Fri, 17 Feb 2006 23:11:22 -0500
By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
We've just awakened. Cup of coffee in hand.
We flip through today's papers.
Looking for stories by our favorite corporate crime reporters.
And this is what we found:
In the New York Times, Jane Perlez reports that Newmont Mining
Corporation will pay $30 million to Indonesia in a settlement of a civil
lawsuit in which the government argued that the company had polluted a
bay with arsenic and mercury. The settlement will have no effect on a
criminal trial of the company and its Indonesian director that is now
under way in the province of Northern Sulawesi.
In USA Today, Matt Kelley reports that Senator Arlen Specter asked the
Senate Ethics Committee to investigate whether a top aide improperly
helped direct nearly $50 million in Pentagon spending to clients
represented by her husband. The Pennsylvania Republican asked for the
review of legislative assistant Vicki Siegel Herson's actions after
Kelly reported Thursday that his office inserted 13 provisions into
spending bills benefiting clients of her husband, Michael Herson, a
In the New York Times, James Glanz reports that Christopher Joseph
Cahill, an executive for a company that was hired by Kellogg, Brown &
Root, the Halliburton subsidiary, to fly cargo into Iraq for the war
effort pled guilty to inflating invoices by $1.14 million to cover
fraudulent "war risk surcharges."
The Associated Press reports out of Charleston, West Virginia that
federal regulators have issued safety citations at the West Virginia
coal mines where 14 miners died last month. (Big of them. How about a
In the Washington Post, Kathleen Day reports that the Securities and
Exchange Commission filed civil charges against two local auditors with
the accounting firm KPMG LLP for failing to act on widespread
bookkeeping irregularities that the SEC says helped U.S. Foodservice
Inc. overstate profits by millions of dollars in 1999 and 2000. The
civil complaint alleges that Kevin Hall and Rosemary Meyer "engaged in
improper professional conduct" because they found numerous "red flags"
in the bookkeeping at the Columbia, Maryland-based hotel and restaurant
supply company but didn't alert the company's audit committee.
The Associated Press reports that three former executives of a Berkshire
Hathaway unit and a former American International Group official pled
not guilty to federal charges of conspiring to distort AIG's finances.
The New York Times, in an editorial titled "Price-Gouging on Cancer
Drugs?" says that "the high price charged for Avastin, a drug that has
proved moderately effective against colon cancer and is about to be used
against breast and lung cancer, seems hard to justify on any ground
other than maximum profit for its maker. The pricing scheme planned by
Genentech and its majority owner, Roche, is a sign of how the rising
cost of new life-extending drugs may affect American health care unless
ways are found to mitigate the trend." The Times reported this week that
Genentech's pricing for Avastin will drive its cost to $8,800 a month
for lung cancer and $7,700 a month for breast cancer, up from the $4,400
cost for colon cancer patients. The manufacturers go beyond the standard
argument that high prices are needed to recoup research costs and add a
new twist: the price reflects the value of this medicine to society.
In the Houston Chronicle, Mary Flood reports that the criminal trial of
Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling is suddenly picking up speed.
Bloomberg reports that drug wholesaler McKesson Corp. will pay $3
million to settle allegations that it defrauded the Pentagon by charging
more for medicine than government contracts allowed. The civil
settlement resolves claims McKesson overcharged for pharmaceutical
products from October 1997 to December 2001, the Justice Department said.
This is from a quick glance at one morning's newspapers.
And what are we to conclude?
The idea that the Skilling/Lay trial in Houston is the peak of the most
recent "wave" of corporate crime is a fantasy.
The wave has not peaked.
And will not peak until the government stops playing tiddlywinks with
society's most dangerous criminals -- the white-collar class.
And so we update that scene from the movie The Graduate where the older
guy whispers into a young Dustin Hoffman the one word he believes is the
future -- "plastics."
We look into our crystal ball and whisper into the ears of all young
reporters, prosecutors, investors, and lawyers -- "corporate crime."
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime
Reporter, <http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com>. Robert Weissman is
editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor,
<http://www.multinationalmonitor.org>. Mokhiber and Weissman are
co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of
Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).
(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
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