Hard-Charging CEO Rakes in Millions

The CEO of the country's fourth largest coal company raked in more than $23 million in 2007.

Massey Energy chairman Don Blankenship also recently became the center of controversy in West Virginia after he charged at an ABC News producer who attempted to question him about his financial and personal relationships with West Virginia Supreme Court justices. [Watch video.]

Questions emerged about Blankenship's relationships with the supreme court justices who have been hearing appeals by Massey that could cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.

As reported earlier this month by ABCNews.com, Blankenship had vacationed in Monaco with State Supreme Court Chief Justice Elliott Maynard while Massey had a multi-million-dollar appeal before the court. Chief Justice Maynard recused himself from two major Massey cases after photographs from their trip surfaced, but insists that there was nothing improper about the trip.

Another justice, Brent Benjamin, was the beneficiary of a $3.5 million ad campaign, most of which was paid for by Blankenship personally. Benjamin has not recused himself from Massey cases, saying there is no evidence that he has been anything but fair and impartial.

Fellow justice Larry Starcher told ABCNews.com he believes Blankenship has effectively bought himself a seat on the Supreme Court of West Virginia.

"He made an expenditure of money that resulted in having a favorable seat on the Supreme Court," said Starcher.

Starcher also recused himself, saying he felt he should take himself off the cases due to his own role in speaking out about the controversy.

Despite the controversy, company reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission reveal that Blankenship continues to be very highly compensated -- the bulk of last year's income coming from more than $16 million in stock and options.

Blankenship receives the lavish perks that many CEOs are accustomed to, such as the use of the Massey corporate jet, which cost the company and its shareholders more than $180,000 in 2007.

The Massey filings also refer to a $240 million appeal that will soon be before the West Virginia Supreme Court.

"Ultimately, we believe it is unlikely any punitive damages will be assessed in the matter," the company reports state. "We further believe there is a strong possibility that the West Virginia State Supreme Court of Appeals will remand the compensatory damages claim for retrial or significantly reduce the amount of compensatory damages awarded by the jury."

Justice Starcher and many local editorials have called for Justice Benjamin to recuse himself from the upcoming appeal, but so far he has not done so.

"I say if that's not the appearance of impropriety, then I don't know what is," said Starcher.

Meanwhile, the court did rule in favor of Massey earlier this month on a $70 million appeal in which a smaller company, Harman Mining, had accused Massey of fraud. Harman had won the case in trial court, but Massey appealed the case to the Supreme Court. Lawyers for Harman Mining say they are appealing the ruling to the United States Supreme Court.

Click Here for the Investigative Homepage.