2002 will forever be remembered as the year of
corporate crime, the year even President George Bush embraced the notion
of "corporate responsibility." While the Bush White House has
now downgraded its "corporate responsibility portal" to a mere
link to uninspiring content on the White House webpage, and although the
prospect of war has largely bumped the issue off the front pages, the
cascade of corporate financial and accounting scandals continues.
We easily could have filled Multinational Monitor's
list of the 10 Worst Corporations of the Year with some of the dozens of
companies embroiled in the financial scandals. But we decided against
that course. As extraordinary as the financial misconduct has been, we
didn't want to contribute to the perception that corporate wrongdoing in
2002 was limited to the financial misdeeds arena.
For Multinational Monitor's 10 Worst Corporations of
2002 list, we included only Andersen from the ranks of the financial
criminals and miscreants. Andersen's assembly line document destruction
certainly merits a place on the list. (Citigroup appears on the list as
well, but primarily for a subsidiary's involvement in predatory lending,
as well as the company's funding of environmentally destructive projects
around the world.) As for the rest, we present a collection of
polluters, dangerous pill peddlers, modern-day mercenaries, enablers of
human rights abuses, merchants of death, and beneficiaries of rural
destruction and misery.
Multinational Monitor has named Arthur Andersen,
British American Tobacco (BAT), Caterpillar, Citigroup, DynCorp,
M&M/Mars, Procter & Gamble, Schering Plough, Shell and Wyeth as
the 10 Worst Corporations of 2002.
Appearing in alphabetical order, the 10 worst are:
Arthur Andersen, for a massive scheme to destroy documents
related to the Enron meltdown. "Tons of paper relating to the Enron
audit were promptly shredded as part of the orchestrated document
destruction," a federal indictment against Andersen alleged.
"The shredder at the Andersen office at the Enron building was used
virtually constantly and, to handle the overload, dozens of large trunks
filled with Enron documents were sent to Andersen's main Houston office
to be shredded." Andersen was convicted for illegal document
destruction, effectively putting the company out of business.
BAT, for operating worldwide programs
supposedly designed to prevent youth smoking but which actually make the
practice more attractive to kids (by suggesting smoking is an adult
activity), continuing to deny the harmful health effects of second-hand
smoke, and working to oppose efforts at the World Health Organization to
adopt a strong Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Caterpillar, for selling bulldozers to the
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), which are used as an instrument of war to
destroy Palestinian homes and buildings. The IDF has destroyed more than
7,000 Palestinian homes since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in
1967, leaving 30,000 people homeless.
Citigroup, both for its deep involvement in
the Enron and other financial scandals and its predatory lending
practices through its recently acquired subsidiary The Associates.
Citigroup paid $215 million to resolve Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
charges that The Associates engaged in systematic and widespread
deceptive and abusive lending practices.
DynCorp, a controversial private firm which
subcontracts military services with the Defense Department, for flying
planes that spray herbicides on coca crops in Colombia. Farmers on the
ground allege that the herbicides are killing their legal crops, and
exposing them to dangerous toxins.
M&M/Mars>, for responding tepidly to
revelations about child slaves in the West African fields where much of
the world's cocoa is grown, and refusing to commit to purchase a modest
5 percent of its product from Fair Trade providers.
Procter & Gamble, the maker of Folger's
coffee and part of the coffee roaster oligopoly, for failing to take
action to address plummeting coffee bean prices. Low prices have pushed
tens of thousands of farmers in Central America, Ethiopia, Uganda and
elsewhere to the edge of survival, or destroyed their means of
Schering Plough, for a series of scandals,
most prominently allegation of repeated failure over recent years to fix
problems in manufacturing dozens of drugs at four of its facilities in
New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Schering paid $500 million to settle the
case with the Food and Drug Administration.
Shell Oil, for continuing business as usual as
one of the world's leading environmental violators -- while marketing
itself as a socially and environmentally responsible company.
Wyeth, for using duplicitous means, and
without sufficient scientific proof, to market hormone replacement
therapy (HRT) to women as a fountain of youth. Scientific evidence
reported in 2002 showed that long-term HRT actually threatens women's
lives, by increasing the risks of breast cancer, heart attack, stroke
and pulmonary embolism.
What's the lesson to draw from this year's 10 worst
list? Not only are Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, Tyco and the rest
indicative of a fundamentally corrupt financial system, they are
representative of a rotten system of corporate dominance.
The full 10 Worst Corporations of 2002 list is
available at www.multinationalmonitor.org.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington,
D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter.
Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational