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Peter Rost: The Fencing Master

The Fencing Master

By Peter Rost, M.D.,

Yesterday I went through one of those experiences that will probably stay with me for a long time. I was deposed by Ronald Green, founder of Epstein, Becker & Green, one of the most famous employment law firms in the country. Mr. Green is the defense lawyer of record for Pfizer, a company I used to work for as a Vice President.

The reason Ronald Green deposed me was because I have sued Pfizer for wrongful termination. Mr. Green was most recently featured in the press when he defended Bill O’Reilly from Fox News, in a sexual harassment suit. Of course, I felt honored that Pfizer elected to hire this legendary lawyer to interrogate me.

When you file a civil action, the defendant has the right to depose you and get all the documents relevant to the case. At the deposition an attorney interrogates you and you have to answer truthfully to any and all questions.

Perhaps I should also mention that during my career in the drug industry I’ve been deposed a few times in the past. But I’d never experienced anything like this.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what was actually said, because there is a confidentiality order in place, since Pfizer doesn’t want you to know what happens at these proceedings.

What I can tell you, however, is my reaction to this particular proceeding and how that applies to some other important events. In fact, this gave me a new insight into what people in much more difficult situations go through.

I should probably also mention that I’m not someone who is easily impressed by anyone. And when I am impressed, that means someone has really done something quite noteworthy. And, I have to admit, I was impressed by Ronald Green.

This lawyer operated like a human sledgehammer. And I mean this in the most positive sense. His job was to get as much information from me as possible and to try to shoot holes in our case. He was the sledgehammer and I was the rock, so to say. And, he literally made my head spin; never experienced that before.

In short, I observed a master in action. And perhaps the analogy with a sledgehammer doesn’t fully convey Mr. Green’s abilities. At times it felt like standing in front of a fencing master, who was skillfully blocking, charging, and finally thrusting the tip of his foil blade into the soft tissue.

And, for that, I respect him.

You simply have to respect skill, talent, and good footwork, even if all those things are turned against you, and you are on the receiving end of a lethal weapon.

In a way, this may have been the perfect preparation for my upcoming trial; then again, I think Mr. Green actually held back. And while he ably lost his temper at the right moments, harshly and dramatically admonished me, and his face sometimes turned purple, he then immediately compose himself. I guess, the fact that the video camera was running may have somewhat tempered his performance.

Let me emphasize, I’m not writing this facetiously; I was impressed by Mr. Green. I may not like how he conducts himself during this litigation; I may not like when he gives the judge untruthful information, and how he takes advantage of the legal system, but, he is a master of his art. In fact, I can’t wait for our next encounter.

But all of this also made me realize something else.

Here I was, in a fancy conference room in central Manhattan. I was well fed—Mr. Green was a generous host who provided for lavish food in a separate room filled with beverages and various delicacies. I ate grapes the size of small mandarins and enjoyed baked goods that melted in my mouth. And although I used a fencing analogy, I wasn’t threatened by any physical harm and I knew that I would leave healthy and well at the end of the day. But in spite of all this, my head was spinning and at some points I had a hard time remembering facts related to events that had transpired only a few weeks earlier. Sometimes I hardly knew what to respond; a situation I’m very unused to.

And that made me appreciate something which you can’t really understand if you haven’t been through a skillfully orchestrated interrogation.

It made me realize that those people interrogated in the Abu Ghrabi prison in Iraq, the prisoners in damp cells in KGB's Ljubljanka prison in Russia, the suspected “terrorists” renditioned to foreign countries to be tortured, water boarded, and what not; they really don’t have a chance.

I can perfectly well understand how a man after a few days might admit to anything, confuse everything, lose his mind, and that utter determination and perseverance is needed to survive such an ordeal. It made me realize how little we really control ourselves, even when we think we are in charge of our emotions, and how easily we can be influenced even when we know that we are being manipulated.

And for that experience and learning I am grateful to Ronald Green of Epstein, Becker & Green—because he is truly a master of the fine art of interrogation.

This also bodes well for the upcoming trial. I think that we are virtually guaranteed fireworks that would make any Broadway show producer envious and I strongly recommend that you reserve your seat in advance. A copy of my complaint, case no. 05-CV-10384, filed in US District Court, Southern District of NY, can be viewed on Green, Savits & Lenzo's website:


Peter Rost, M.D., is a former Vice President of Pfizer. He became well known in 2004 when he emerged as the first drug company executive to speak out in favor of reimportation of drugs. He is the author of “The Whistleblower, Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman ,” He also writes the daily Dr. Peter Rost blog."

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