Multinational Monitor

DEC 2003
VOL 24 No. 12


Multiple Corporate Personality Disorder: The 10 Worst Corporations of 2003
by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

The U.S. Meets Defeat: Thwarted in the FTAA Negotiations, The U.S. Looks to Smaller Trade Deals
by Robert Weissman


Public Employees for the Environment: Defending Principle During the Polluters’ Ball
an interview with
Jeff Ruch


Behind the Lines

2003: The Year of Corporations’ Perfect Political Storm

The Front
De-Privatizing Rail in the UK - Fishy Business in Pakistan

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News

Names In the News

United Discrimination

United Airlines will pay $1.5 million to settle allegations brought by the U.S. Department of Transportation that the company discriminated against air travelers it perceived to be Arab or Middle Eastern.

A Department order found that United acted in a manner inconsistent with federal laws that prohibit discrimination and requires United to provide annual civil rights training to its employees for three years at a cost of at least $1.5 million.

The Department's Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings instituted an investigation of United for security-related civil rights violations as a result of complaints from passengers alleging that they were removed from United flights following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks because of their ethnic background.

In responding to the Enforcement Office's concerns, United firmly maintained that no passenger was ever removed from a flight or denied boarding based on their ethnic background or national origin.

However, the investigation revealed that in a few instances United had so acted.

The case is the second formal action regarding discrimination against airline passengers due to race, religion, national origin or ancestry. In April, the Enforcement Office filed a similar complaint against American Airlines. That case is pending.

Canada Cracks Down

Canada passed a sweeping corporate criminal negligence law in November that makes corporations criminally liable for the actions of senior executives who become aware of the negligent actions committed by employees but do not move to stop them.

The law imposes upon employers a duty to take reasonable measures to protect the safety of employees and the public. Reckless disregard of this duty that results in death or injury constitutes criminal negligence.

The law was passed as a result of Nova Scotia's Westray mine disaster in 2001 that killed 26 miners. A series of prosecutions failed to gain any convictions in that case.

The new law, will make corporations criminally liable:

ï as a result of the actions of those who oversee day-to-day operations but who may not be directors or executives;

ï when officers with executive or operational authority intentionally commit, or direct employees to commit, crimes to benefit the organization; when officers with executive or operational authority become aware of offenses being committed by other employees but do not take action to stop them; and

ï when the actions of those with authority and other employees, taken as a whole, demonstrate a lack of care that constitutes criminal negligence.

Fines for less serious offenses under the law can run to $100,000. There is no cap on fines for more serious offenses. Under the law, a judge may require the corporation to inform the public of the offense, the sentence and the remedial measures undertaken. Courts may also require companies to implement preventative policies to prevent reoccurrences.

Milk Maker Faces Charges

Following the death of two babies who had consumed a special type of soy milk produced by the second-largest German manufacturer of milk products, Humana Milchunion, three of the company's employees are facing charges for negligent homicide, a German newspaper reported in November.

Humana said that it discovered shortcomings in the composition of the milk, which did not contain enough Vitamin B1.

"We've started proceedings against the head of product development, the head of quality management and a laboratory chemist," a prosecuting attorney told the newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

According to the company, the "fatal mistake" in the milk's composition was a result of a calculation error in spring 2003, which led chemists to believe that the product would contain a vitamin overdose if extra B1 was added.

In reality, however, not adding the vitamin resulted in a dosage more than 10 times smaller than that specified in the product's nutrition information, Humana declared after receiving the test results from an independent institution, the paper reported.

Because of human error, the company said, the product Remedia Super Soya 1 had not been sufficiently tested after its recomposition. "We accept the responsibility for the false declaration," said Humana Chairman Albert Frie, adding that his company would cooperate with the authorities and take the necessary internal measures.

About 5,000 children in Israel consumed the milk during the past months.

So far, there is no clear proof that the two deceased infants' illness was really caused by the product. Around 15 small children, however, are said to be seriously suffering from an acute deficiency of vitamin B1, which had led to a severe disorder of the central nervous system. They are currently being treated in Israeli hospitals.

Apart from the investigations by prosecutors in North Rhine-Westphalia, where the company is located, Humana's management also faces charges from the Israeli ministry of health for not informing the ministry about changes in the product's formula.

-- Russell Mokhiber



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