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The NFL’s scientific consultant has bigger problems than the Wells report

After the NFL hired outside investigator Ted Wells to handle the #DeflateGate probe, Wells retained a firm known as Exponent to provide scientific and mathematical support.

Initially, Columbia University was mentioned as a potential consultant for Wells, but that never materialized -- possibly because Columbia wouldn’t reach the conclusion Wells wanted Columbia to reach. Instead, Wells picked Exponent, litigation-support firm that once concluded second-hand smoke doesn’t cause cancer in exchange for a likely sizable fee from one or more tobacco companies.

“Exponent’s research has come under fire from critics, including engineers, attorneys and academics who say the company tends to deliver to clients the reports they need to mount a public defense,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in 2010. (Exponent predictably denied the allegation.)

Most recently, Exponent has come under fire not for what it delivered but for what it didn’t deliver. Via, a court order entered earlier this month in Illinois found Exponent to be in violation of a court order requiring the company to produce certain documents in a civil lawsuit. Exponent tried to advance a couple of flimsy legal privileges for failing to comply, but the court ultimately found Exponent to be in violation of a prior court order -- and the violation of a court order is a big deal in any form of litigation.

"[T]he Court cannot allow Exponent to stand in violation of a valid Court order compelling the production of documents which were demanded pursuant to a lawful subpoena and found relevant by the Court,” Judge Stephen A. Stobbs wrote in the June 2, 2015 order. “Methodologically sound science has nothing to fear from full and open disclosure.”

The last part makes a lot of sense, and it bolster our prior argument that the NFL should release all communications between Wells and Exponent, in order to allow the Patriots, Tom Brady, and the media to scrutinize whether Exponent provided an honest and objective analysis to Wells or whether Exponent gave Wells precisely what Wells was buying -- a finding that the Patriots tampered with the air pressure in the footballs used in the AFC title game.

In the Illinois case, Exponent was required to reimburse the party seeking the documents for all legal fees relating to the pursuit of the materials, along with a $1,000 fine for each day that the company failed to deliver the documents, if the documents weren’t produced by June 23, 2015.

In this case, Exponent is facing no financial liability. But Exponent is facing a significant potential blow to its credibility. If it had any remaining credibility after claiming that second-hand smoke doesn’t cause cancer.