The Multinational Monitor


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Unclogging Courts

AFTER A TWO-MONTH federal court jury trial, three former executives of C.R. Bard, Inc. were convicted in August 1995 of conspiring to defraud the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through heart catheter sales.

C.R. Bard, Inc., a leading health care product company, had pleaded guilty to 391 counts in conjunction with the catheters and was fined $61 million in criminal and civil fines, the largest FDA-prosecution fine ever imposed.

"Over a three year period, Bard and several of its top officials, in their effort to maximize profits, ignored the laws protecting the health and safety of all patients," said U.S. Attorney Jonathan Chiel. "Unsuspecting patients, many of whom were elderly and infirm, were used as human guinea pigs."

A heart catheter is a wire with a balloon-like tip that is threaded into coronary arteries and inflated to clear artery-clogging material.

Prosecutors said Bard concealed malfunctions -- including balloon rupture and deflation problems and tip breakages. Broken tips caused heart injuries requiring emergency coronary bypass surgery to remove the tips.

Sentencing is scheduled for November 1, 1995 in Boston. Each defendant faces up to five years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.

Dioxin King

A SEPTEMBER 1995 GREENPEACE report found that chlorine-based products produced by Dow Chemical -- including PVC plastics, pesticides, and solvents -- constitute the world's largest source of dioxins.

The report describes a Dow campaign to obscure dioxin sources, deny their connection to industrial chlorine chemistry and work through corporate front groups to fight restrictions on chlorine use.

"The only way for Dow to avoid generating dioxin is to phase-out the production of chlorine-based products," says Greenpeace toxics campaigner Charlie Cray.

Dioxin has been linked to a range of health problems, including a variety of cancers, endometriosis, declining fertility, immune system suppression and birth defects.

Claims that Dow is the world's largest source of dioxin are "completely inaccurate," says Joe Stearns, Dow's director of environmental affairs for chemicals. "The Environmental Protection Agency, in their dioxin reassessment, indicated that municipal and hospital waste is the largest [dioxin] source," he says.

The Chemical Manufacturers' Association, of which Dow is the second largest member, launched a trade group -- the Chlorine Chemistry Council (CCC) -- to defend the use of chlorinated organic compounds, the report says.

The Greenpeace report says the CCC published a 1,000-page "scientific" report, prepared by consultants who concluded that chlorinated organic chemicals cannot be regulated and do not harm people or the environment.

Pacifying Crime

THREE RELATED COMPANIES, which market pacifiers nationwide under the trademark "Luv'N'Care," pled guilty in U.S. District Court in Louisiana to 14 violations of federal law and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulations.

Under the August 1995 plea agreement, the companies will pay a $140,000 criminal penalty.

"It is criminal to place defenseless children at risk of choking to death," said CPSC Chair Ann Brown. "These guilty pleas underscore our tough stance against companies that ignore their safety responsibilities."

The U.S. Attorney alleged that the defendants distributed products from 1990 to 1994 that violated CPSC regulations protecting babies from choking and suffocating. CPSC trial attorney Jayme Epstein said her office received dozens of complaints about the pacifiers.

-- Russell Mokhiber

Corporate Workfare

IN A SEPTEMBER LETTER COINCIDING with the U.S. Labor Day, consumer advocate Ralph Nader urged U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich to tackle corporate welfare, including taxpayer-subsidized loans, insurance and federal tax breaks that encourage U.S. companies to shift jobs and production overseas. The letter cites numerous examples of corporate welfare recipients that eliminated U.S. jobs while on the federal dole.

Paper giant Kimberly-Clark, for example, obtained more than $9 million in Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) insurance for investments in Argentina in 1994. The same year, the Department of Labor (DOL) certified 600 former U.S. Kimberly-Clark employees as eligible to receive "trade adjustment" assistance because their jobs had fallen victim to company imports. The U.S. government's OPIC offers loan guarantees and insurance to promote corporate investment in developing countries.

IBM has taken advantage of U.S. tax law to defer U.S. tax payments on more than $11 billion in accumulated foreign earnings by investing the profits overseas rather than remitting them to the United States. In 1994, the DOL certified 1,755 IBM workers as eligible to receive trade assistance because the company had shifted production overseas and increased imports.

In the letter, Nader urged the administration to:

-- Janice Shields

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