Multinational Monitor

JUN 1998
VOL 19 No. 6


Dirty Old Grandfathered Plants: The Clean Air Act's Lung-Charring Loopholes
by Fred Richardson and Andrew Wheat

Wasting Away: Big Agribusiness Factory Farms Make a Big Mess
by Tanya Tolchin

Ravaging the Poor: IMF Indicted By Its Own Data
by Gabriel Kolko

An Enemy of Indigenous People: The Case of Loren Miller, COICA, the Inter-American Foundation and the Ayahuasca Plant
by Danielle Knight


Taking Aim at the Gun Makers
an interview with
David Kairys


Behind the Lines

U.S. Drug Imperialism

The Front
Emissions Omissions - Out of the Mouths of Babes

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Money & Politics
Trade Association Directory

Their Masters' Voice
The Burma Lobby

Names In the News


Names In the News

LP's Tamper Tantrum

Louisiana-Pacific Corporation pled guilty in June to 18 felonies, was fined $37 million and was placed on five years probation in connection with a major air pollution and consumer fraud case.

The plea agreement, cut with the U.S. Attorney in Colorado, capped a six-year investigation of the nation's largest producer of oriented stranded board (OSB), a lamented structural wood panel that is used as a plywood substitute in residential and commercial construction.

The criminal investigation began in July 1992, when Dave Horan, a former Louisiana-Pacific supervisor at its Montrose, Colorado facility, filed a lawsuit against the company alleging that he had been fired because he refused to tamper with the Montrose mill's pollution monitoring equipment.

The investigation expanded to include both environmental and consumer fraud violations.

In its plea agreement, the company admitted it committed numerous criminal acts, including:

  • conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act and False Statement Act;

  • tampering with the Montrose mill's air pollution monitor on 12 occasions by inserting foil into the monitor, pulling a protective lens off the monitor, miscalibrating the monitor and turning it off;

  • lying to the Colorado Department of Health about the number of times the Montrose mill violated the limits of its pollution permits; and

  • misrepresenting to its customers that its OSB conformed to the quality assurance testing requirements of the Association.

Two of the Montrose mill's highest ranking former managers also pled guilty.

"From now on, this multinational corporation must run a clean operation and honestly represent the quality of its products to the consuming public," says U.S. Attorney Henry Solano. "Otherwise, we will be after them for any violations of law, seeking additional fines for violating their five-year probationary sentence." 

Mitsubishi Motors Settles

Mitsubishi Motors will pay $34 million to settle allegations that women on the assembly line at its Illinois factory were harassed, groped and insulted [see "Conducive to Sexual Harassment," Multinational Monitor, November 1997].

The settlement will be shared by 350 women who have worked at the auto plant since 1987. The women will receive anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $350,000 each.   

The settlement agreement between Mitsubishi and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) contained no admission of wrongdoing by the company. 

But at a press conference in Chicago, Mitsubishi executive vice president Larry Greene did apologize on behalf of the company. "We of course apologize to any employee who has been harassed or retaliated against," he said.   

The EEOC sued Mitsubishi's North American division in 1996, alleging the automaker did nothing to stop the harassment of female workers at its Normal, Illinois plant.

The women were groped and subjected to raunchy insults and pranks. Mitsubishi women complained that male co-workers and supervisors kissed and fondled women, called them "whores" and "bitches," posted sexual graffiti and pictures, including pornographic drawings of the women workers, demanded sexual favors and retaliated against women who refused.

The company initially organized protests against the EEOC lawsuit. But after a wave of bad publicity, it hired former Labor Secretary Lynn Martin to spin the company out of the case.

Mitsubishi said 20 workers were fired in 1997 for sexual harassment and several others were disciplined.

Prescription Withdrawn

The drug company Wyeth-Ayerst withdrew the prescription pain killer Duract from the market in June after it was reported to have caused severe liver failure in patients. Eight liver transplants and four deaths resulted.

Wyeth-Ayerst submitted Duract, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in l994. The FDA approved the drug in July l997 for short term management of acute pain. Its recommended length of use was 10 days or less.

Public health experts are concerned that the FDA, under pressure from the pharmaceutical industry and Congress, has been approving drugs at a record pace and predict more such deaths and injuries over the next couple of months. "The FDA has been put under too much pressure to approve more drugs faster, whether they are needed or not," says Larry Sasich of Public Citizen's Health Research Group.

FDA officials said that no cases of serious liver injury were reported in clinical trials. But because there was a higher incidence of liver enzyme elevations in patients treated long term in clinical trials, the product was approved for use for 10 days or less. The information about the elevated liver enzymes was included in the product labeling.

In February l998, in response to the reports of severe liver failure (and transplants), FDA and the company strengthened the warnings in Duract's labeling with a special black box warning and Wyeth-Ayerst issued a Dear Doctor letter.

Despite these efforts, the agency and the company continued to receive reports of severe injuries and death with long term use of Duract, leading to the drug's immediate withdrawal.

-- Russell Mokhiber



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