Multinational Monitor

NOV/DEC 2007
VOL 29 No. 5


Neither Honest Nor Trustworthy: The 10 Worst Corporations of 2007
by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

High Flyers and the Grounding of Equality
by Samuel Bollier

The Pickens Water Play
by Andrew Wheat

Sin and Society Part III
by Edward Alsworth Ross


How Wall Street's Political Triumph Led to Economic Crisis
an interview with Robert Kuttner

How Eliminating School Fees Helped 2 Million Kenyan Kids Go to School
an interview with oil Mary Njoroge


Behind the Lines

Cops on the Corporate Crime Beat

The Front
Norway Nixes World Bank | Food Prices Boil Over

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Greed At a Glance

Commercial Alert

Names In the News


Greed At a Glance

Indonesian Indecency

Putting on the Ritz is costing a bit more these days. The Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel empire, Travel & Tourism News reports, has spent $360 million on renovations the last two years - and hundreds of millions more building brand new luxury units all over the world.

In the new Jakarta Ritz-Carlton, guest rooms all sport sunken marble baths, 300-thread count linens and two flat-screens, one 46-incher for dozing off to, and a 17-inch model for keeping up-to-date in the bathroom.

The rack rate on the Jakarta hotel's presidential suite: over $6,200 per night.

In Indonesia overall, notes the United Nations Development Program, more than 52 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day.

A Night at the Movies

Remember the record turntable? The folks at Goldmund, a Swiss electronics company, do. They manufacture a $300,000 record spinner for music-lovers still partial to vinyl. But Goldmund is also going after deep-pockets with more up-to-date techno lusts.

Last year, the company started marketing home-theater systems in the United States. The power cords alone for a basic Goldmund system can total $7,500. A full system, with 56 speakers, can cost about $1 million.

Such systems take up considerable space. Goldmund, one news report notes, won't even consider installing a home theater on any yacht shorter than 150 feet

At the Copa

The world's bankers, the Financial Times reports, are worrying big-time about the "growing political backlash" against the "excessive rewards for bankers whose risk-taking helped cause the credit crunch" now roiling global markets.

That fear explains why the world's top banker group, the Institute of International Finance, spent its recent meeting in Rio de Janeiro taking "a very hard look at compensation."

The meeting, held at Rio's plush Copacabana Palace, sought to forge consensus on a voluntary "best practices" code that would discourage over-the-top executive pay plans. But industry insiders doubt that Wall Street banks will ever "agree to any kind of uniform compensation rules."

Just coincidentally, on the day the Rio sessions ended, the biggest U.S. investment bank, Goldman Sachs, revealed 2007 pay figures for the firm's top five execs. Goldman's two co-presidents each took home $185,000 per day for the year, $67.5 million in all.

Bubbly for the Financially Favored

Champagne has always connoted luxury, but the French drink firm Pernod-Ricard, after all these centuries, has come up with a new way to up the luxury ante on the world's most famous sparkling wine. The company has just begun marketing - for the global "community of super-rich" - "customizable" champagne.

Deep pockets who purchase a boxed set of 12 bottles, at $77,820 per set, will be asked to meet one-on-one with Pernod-Ricard's wine "cellar master," who will, after taking the measure of the buyer, add a liqueur into each bottle to personalize the taste.

No Snoring Allowed

With ordinary consumers cutting back on all but essentials, global retailers are searching for ever more routes into the pockets of the world's rich. The latest product to go full-bore luxury: the mattress.

At a recently Las Vegas trade show, mattress maker Magniflex unveiled a new model, the "Platinum," that runs $75,000. Matching pillows each cost $2,000 extra.

The mattress that received the most attention at the Las Vegas show turned out to be the "Starry Night," a not-yet-available model that manufactuer Leggett & Platt has dubbed "the world's smartest bed." The mattress "auto-elevates" if any sleepers are snoring. Leggett & Platt hasn't yet set a price.

- Sam Pizzigati, editor of Too Much,
an online weekly on excess and inequality

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