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Archive for the ‘corporate_evil’ tag

Gilead Gouging Prices of Hepatitis C and H.I.V. Drugs

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Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs
Cut Rate Liquors and Real Drugs. 

Have we reached a tipping point for drug pricing yet? Seems close, at least, to a public consensus that pharmaceutical companies cannot set prices so high they shock the conscience. We have to weigh public health against private profits.

The attorney general of Massachusetts said on Wednesday that she had opened an inquiry into whether Gilead Sciences had violated state consumer protection laws by charging too much for its hepatitis C drugs.

The notification, which was contained in a letter to the company from the attorney general, Maura Healey, is the latest challenge to the practices of Gilead, which has become the largest and most profitable biotechnology company by dominating the market for drugs used to treat both H.I.V. and hepatitis C.

On Tuesday, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a nonprofit organization that treats patients with H.I.V. and AIDS, filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate patents covering the new version of Gilead’s mainstay H.I.V. drug, tenofovir. The lawsuit also says that Gilead, to maximize product life span but to the detriment of patients, delayed the introduction of the new, safer version of tenofovir until the old version was about to lose patent protection.

The hepatitis C drugs, Sovaldi and Harvoni, are widely considered breakthroughs — curing most patients in 12 weeks with few side effects. But Sovaldi has a list price of $1,000 per daily pill, or $84,000 for 12 weeks, and Harvoni costs $94,500. Those prices, and the great demand for the drugs, have strained the budgets of state Medicaid programs and prison systems, forcing many of them to restrict treatment to those most seriously ill.

In her letter to Gilead’s chief executive, John C. Martin, Ms. Healey said her office was examining whether Gilead’s pricing would be an “unfair trade practice,” in violation of Massachusetts law.

“Because Gilead’s drugs offer a cure for a serious and life-threatening infectious disease, pricing the treatment in a manner that effectively allows H.C.V. to continue spreading through vulnerable populations, as opposed to eradicating the disease altogether, results in massive public harm,” she wrote, referring to the hepatitis C virus by its initials.

One motivation for Ms. Healey’s letter was a class-action lawsuit filed against Massachusetts’ Department of Correction asking for more inmates to be treated for hepatitis C. Ms. Healey’s letter said that treating everyone at the list price of Sovaldi would “easily exceed our entire budget for prisoner health care.”

(click here to continue reading Gilead Faces Fights Over Hepatitis C and H.I.V. Drugs – The New York Times]

More to come on this topic, I assume…

Written by Seth Anderson

January 29th, 2016 at 3:04 pm

A horrible new PayPal policy opts you into getting robocalls and spam texts

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Take Action With Your Money
Take Action With Your Money, or we’ll call you at dinner…

How insanely misguided!

PayPal users, this is for you.

The payments company is rolling out an update to its user agreement that threatens to bombard you with “autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages” — and worse, by agreeing to the updated terms, you’re immediately opted in.

PayPal can even reach you at phone numbers that you didn’t provide. Through undisclosed means, PayPal says it has the right to contact you on numbers “we have otherwise obtained.”

A PayPal spokesperson said it’s the company’s policy to “honor customers’ requests to decline to receive auto-dialed or prerecorded calls.”

But PayPal’s new terms don’t make that very clear.

“If you do not agree to these amended terms,” the revised document says, “you may close your account within the 30 day period and you will not be bound by the amended terms.”

(click here to continue reading A horrible new PayPal policy opts you into getting robocalls – The Washington Post.)

If this does in fact become policy, and PayPal1 start robocalling, I may have to rip my phone out of the wall. If I start getting spam texts from PayPal2, I may have to join that class action lawsuit that’s being written right now3.

Here’s the offensive language:

You consent to receive autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages from PayPal at any telephone number that you have provided us or that we have otherwise obtained.  We may place such calls or texts to (i) notify you regarding your account; (ii) troubleshoot problems with your account (iii) resolve a dispute; (iv) collect a debt; (v) poll your opinions through surveys or questionnaires, (vii) contact you with offers and promotions; or (viii) as otherwise necessary to service your account or enforce this User Agreement, our policies, applicable law, or any other agreement we may have with you. The ways in which you provide us a telephone number include, but are not limited to, providing a telephone number at Account opening, adding a telephone number to your Account at a later time, providing it to one of our employees, or by contacting us from that phone number. If a telephone number provided to us is a mobile telephone number, you consent to receive SMS or text messages at that number. We won’t share your phone number with third parties for their purposes without your consent, but may share your phone numbers with our Affiliates or with our service providers, such as billing or collections companies, who we have contracted with to assist us in pursuing our rights or performing our obligations under this User Agreement, our policies, applicable law, or any other agreement we may have with you. You agree these service providers may also contact you using autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages, as authorized by us to carry out the purposes we have identified above, and not for their own purposes. Standard telephone minute and text charges may apply if we contact you.

(click here to continue reading PayPal .)

Footnotes:
  1. and its parent, EBay []
  2. I barely use the service []
  3. probably []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 4th, 2015 at 8:53 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with ,

Oil Industry Begs Court to Block Rail Transport Safety Rules Because of Cost

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All That Meat and No Potatoes
All That Meat and No Potatoes…

Shocking, I know, but Exxon Mobil and Chevron, et al, don’t want to alter their profit streams, asking to be able to continue sending bomb trains throughout the country. The reason? Updating the safety equipment would cost money. What a compelling argument, worthy of a 6th grade debate team. 

The American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s main trade group, petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to block key provisions of the rules, which were unveiled this month by Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary. The petition was filed on Monday.

The trade group, which represents companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron, has long argued that forcing oil producers and shippers to use newer tank cars and replace older models would impose high costs on the industry and lead to a shortfall in tank car capacity.

The petition seeks to block a requirement that older tank cars be retrofitted with new safety features designed to prevent them from spilling oil or rupturing in a derailment. It also challenges a requirement that tank cars be equipped with new electronic braking systems or face operational restrictions.

 

(click here to continue reading Oil Industry Asks Court to Block Rail Transport Safety Rules – NYTimes.com.)

If Exxon Mobil were forced to spend $100,000,000 updating the bomb cars,  ((a number I just pulled out of the air, and probably a lot more than they would actually pay)) would it be a large enough number to reduce their annual profits measurably? In 2014 alone, ExxonMobil reported revenue of $394,105,000,000. Chevron’s reported revenue for 2014 was $211,970, 000,000 by the way. I would hazard a guess their accountants are top notch, and most of the costs of updating bomb trains would be written off as operating expense, right? The oil industry has been making immense, unimaginable profits for decades, or more.

In other words, protesting that updating the rail cars so that they don’t blow up communities and cause fires that last for weeks because updating the rail cars would cost too much is a lame argument. Cries pleading poverty from corporations as wealthy as Chevron is laughable. 

Love Is Letting Go
Love Is Letting Go

Not that the Transportation Department and Barack Obama will listen to me, but my negotiation points would include the tax subsidies the oil and gas industry currently enjoy: fix the bomb trains and you get to keep half of your tax subsidies. 

The oil industry’s lobbyists like to argue that its array of tax write-offs (which allow companies to deduct everything from drilling costs to the declining value of their wells) aren’t any different than other deductions for less publicly reviled companies. Cutting them will discourage new exploration and put jobs at risk, they claim.

Yet, some of the breaks are anachronisms that date back almost to the days of John D. Rockefeller. And in a world of permanently high crude prices, there’s very little rationale for subsidizing the bottom lines of companies like ExxonMobil and BP.   

Make no mistake, either: Those profits are perfectly healthy. Between drilling and refining, Exxon’s U.S. operations alone earned $7.5 billion after taxes in 2012. California-based Occidental Petroleum Corporation, one of the so-called “independent” oil companies and the top oil driller in Texas, raked in $7.1 billion via its oil and gas division. 

(click here to continue reading America’s Most Obvious Tax Reform Idea: Kill the Oil and Gas Subsidies – The Atlantic.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 13th, 2015 at 9:20 am

Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Republican Attorneys General

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The Dark Doesn't Hide It
The Dark Doesn’t Hide It.

Here are real world consequences of removing all vestiges of restraint of corporate purchase of elected officials, only partially hidden corruption. We are getting the best politicians money can buy, in other words, with the obvious point being it isn’t our money, but corporate dollars that have all the buying power.

The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.

The email exchange from October 2011, obtained through an open-records request, offers a hint of the unprecedented, secretive alliance that Mr. Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general have formed with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year.

(click here to continue reading Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General – NYTimes.com.)

Cheap for corporations, $16,000,000 isn’t very much when gutting environmental law is the end result. Remember your high school history books and how indignant the outrage was when discussing the Teapot Dome Scandal? Well, this is a gazillion or two times worse…

Unconventional Solutions
Unconventional Solutions…

Here’s a brief refresher of the Teapot Dome Scandal via Wikipedia:

In the early 20th century, the U.S. Navy largely converted from coal to oil fuel. To ensure the Navy would always have enough fuel available, several oil-producing areas were designated as Naval Oil Reserves by President Taft. In 1921, President Harding issued an executive order that transferred control of Teapot Dome Oil Field in Natrona County, Wyoming, and the Elk Hills and Buena Vista Oil Fields in Kern County, California from the Navy Department to the Department of the Interior. This was not implemented until 1922, when Interior Secretary Fall persuaded Navy Secretary Edwin C. Denby to transfer control.

Later in 1922, Albert Fall leased the oil production rights at Teapot Dome to Harry F. Sinclair of Mammoth Oil, a subsidiary of Sinclair Oil Corporation. He also leased the Elk Hills reserve to Edward L. Doheny of Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company. Both leases were issued without competitive bidding. This manner of leasing was legal under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920.

The lease terms were very favorable to the oil companies, which secretly made Fall a rich man. Fall had received a no-interest loan from Doheny of $100,000 (about $1.32 million today) in November 1921. He received other gifts from Doheny and Sinclair totaling about $404,000 (about $5.34 million today). It was this money changing hands that was illegal, not the leases. Fall attempted to keep his actions secret, but the sudden improvement in his standard of living prompted speculation.

(click here to continue reading Teapot Dome scandal – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Discarded Cautions
Discarded Cautions.

Sound familiar? Except in this case, the public isn’t outraged, or even well informed that elected officials are getting paid off in such a brazen manner. 

Out of public view, corporate representatives and attorneys general are coordinating legal strategy and other efforts to fight federal regulations, according to a review of thousands of emails and court documents and dozens of interviews.

“When you use a public office, pretty shamelessly, to vouch for a private party with substantial financial interest without the disclosure of the true authorship, that is a dangerous practice,” said David B. Frohnmayer, a Republican who served a decade as attorney general in Oregon. “The puppeteer behind the stage is pulling strings, and you can’t see. I don’t like that. And when it is exposed, it makes you feel used.”

For Mr. Pruitt, the benefits have been clear. Lobbyists and company officials have been notably solicitous, helping him raise his profile as president for two years of the Republican Attorneys General Association, a post he used to help start what he and allies called the Rule of Law campaign, which was intended to push back against Washington.

(click here to continue reading Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

December 7th, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Sleazy Walgreen considers headquarters move

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Walgreens Coming Soon
Walgreens Leaving Soon

As we’ve discussed previously, we don’t know how this is considered acceptable behavior. Are the shareholder pressures on Walgreen Co. really so intense that the board would consider this drastic move to shave a few pennies off of their operating costs? Really? Maybe they should look to fire management, and find more competent oversight. Oh wait, Walgreen Co. CEO Greg Wasson was paid $13,700,000 last year. How about returning some of that to shareholders instead? Not to mention, per Walgreens “Net earnings for fiscal 2013 ended Aug. 31 determined in accordance with GAAP were $2.5 billion”. I guess that’s not enough. More, more, more…

The nation’s largest drugstore chain is considering a move that would allow it to significantly cut its tax bill and increase profits. But it’s being painted by critics as un-American for looking to make money for shareholders through financial engineering at the expense of the communities that it grew up in. Walgreen is considering a so-called corporate tax inversion, in which an American company is able to incorporate abroad by acquiring a foreign company. The buyer, in effect, becomes a subsidiary of a foreign parent.

The average person who pays taxes cannot take advantage of the tax loopholes exploited by corporations, and they don’t think it’s fair, said Klaus Weber, associate professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“I do think people now more than before care because of rising issues of income inequality and justice and the fact that large companies have come under more scrutiny,” Weber said. “People expect corporations to fulfill their citizen duties as taxpayers like everyone else.”

While several U.S. companies have moved to lower-tax countries since 2012, Walgreen has caught the attention of taxpayer groups and unions that have criticized the potential tax maneuver. They have blasted Walgreen for contemplating fleeing the United States even though it benefits from government insurance programs. Nearly one-quarter of Walgreen’s $72 billion in sales in its last fiscal year came from Medicaid and Medicare, according to a report by Americans for Tax Fairness and Change to Win Retail Initiatives, a union-backed group.

“It is unconscionable that Walgreen is considering this tax dodge — especially in light of the billions of dollars it receives from U.S. taxpayers every year,” Nell Geiser, associate director of Change to Win Retail Initiatives, said in a statement. “Walgreen should show its commitment to our communities and our country by staying an American company.”

(click here to continue reading Walgreen considers headquarters move – chicagotribune.com.)

Hit the Jackpot
Hit the Jackpot

Walgreen Co. is busily calculating the cost of moving corporate infrastructure, relocating executives and staff, and the very real risk of losing their Medicaid/Medicare cash cow, not to mention the also very real risk of consumer boycott to save a few percentage points of tax revenue. Sleazy, no? And ironic, since Medicaid and Medicare is responsible for about 21% of our national budget. Why should Walgreen’s get any of taxpayer money for it when they refuse to pay in?

In honor of Tax Day
Things Walgreens Is Opposed To

Would shareholders care if Walgreen Co. was kicked out the the S&P 500? Probably, but Walgreens executives will get handsomely paid either way.

[The CtW Investment Group] said an inversion could hurt Walgreen’s stock price.

“Reincorporation carries risk of removal from the S.&P. 500 and other stock indices,” it said, citing the examples of Ace and Transocean, which were removed from the index after they moved to Switzerland. It added that some investors like big pension funds could be required to sell shares of the company if it were not included in the S.&P. 500-stock index.

If Walgreen reincorporated in Switzerland, where Alliance Boots is based, the influence of shareholders could be diminished, CtW said. Swiss law gives shareholders less protection, CtW said, making it harder for investors to seek remedies through courts in the event of fraud or a dereliction of board duties.

CtW also said it was sensitive to the brewing political debate about inversions. In recent months, several senators and President Obama have proposed legislation that would curtail the practice. No new laws are yet in place, but there is a belief on Wall Street that the window for such deals could close soon.

“In addition to the concerns outlined above, we fear that there could be political and reputational risks following an inversion, which would pose a clear contradiction with Walgreen’s quintessentially American brand,” CtW wrote. “Accordingly, we strongly urge you to end the controversy over Walgreen’s potential

(click here to continue reading Walgreen Shareholder Opposes Potential Deal to Reincorporate Abroad – NYTimes.com.)

Senator Dick Durbin is troubled by this cowardly plan as well:

As Walgreen Co, the largest U.S. drugstore chain, edged closer to potentially moving its tax home base abroad, the senior U.S. senator from its home state said on Wednesday that he hoped the company would not take such a step.

Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin told Reuters in an interview that he spoke with a Walgreen lobbyist on Tuesday. “I told him I hope that the rumor’s not true,” Durbin said.

Durbin, the Senate’s second-highest ranking Democrat, said Walgreen, now based in a Chicago suburb, would be ill-advised to pursue an “inversion” deal with Switzerland’s Alliance Boots Holding Ltd.

“Because of their national reach, they are a uniquely American company, and I think it would really hurt their image if they decided to give up on this country and to head overseas to make a couple extra dollars,” he said.

(click here to continue reading Exclusive: U.S. senator warns as Walgreen weighs overseas tax deal | Reuters.)

When Thinking Leads To The Unthinkable
When Thinking Leads To The Unthinkable

and despite the Patriot Employer Tax Credit Act bill having a slim chance of passing through the reactionaries in the US House, Sen. Durbin is at least trying:

Sen. Richard Durbin said Monday he will introduce legislation this week that would close tax loopholes for corporations that take jobs out of the country.

Durbin announced the “Patriot Employer Tax Credit Act” at Wheatland Tube in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. He plans to introduce the measure Thursday, a spokeswoman said.

The proposal would give tax credits to companies “that provide fair wages and good benefits to workers while closing a loophole that allows corporations to claim tax savings for activities such as building a manufacturing plant overseas,” according to a news release from Durbin’s office.

To qualify for the credits, a company must maintain its corporate headquarters in the U.S., maintain the same number or increase the number of U.S. workers compared with the number overseas and provide health insurance benefits that comply with the Affordable Care Act.

(click here to continue reading Durbin bill would close tax loopholes for corporations sending jobs overseas – chicagotribune.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

June 29th, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Penokee Hills, Bad River to Be Destroyed By Scott Walker and His Team of Trolls

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Watershed Polapan Blue
Watershed Polapan Blue

Wisconsin voters, here is your reward for electing Scott Walker: the upcoming destruction of Penokee Hills and the Bad River. Gee, thanks…

But now, after the recent passage of a bill that would allow for the construction of what could be the world’s largest open-pit iron ore mine, Wisconsin’s admirable history of environmental stewardship is under attack.

The mine, to be built by Gogebic Taconite (GTac), owned by the coal magnate Chris Cline, would be in the Penokee Hills, in the state’s far north — part of a vast, water-rich ecosystem that President John F. Kennedy described in 1963, in a speech he delivered in the area, as “a central and significant portion of the freshwater assets of this country.”

The $1.5 billion mine would initially be close to four miles long, up to a half-mile wide and nearly 1,000 feet deep, but it could be extended as long as 21 miles. In its footprint lie the headwaters of the Bad River, which flows into Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world and by far the cleanest of the Great Lakes. Six miles downstream from the site is the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose livelihood is threatened by the mine.

To facilitate the construction of the mine and the company’s promise of 700 long-term jobs, Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation last year granting GTac astonishing latitude. The new law allows the company to fill in pristine streams and ponds with mine waste. It eliminates a public hearing that had been mandated before the issuing of a permit, which required the company to testify, under oath, that the project had complied with all environmental standards. It allows GTac to pay taxes solely on profit, not on the amount of ore removed, raising the possibility that the communities affected by the mine’s impact on the area’s roads and schools would receive only token compensation.

(click here to continue reading The Fight for Wisconsin’s Soul – NYTimes.com.)

and, as always, follow the money:

According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a campaign-finance watchdog, GTac executives and other mine supporters have donated a total of $15 million to Governor Walker and Republican legislators, outspending the mine’s opponents by more than 600 to 1.

Your tears are wasted
Your tears are wasted

If Governor Scott Walker does in fact run for President, this issue will not play well in the minds of most. Even many Republicans don’t want to turn our great country into a wasteland worse than Mordor. It’s hard to go hunting or fishing knee deep in mining slag and asbestos…

Special interests that back loosening mining regulations for a Florida company that wants to dig an open pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin have contributed $15.6 million to the Republican-controlled legislature and GOP Governor Scott Walker who are likely to approve mining permit changes in the coming months.

The Democracy Campaign review also found the campaign contributions made by mining deregulation interests swamped those of mining deregulation opponents – environmental groups – by a ratio of $610 to $1. Environmental groups which oppose the Republican mining proposal introduced in mid-January contributed only $25,544 to legislators between 2010 and June 2012 and to the governor between 2010 and April 23, 2012.

Support for a nearly identical GOP proposal last session to reduce groundwater, wetland, waste rock disposal and other environment laws for iron ore mining and impose deadlines on the state to review mine proposals so companies can get permits faster was led by manufacturing, construction, business, banking, transportation and four other special interests, according to state lobbying records.

This array of powerful special interests support mining deregulation because they will benefit from the short- and long-term construction and operation of Gogebic Taconite’s proposed mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Gogebic Taconite is a Wisconsin-based subsidiary of the Cline Group which controls large coal mining operations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Illinois and Ohio.

Walker, who has campaigned around the state to gin up support for changing rules to attract mining projects, received $11.34 million from 2010 through April 23, 2012 from interests that support mining deregulation (Table 1) including $67,068 from the prospective mine’s owner, Christopher Cline, his employees and other mining industry executives. During the same period, Walker received only $650 from environmental groups.

(click here to continue reading Mine Backers Drill With Big Cash To Ease Regulations | Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 31st, 2014 at 8:42 am

Looking Forward In Angst: The Deficit Debate Needs More ‘Mark To Market’ Accountability

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banker

banker

Earlier today…

As veteran critics of the post-crash financial industry well know, one thing that has allowed big banks to maintain their rosy outlook is a rule change from the Federal Accounting Standards Board that allows these entities — still flush with toxic assets — to avoid having to mark their assets “to market.” Instead, banks are allowed to essentially treat these assets as “marked to fantasy,” a hoped-for future value that is unlikely to ever be realized. The banks have fought, and beaten back, any attempt to return to a “mark to market” regime, and it’s easy to see why: Reality comes with a cost. Should they ever have to realize the true value of the assets on their balance sheets, their false façade will fall, and it will be revealed that they are more structurally insolvent than they prefer to let on.

Via:
Looking Forward In Angst: The Deficit Debate Needs More ‘Mark To Market’ Accountability
[automated]

Written by eggplant

March 4th, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Posted in Links

Tagged with , , ,

Firms That Bribed Are Behind US Chamber of Commerce Attempt To Weaken Anti-Bribery Law

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San Fran Legs

Yet another bit of evidence that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a corrupt organization to its core. Most responsible corporations have nothing to do with the USCC, even Exelon dropped them.

Dan Froomkin reports:

Two Democratic congressmen are investigating whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s tenacious attack on a key anti-bribery statute has less to do with high-minded economic principles and more to do with the fact that nearly one in four board members of the Chamber’s “legal reform” arm represents a company that has been caught up in a bribery investigation itself.

Top Walmart executives sit on the board of the Chamber’s well-funded Institute for Legal Reform — a connection that became considerably more newsworthy after The New York Times reported last month that a vast bribery inquiry involving Walmart’s Mexico subsidiary had been hushed up by top executives in the company’s Arkansas headquarters.

The Institute for Legal Reform has been leading a powerful and unprecedented lobbying campaign to persuade Congress to rewrite key provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a 35-year-old statute that criminalizes bribes to foreign officials, on the grounds that prosecutors have been enforcing it too aggressively.

In a letter (PDF) to the Chamber released Tuesday, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) — the ranking Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, respectively — describe how committee staff looked through the institute’s tax filings and found that 14 of the group’s 55 board members between 2007 and 2010 “were affiliated with companies that were reportedly under investigation for violations or had settled allegations that they violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

Among those companies: Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

That 14-out-of-55 figure may even be an understatement, the lawmakers write, as privately held companies aren’t required to report potential violations or investigations. For instance, Koch Industries has had a representative on the institute’s board since 2007, the congressmen note, and has reportedly engaged in bribery abroad.

(click here to continue reading Dems Ask U.S. Chamber If Firms That Bribed Are Behind Its Push To Weaken Anti-Bribery Law.)

Elegy of the Big Lie
Elegy of the Big Lie

Bloomberg adds:

In May 2008, a unit of Koch Industries Inc., one of the world’s largest privately held companies, sent Ludmila Egorova-Farines, its newly hired compliance officer and ethics manager, to investigate the management of a subsidiary in Arles in southern France. In less than a week, she discovered that the company had paid bribes to win contracts. “I uncovered the practices within a few days,” Egorova- Farines says. “They were not hidden at all.”

She immediately notified her supervisors in the U.S. A week later, Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries dispatched an investigative team to look into her findings, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its November issue. By September of that year, the researchers had found evidence of improper payments to secure contracts in six countries dating back to 2002, authorized by the business director of the company’s Koch-Glitsch affiliate in France. “Those activities constitute violations of criminal law,” Koch Industries wrote in a Dec. 8, 2008, letter giving details of its findings. The letter was made public in a civil court ruling in France in September 2010; the document has never before been reported by the media.

Egorova-Farines wasn’t rewarded for bringing the illicit payments to the company’s attention. Her superiors removed her from the inquiry in August 2008 and fired her in June 2009, calling her incompetent, even after Koch’s investigators substantiated her findings. She sued Koch-Glitsch in France for wrongful termination.

(click here to continue reading Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales – Bloomberg.)

Walmart Neighborhood Market
Walmart Neighborhood Market

and from FireDogLake:

After reading the New York Time’s excellent reporting on Wal-Mart’s pervasive bribery of foreign officials (Mexico in this case, but it’s hardly isolated to them), I remembered reading stories last year, including this excellent piece by Dan Froomkin, about how the Chamber of Commerce and major corporations were quietly but persistently lobbying Congress to water down the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

The FCPA, passed in cooperation with over 30 countries concerned about corruption of their own officials, as well as foreign corporations, made it a crime for US corporations to launder money and bride foreign officials.  But earlier this year the Chamber and it’s mega-corporate lobbyists complained the Act was too stringent, too broad, and too vague.  The underlying message, however, was that everybody does it and it’s just not fair to hamstring American companies trying to compete in a global market.  And besides, enforcing it used up too many resources that our Justice Department and FBI should be using on more egregious conduct, . . . like prosecuting banks and mortgage services for massive fraud.

Given the egregiously corrupt practices reportedly carried out by senior and/or the highest officials at Wal-Mart, I assume the Chamber of Commerce and other representatives of America’s corporate elite will now publicly shame the corporate heads of Wal-Mart, demand they be purged to protect the good name of the business community, and devise some means to rebate ill-gotten profits to the Mexican people.

With equal probability, I’m also expecting the United States Attorney General to announce a real, comprehensive investigation of Wal-Mart — because they just read about this — and all other reports of corporate bribery in violation of the Corrupt Foreign Practices Act. Because if they don’t, they’re just part of the coverup and they, too, should be purged. And I want a pony, too.

(click here to continue reading Will Chamber of Commerce Call for Wal-Mart Corrupters to Be Purged? | FDL News Desk.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 23rd, 2012 at 10:58 am

Momentum builds for stronger oversight of flame retardants

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Tribune Tower
Tribune Tower

Good job by the Trib: doing actual journalism, getting results.

Since the Tribune published its “Playing With Fire” series, momentum has been building for stricter oversight of flame retardants and other toxic chemicals.

The newspaper’s investigation documented a deceptive campaign by industry that distorted science, created a phony consumer watchdog group to stoke the fear of fire and organized an association of top fire officials to advocate for greater use of flame retardants in furniture and electronics.

Promoted as lifesavers, flame retardants added to furniture cushions actually provide no meaningful protection from fires, according to federal researchers and independent scientists. Some of the most widely used chemicals are linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility.

“Your series was an eye-opener,” said Joseph Erdman, legislative director for the New York Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation. “We hope other people around the state and nation read it.”

The committee has revived legislation targeting a chemical known as chlorinated tris, or TDCPP, that was voluntarily taken out of children’s pajamas more than three decades ago after studies found it could cause cancer. Recent tests have found that chlorinated tris now is commonly added to strollers, highchairs, rockers, diaper-changing pads and other baby products.

(click here to continue reading Momentum builds for stronger oversight of flame retardants – chicagotribune.com.)

Kudos to Tribune reporters Michael Hawthorne, Sam Roe, Patricia Callahan; keep up the pressure, and perhaps something good will come of this…

Written by Seth Anderson

May 23rd, 2012 at 8:38 am

Ricketts family Screws Up

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 Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs

Talk about stupid moves: the New York Times reported today that Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade, and patriarch of the family that owns Wrigley Field, is planning to spend at least $10,000,000 on attack ads targeting President Obama, bringing up old smears, and doing whatever nasty tricks the PAC can come up with to defeat Obama.

 Except that the Chicago Cubs are trying to get money from former Obama Chief of Staff, and current Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, to pay for renovations on Wrigley Field. Ooops.

The Cubs are trying to work out a deal with the city that would involve using $150 million in city amusement taxes for a $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field.

The presidential campaign issue was widely viewed as threatening to upend the delicate talks between the family and city and state government. A mayoral aide said Emanuel was furious when he read about the anti-Obama ad proposal.

At City Hall, it did not go unnoticed that part of the Ricketts family is asking for taxpayer support while gearing up to spend millions on a presidential campaign. The mayoral aide described that as hypocritical.

The Emanuel aide said the Ricketts family has tried to contact Emanuel to discuss the situation, but the mayor declined the overture. Publicly, Emanuel did not have an immediate comment on how the effort by Joe Ricketts might affect those talks. “I’ll have some conversations on that later — comments rather,” Emanuel said.

(click here to continue reading Ricketts family moves to control fallout on Obama attack ad – chicagotribune.com.)

Assholes. I hope they don’t get a single dime of taxpayer money. In fact, the city ought to use the power of eminent domain, and seize control of the stadium until the Ricketts divest from it. Sell the Cubs to Mark Cuban, he’s much smarter than these tone-deaf idiots. 

Las Vegas Showgirls
Las Vegas Showgirls

The media buy for the proposal (source document here – PDF) includes advertising on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, the History Channel, the Weather Channel, TNT, Anderson Cooper’s show on CNN, Fox and Friends, of course, aerial banners to fly over the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, blanketing the Charlotte airport with 15 screens running this clap-trap four times an hour, full page 4-Color newspapers ads, and more. 

No Corporate Welfare for The Ricketts

more from the NYT on the Rickett plan:

Timed to upend the Democratic National Convention in September, the plan would “do exactly what John McCain would not let us do,” the strategists wrote.

The plan, which is awaiting approval, calls for running commercials linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.

“The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way,” says the proposal, which was overseen by Fred Davis and commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. Mr. Ricketts is increasingly putting his fortune to work in conservative politics.

The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama’s former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as “black liberation theology.”

The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.”

A copy of a detailed advertising plan was obtained by The New York Times through a person not connected to the proposal who was alarmed by its tone. It is titled “The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good.”

The document, which was written by former advisers to Mr. McCain, is critical of his decision in 2008 not to aggressively pursue Mr. Obama’s relationship with Mr. Wright. In the opening paragraphs of the proposal, the Republican strategists refer to Mr. McCain as “a crusty old politician who often seemed confused, burdened with a campaign just as confused.”

“Our plan is to do exactly what John McCain would not let us do: Show the world how Barack Obama’s opinions of America and the world were formed,” the proposal says. “And why the influence of that misguided mentor and our president’s formative years among left-wing intellectuals has brought our country to its knees.”

The plan is designed for maximum impact, far beyond a typical $10 million television advertising campaign. It calls for full-page newspaper advertisements featuring a comment Mr. Wright made the Sunday after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he said.

The plan is for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., to be “jolted.” The advertising campaign would include television ads, outdoor advertisements and huge aerial banners flying over the convention site for four hours one afternoon.

The strategists grappled with the quandary of running against Mr. Obama that other Republicans have cited this year: “How to inflame their questions on his character and competency, while allowing themselves to still somewhat ‘like’ the man becomes the challenge.”

Lamenting that voters “still aren’t ready to hate this president,” the document concludes that the campaign should “explain how forces out of Obama’s control, that shaped the man, have made him completely the wrong choice as president in these days and times.”

(click here to continue reading G.O.P. ‘Super PAC’ Weighs Hard-Line Attack on Obama – NYTimes.com.)

Look, if Papa Ricketts wants to attack the president with his own TD Ameritrade money, well, I don’t like it, nor their moronic intentions, but I don’t object. However, the Ricketts simultaneously having their hands out to take my tax money is just wrong, and I hope Mayor Emanuel tells them to fuck off, in those words.  If I had a TD Ameritrade account, I’d close it right away. You should close yours right away.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 17th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

The Cozy Compliance of the News Corp. Board

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I Was Doing Foul Shit Very Young
I Was Doing Foul Shit Very Young

If there were justice in this world, Rupert Murdoch would have long ago been stripped of his media empire, and forced to rot in a dungeon. But since money and power trump justice 99 times out of a 100, Rupert Murdoch can continue smiling, and thumbing his nose at the law.

David Carr writes, in part:

There are many reasons Rupert Murdoch has avoided any serious consequences from the scandal despite hundreds of British citizens having had their phones hacked, dozens or more being bribed in law enforcement and several dozen more of his employees having been arrested.

…Mr. Murdoch also remains mostly unscathed because much of News Corporation’s business and most of its profits lie here in the United States, where the scandal is viewed as something happening on a distant island.

There have been reports of corporate misdeeds in America, including computer hacking at its News America Marketing division, but other than some faint rumbles in Washington about further investigations, it’s been mostly smoke, no fire.

…But the primary reason Mr. Murdoch has not been held to account is that the board of News Corporation has no independence, little influence and no stomach for confronting its chairman.

Like many media companies (including the one I work for), News Corporation has a two-tiered stock setup that gives the family control of the voting shares. The current board includes family members and several senior executives; the independent slots are filled by a host of familiars.

Viet Dinh, a former Bush administration official, is godfather to Lachlan K. Murdoch’s son. Roderick Eddington was deputy chairman of a division of the company in the late 1990s. Andrew S. B. Knight and Arthur M. Siskind are both former senior executives, and John L. Thornton, the former Goldman Sachs president, served as an adviser to News Corporation on several major deals.

The board also includes Natalie Bancroft, a trained opera singer who made a great deal of money when her family sold Dow Jones, which included The Wall Street Journal, to Mr. Murdoch in 2007, and José Maria Aznar, a former prime minister of Spain, who is a friend of Mr. Murdoch’s.

Being a board member of News Corporation is not a bad gig; it pays over $200,000 a year and requires lifting nothing heavier than a rubber stamp. The directors apparently haven’t asked why the company maintained its “rogue reporter” defense after it became clear that “rogue enterprise” was a more apt description. They appeared to sit silently by while Mr. Murdoch and his son James waited for law enforcement officials to finally ferret out employees of the company’s British newspaper division who were accused of engaging in criminal conduct.

Still, the board may regret being quite so quick to throw its full support behind Mr. Murdoch and the current management. The parliamentary report, as scathing as it was, is only the first of many dominoes expected to fall in the next few weeks and months. Ofcom, the British broadcasting regulator, is assessing whether News Corporation should be allowed to continue to hold its stake in British Sky Broadcasting. For its part, BSkyB was quick to get out the 10-foot pole, reminding everyone that the two companies are separate even though News Corporation owns a 39 percent stake.

(click here to continue reading The Cozy Compliance of the News Corp. Board – NYTimes.com.)

A public company in name only, in other words. A true public company would have to do what was best for shareholders, and a public company’s Board of Directors is supposed to lead a corporation down the Straight and Narrow. Instead, News Corporation smiles at corruption, blinks at lawlessness, and counts profit.  

Written by Seth Anderson

May 6th, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Posted in Business

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Mars Says Goodbye to ALEC

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Chocolate city
Chocolate city

Yet another corporation whose financial viability depends upon being non-controversial has wised up and left the American-hating group, American Legislative Exchange Council.

Mars Inc., the company that makes everything from Skittles to M&M’s to Uncle Ben’s, has joined McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and a half-dozen other companies in quitting the American Legislative Exchange Council.

ALEC, as it’s known, is a corporate-funded non-profit that writes pro-business and often anti-union draft legislation for state lawmakers to introduce in their legislatures. ALEC has come under fire recently from good-government and civil rights groups for pushing voter identification bills that critics say discriminate against blacks and Hispanics. ALEC foes have also blasted the organization for promoting so-called Stand Your Ground laws like the one at the center of the Trayvon Martin shooting.

Bob Edgar, the president of Common Cause, one of the groups in the anti-ALEC coalition, hailed Mars’ decision. “Its leaders understand that continued support for ALEC’s advocacy of vigilante justice and assaults on voting and employee rights, public schools, and reasonable environmental regulations is neither good business nor good corporate citizenship,” Edgar said in a statement.

(click here to continue reading Mars Inc. Says Adios to ALEC | Mother Jones.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

April 14th, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Posted in Business,politics

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ALEC Hunkers Down As Sponsors Run

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Get What You Deserve
Get What You Deserve

For today’s update on the America-hating GOP lobbyists who run the American Legislative Exchange Council, Crooks and Liars blogger karoli writes, in part:

Poor, poor ALEC. They’re being victimized, don’t you know? Wednesday they went into full damage control mode even as more corporate donors bailed out on them. The list now includes Wendy’s, Intuit, McDonalds, Coke, Pepsi, Kraft Foods and the Gates Foundation. More on the Gates Foundation in a minute. On Wednesday, ALEC bleated out a statement, complaining that they’re just a little non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to help businesses turn a bit of a profit, don’t you know? And they’re being victimized by those mean, nasty lefty types.

From their statement:

ALEC is an organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and the vigorous exchange of ideas between the public and private sector to develop state based solutions. Today, we find ourselves the focus of a well-funded, expertly coordinated intimidation campaign.

Our members join ALEC because we connect state legislators with other state legislators and with job-creators in their states. They join because we support pro-business policies that promote innovation and spur local and national competitiveness. They’re ALEC members because they’re more interested in solutions than rhetoric.

For years, ALEC has partnered with legislators to research and develop better, more effective public policies – legislation that creates a more transparent, accountable government, policies that place a priority on free enterprise and consumer choice, and tax policies that are fair, simple and that spur the kind of competiveness that puts Americans back to work.

Somebody’s going to have to explain to me how Stand Your Ground laws and Voter ID laws help create jobs. That’s left me scratching my head. How is it that laws which blatantly discriminate against people of color and have absolutely nothing to do with jobs create jobs? And then there’s abortion legislation. What does abortion legislation have to do with job creation?

As to their so-called free enterprise and consumer choice policies, let’s look at one area where they’re working hard to interfere: education. And let’s bring the Gates Foundation back into focus on this one. The Gates Foundation has now declared they will not give any further grants to ALEC. Slow clap for the Gates Foundation.

I’m not particularly impressed because there are 17 months remaining on the grant they’ve already given ALEC for “education reform”

(click here to continue reading ALEC Hunkers Down As Sponsors Run, But Untold Damage Has Already Been Done | Crooks and Liars.)

Cry me a river…

Full list of supporters of ALEC’s anti-American agenda is archived here

Written by Seth Anderson

April 12th, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Business,politics

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Intuit To Drop Voter Suppression Group ALEC

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Sunset Over American Empire
Sunset Over American Empire

Inuit left the hate group, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a couple of days ago, btw

Software company Intuit, the makers of programs such as Turbo Tax and Quicken, announced today that they will join Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Kraft as the fourth company to end their partnership with the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council this week.

The Center for Media & Democracy, which launched ALECexposed.com last year, broke the news:

A stampede seems to be on the way as more and more groups break ties and dump ALEC. Intuit, Inc. (maker of Quicken and QuickBooks accounting software) told the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) that Intuit also decided not to renew its membership after it expired in 2011. That comment came from Bernie McKay, Vice President of Government Affairs. He gave this response when CMD identified that Intuit was no longer listed on the board and contacted the company. CMD began its effort to spotlight Intuit and other corporate funders and tie these corporations to the ALEC agenda when it launched ALECexposed.org in July 2011. … Intuit’s McKay explained to CMD that the company doesn’t “usually issue statements about membership in any organization” and declined to comment further.

Although Pepsi quietly left ALEC as recently as last January, the growing exodus of companies’ from ALEC’s began earlier this week when the progressive group Color of Change announced a petition and boycott campaign targeting ALEC’s corporate supporters. Other corporations that have not yet publicly renounced their support of ALEC include Koch Industries, Wal-Mart, Pfizer, Reynolds American, Altria/Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, Exxon Mobil and British alcohol firm Diageo (makers of Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker).

(click here to continue reading Intuit Is Now The Fourth Company To Drop Voter Suppression Group ALEC | ThinkProgress.)

Full list of supporters of ALEC’s anti-American agenda is archived here

Written by Seth Anderson

April 11th, 2012 at 10:54 am

Posted in Business,politics

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McDonalds, Gates Foundation to sever ties with ALEC

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So Much Unsaid You Won't Say
So Much Unsaid You Won’t Say

Two more wise corporations leaving the hate group, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

Two more institutions, one commercial and one non-profit, have announced that they will part ways with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided an education grant to ALEC, and will not be making future grants. The foundation said it would not award another grant to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the face of criticism of the council’s involvement in voting laws and in “stand your ground” gun laws such as one under scrutiny in the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida. “At this point, we’ve decided that it’s not the right environment to continue working with them,” Gates Foundation spokesman Chris Williams told Reuters on Tuesday.

The split will take effect once the Gates Foundation pays the balance of a $376,000 education grant that it awarded to the conservative group last year, Williams said.

As the result of the Color of Change campaign to educate and agitate among the corporate sponsors of ALEC, McDonald’s has been proactive in clarifying their position with ALEC. They told Mother Jones that “it recently decided to cut ties with ALEC, the corporate-backed group that drafts pro-free-market legislation for state lawmakers around the country.” “While [we] were a member of ALEC in 2011, we evaluate all professional memberships annually and made the business decision not to renew in 2012,” Ashlee Yingling, a McDonald’s spokeswoman, wrote in an email. Yingling didn’t mention any specific campaign or outside pressure as playing a role in the company’s decision to leave ALEC.

(click here to continue reading Daily Kos: McDonalds, Gates Foundation to sever ties with ALEC.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

April 11th, 2012 at 10:49 am

Posted in Business,politics

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