone its own size - Texaco," said Mr. Lundwall's attorney, Christopher Riley. "The moral of this case is, if you're prepared to offend a large corporation the government will see you punished for it."
Texaco spokesman Chris Gidez had no comment.
The class-action lawsuit was brought by blacks who said the oil company discriminated against them in pay, promotions and work-place behavior.
If the settlement is approved at a hearing next week, more than 1,300 black employees will get lump sums starting at $2,000 and averaging about $60,000. It would be the largest settlement ever in a race-discrimination case.
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