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The 10 Worst Corporations Of 2004 polluters, union-busters, poisoners...

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 08:03 PM

The 10 Worst Corporations of 2004

It is never easy choosing the 10 Worst Corporations of the Year there are always more deserving nominees than we can possibly recognize. One of the greatest challenges facing the judges is the directive not to select repeat recipients from last year's 10 Worst designation.

The no-repeat rule forbids otherwise-deserving companies like Bayer, Boeing, Clear Channel and Halliburton from returning to the 10 Worst list in 2004.

Of the remaining pool of price gougers, polluters, union-busters, dictator-coddlers, fraudsters, poisoners, deceivers and general miscreants, we chose the following presented in alphabetical order as the 10 Worst Corporations of 2004:

Abbott Laboratories: Drug-Pricing Chutzpah

Chutzpah. Webster's defines the Yiddish term now incorporated into English slang as: 1. unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall. 2. audacity; nerve.

In the next edition, they may want to add: 3. See Abbott.

In December 2003, the company raised the U.S. price of its anti-AIDS drug Norvir (generic name ritanovir) by 400 percent. That is, unless the product is used in conjunction with other Abbott products in which case the price increase is zero.

Norvir has become an increasingly important treatment in recent years. Scientists have discovered that while Norvir is generally too toxic for safe use as a protease inhibitor (one category of anti-AIDS drugs), in lower doses it works well as a booster to increase the efficacy of other protease inhibitors. As a result, Norvir is frequently prescribed along with other protease inhibitors.

The Norvir price increase does not apply when the product is used as a booster with another Abbott protease inhibitor (in the combined product Kaletra). Thus the impact of the Norvir price increase is to make Kaletra far cheaper than rival combinations of Norvir and non-Abbott protease inhibitors.

Norvir is especially important for patients in need of a "salvage therapy" of new and powerful treatments because their virus has become resistant to other medicines.

Lynda Dee, co-chair of the AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition's Drug Development Committee, called the price increase for these patients, who may have no choice as to the medications they need to survive, "pharma-terrorism perpetrated against the patients who need new drugs the most."

Abbott said the price spike was justified by its need to raise money for research and development. "New medicines cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop," Jeffrey Leiden, president and chief operating officer of Abbott's Pharmaceutical Products Group, told a National Institutes of Health meeting in May.

Moreover, Leiden said, the price increase would not deny any patients access to the drug. The price increase does not apply to federal AIDS drug programs, which cover 54 percent of people with HIV/AIDS. Price increases only apply to private insurers and to uninsured individuals, who Abbott says can get the product for free under a special program it operates.

Making the Abbott price jump especially pernicious in the eyes of consumer advocates was that the drug was invented on a grant from the U.S. federal government.

Because of the U.S. government's financing role, Essential Inventions, Inc., a nonprofit corporation created to distribute affordable public health and other inventions, in January petitioned the government to exercise its "march-in" rights under the federal Bayh-Dole Act and issue an open license to generic firms to produce their own version of Norvir.

"Essential Inventions is asking the Bush administration to adopt a simple rule U.S. consumers should not pay more for drugs invented on government grants," said Essential Inventions president James Love. Following the U.S.-only price increase, Norvir is 5 to 10 times more expensive in the United States than in other high-income countries.

But NIH rejected the Essential Inventions proposal, arguing that companies that obtained licenses to government-funded inventions have a duty only to commercialize the inventions. NIH does not have authority to consider the price at which a product is sold and the impact of the price on access, the agency ruled even though the Bayh-Dole Act says government-funded inventions should be made "available to the public on reasonable terms."

"If Secretary Thompson agrees that quadrupling the price of a life-or-death AIDS drug, rigging the market, and discriminating against U.S. consumers is 'reasonable,' you can't help but wonder what the [s]ecretary considers unreasonable," said Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in criticizing the NIH decision.

AIG: Deferred Prosecutions On the Rise

When the world's largest insurer, American International Group Inc. (AIG), was charged by federal prosecutors with crimes in November, it quickly cut a deal with the Justice Department that ended a criminal probe into its finances with a deferred prosecution agreement.

In a deferred prosecution, the corporation accepts responsibility, agrees not to contest the charges, agrees to cooperate, usually pays a fine and implements changes in corporate structure and governance to prevent future wrongdoing.

If the company abides by the agreement for a period of time, then the prosecutors will drop the criminal charges.

In a non-prosecution agreement like the one secured by Merrill Lynch's in 2003 with New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer prosecutors agree not to bring criminal charges in exchange for corporate fines, cooperation and a change in corporate structure and governance.

"This comprehensive settlement brings finality to the claims raised by the SEC and the Department of Justice," said AIG Chair M. R. Greenberg. "The role of the independent consultant complements our own transaction review processes. We welcome this enhancement to our overall risk management and control mechanisms."

Under the deal with AIG, an AIG subsidiary was charged with a crime for the next 12 months, but then the charge will be dismissed with prejudice if AIG abides by the deferred prosecution agreement.

As part of the agreement, AIG and two subsidiaries will pay an $80 million penalty, and $46 million into a disgorgement fund maintained by the SEC.

Federal officials in October filed a criminal complaint charging AIG-FP PAGIC Equity Holding Corp., a subsidiary of AIG, with violating the federal securities laws, by aiding and abetting PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (PNC) in connection with a fraudulent transaction to transfer $750 million in mostly troubled loans and venture capital investments from subsidiaries off of its books.

These transactions were previously the subject of a deferred criminal disposition involving PNC.

Earlier this year, the Department dismissed the criminal complaint against a PNC subsidiary, after the company fulfilled its deferred prosecution agreement obligations.

Merrill, AIG and PNC are three of 10 major corporations that have settled serious criminal charges with deferred prosecution, no prosecution or de facto no prosecution agreements over the last two years. Companies are getting off the criminal hook with these agreements, which were originally intended for minor street crimes. Now they are being used in very serious corporate crime cases.

If a crime has been committed and there is little doubt that crimes have been committed by the corporations in these cases then the companies should plead guilty and pay the penalty. If prosecutors want to impose change on the corporation, they can do this after securing a conviction through probationary orders. Right now, corporate lawyers are teaming up with prosecutors to go after individual executives while the company's record is wiped clean.

Coca-Cola: vs.

On, you'll find a raft of information on Coke and its bottlers' operations in Colombia. There is extensive documentation of rampant violence committed against Coke's unionized workforce by paramilitary forces, and powerful claims of the company's complicity in the violence.

An April 2004 report from a fact-finding delegation headed by New York City Council member Hiram Monserrate contends:

"To date, there have been a total of 179 major human rights violations of Coca-Cola's workers, including nine murders. Family members of union activists have been abducted and tortured. Union members have been fired for attending union meetings. The company has pressured workers to resign their union membership and contractual rights, and fired workers who refused to do so."

"Most troubling to the delegation were the persistent allegations that paramilitary violence against workers was done with the knowledge of and likely under the direction of company managers."

Allegations such as these formed the basis of a lawsuit filed in 2001 by the International Labor Rights Fund and the United Steelworkers of America in U.S. courts against Coke on behalf of a Colombian trade union and union leader victims of violence at Coke bottling facilities in Colombia.

In 2003, a federal court dismissed the claims against Coke, arguing that its relationship with the owners of the Coke bottling plant in Colombia was too attenuated to hold the soft drink multinational responsible for human rights abuses at the plant. The plaintiffs have since refiled their complaint they argue the original decision was mistaken, but that Coke's subsequent purchase of the Colombia bottlers means the company is now clearly responsible for the bottlers' actions.

Strangely, for the response to, you can check out That site, which is operated by Coke, redirects you to

Here's what Coke has to say:

"The pervasive violence in Colombia, and the targeting of union members by its perpetrators, has, unfortunately, touched The Coca-Cola Company in a very personal way. Employees of our Company and bottling partners in Colombia have been threatened, kidnapped, and some have even been murdered ... In a lawsuit in Colombia, the court concluded that the bottler not only took proper steps to initiate investigation by the authorities, but went further to enhance its workers' safety by heightening security at the plant."

Leave aside for the moment the issue of Coke's legal liability. The idea that Coke can't control the behavior of its bottlers is simply implausible. It can control them if it so chooses just the way that clothing retailers can control the actions of their manufacturers, but even more so.

Instructive in raising questions about Coke's good-faith concern for its workers is its unwillingness to support an independent investigation into the Colombia allegations even after the company's former General Counsel, and the former assistant U.S. attorney general, Deval Patrick, had committed to one. Coke's refusal to authorize an investigation reportedly contributed to Patrick's decision to resign from the corporation.

Dow Chemical: Forgive Us Our Trespasses

At midnight on Dec. 2, 1984, 27 tons of lethal gases leaked from Union Carbide's pesticide factory in Bhopal, India, immediately killing an estimated 8,000 people and poisoning thousands of others.

Today in Bhopal, at least 150,000 people, including children born to parents who survived the disaster, are suffering from exposure-related health effects such as cancer, neurological damage, chaotic menstrual cycles and mental illness. Over 20,000 people are forced to drink water with unsafe levels of mercury, carbon tetrachloride and other persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals.

Activists from around the world including human rights, legal, environmental health and other experts mobilized this year to demand that Dow Chemical, the current owner of Union Carbide, be held accountable.

Twenty years after this disaster, the company responsible for this catastrophe and its former executives are still fugitives from justice. Union Carbide and its former chairman, Warren Andersen, were charged with manslaughter for the deaths at Bhopal, but they refuse to appear before the Indian courts.

Here is part of Dow's statement on Bhopal:

While Dow has no responsibility for Bhopal, we have never forgotten the tragic event and have helped to drive global industry performance improvements. This is why Responsible Care was created and why these standards are essential for the protection of our employees and the communities where we live and work. Our pledge and our commitment is the full implementation of Responsible Care everywhere we do business around the world.

Dow has no responsibility for Bhopal? The people of Bhopal don't agree. They say Union Carbide was responsible, and if Union Carbide is now owned by Dow, then Dow is responsible.

In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the crime of Bhopal, we present here 20 things to remember about Dow Chemical the company now responsible for Bhopal and a fugitive from justice.

20. Agent Orange/Napalm: The toxic herbicide and jellied gasoline used in Vietnam created horrors for young and old alike.

19. Rocky Flats: The top secret Colorado site managed by Dow Chemical from 1952 to 1975 remains an environmental nightmare.

18. Body burden: In March 2001, the Centers for Disease Control reported that most people in the United States carry detectable levels of plastics, pesticides and heavy metals in their blood and urine.

17. 2,4-D: One of the key ingredients in Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used in Vietnam, 2,4-D is still the most widely used herbicide in the world.

16. Mercury: In Canada, Dow had been producing chlorine using the mercury cell method since 1947. Much of the mercury was recycled, but significant quantities were discharged into the environment. In March 1970, the governments of Ontario and Michigan detected high levels of mercury in fish in major waterways. Dow was sued by state and local officials for mercury pollution.

15. PERC: Perchloroethylene is the hazardous substance used by dry cleaners everywhere. Dow tried to undermine safer alternatives.

14. 2,4,5 T: One of the toxic ingredients in Agent Orange.

13. Busting unions: In 1967, unions represented almost all of Dow's production workers. But since then, according to the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, Dow undertook an "unapologetic campaign to rid itself of unions."

12. Silicone: The key ingredient for silicone breast implants made women sick. Litigation continues over silicone breast implants, removed from the market more than a decade ago.

11. DBCP: The toxic active ingredient in the Dow pesticide Fumazone. Doctors who tested men who worked with DBCP thought they had vasectomies, because no sperm was present.

10. Dursban: Trade name for chlorpyrifos, a toxic pesticide, proved to have nerve agent effects. It was tested on prisoners in New York in 1971. It replaced DDT when DDT was banned in 1972. A huge seller, in June 2000, EPA limited its use and forced it off the market at the end of 2004.

9. Dow at Christmas: "Uses of Dow plastics by the toy industry are across the board," boasted Dow Chemical in an internal company memo one Christmas season. Among the chemicals used in these toys are polystyrene, polyethylene, ethylene copolymer resins, saran resins, PVC resins, or vinyls and ethyl cellulose.

8.The Tittabawassee: A river and river basin polluted by Dow in its hometown, Midland, Mich.

7. Brazos River, Freeport, Texas: A February 1971 headline in the Houston Post read: "Brazos River is Dead." In 1970 and 1971, Dow's operation there was sending more than 4.5 billion gallons of wastewater per day into the Brazos and on into the Gulf of Mexico.

6. Toxic Trespass: From Trespass Against Us: Dow Chemical and the Toxic Century by Jack Doyle: "Dow Chemical has been polluting property and poisoning people for nearly a century, locally and globally trespassing on workers, consumers, communities, and innocent bystanders on wildlife and wild places, on the global biota and the global genome."

5. Holmesburg Experiments: In January 1981, a Philadelphia Inquirer story revealed that Dow Chemical paid a University of Pennsylvania dermatologist to test dioxin on prisoners at Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia in 1964.

4. Worker deaths: Dow has a long history of explosions and fires at its facilities. In May 1979, an explosion ripped through Dow's Pittsburgh facility, killing two workers and injuring more than 45 others.

3. Brain tumors: In 1980, investigators found 25 workers with brain tumors at the company's Freeport, Texas facility 24 of which were fatal.

2. Saran Wrap: The thin slice of plastic invaluable to our lives, Saran Wrap was produced by Dow until consumers went looking for Dow products to boycott.

1. Bhopal.

GlaxoSmithKline: Deadly Depressing

GlaxoSmithKline, Paxil and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): It was the story that foreshadowed and strikingly paralleled the controversy surrounding Merck, Vioxx and Cox-2 inhibitors.

With the antidepressant Paxil (generic name: paroxetine), the story was driven primarily from the United Kingdom, by the BBC program Panorama and a public interest group called Social Audit. They called attention to the severe side effects from the drugs; notably that they are addictive and lead to increased suicidality in youth.

In 2003, the evidence of dangerous side effects had piled too high for British regulators to continue to ignore them. In June, the UK health experts advised that children should not be prescribed Paxil.

In February 2004, Panorama reported on internal documents from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) showing the company knew that Paxil could not be proved to work in children.

In March 2004, days after the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (the UK's drug regulatory agency) advised that Paxil dosages should be kept to low levels, an expert participating in the Paxil review resigned, claiming the agency had possessed evidence for more than a decade suggesting that Paxil dosages should be kept low, but failed to act on it.

By this time, the story had started to heat up in the United States. Dr. Andrew Mosholder, of the FDA Office of Drug Safety, had conducted an analysis of clinical trials related to antidepressant use in children, and found a heightened risk of suicidality. But his superiors refused to let him present his findings to an advisory panel convened to look at the issue in the wake of the British action.

According to an investigation by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the FDA actually tried to get Mosholder to present data that deceptively underrepresented the risk of suicidality.

Although Paxil is not approved by the FDA for prescription to children, doctors routinely write "off-label" prescriptions for the product for children, a practice permitted under FDA rules. More than two million prescriptions for Paxil were written for children and adolescents in the United States in 2002.

In April 2004, the Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, published a paper showing that clinical test data did show problems with prescribing Paxil and other SSRIs to children.

In June, New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed suit against Glaxo, charging the giant drug maker with suppressing evidence of Paxil's harm to children, and misleading physicians.

GSK responded in a statement that it "acted responsibly in conducting clinical studies in pediatric patients and disseminating data from those studies. All pediatric studies have been made available to the FDA and regulatory agencies worldwide."

Spitzer's complaint cited a 1998 GSK memo which states that the company must "manage the dissemination of these data in order to minimi[z]e any potential negative commercial impact."

Responding to Spitzer's suit, GSK claimed that, "As for the 1998 memo, it is inconsistent with the facts and does not reflect the company position."

The New York complaint asserted as well that "GSK has repeatedly misrepresented the safety and efficacy outcomes from its studies of paroxetine as a treatment for MDD [Major Depressive Disorder] in a pediatric population to its employees who promote paroxetine to physicians."

In August, the company settled with Spitzer for $2.5 million, plus a commitment to maintain the policy of posting clinical trial results, for all drugs marketed by the company.

The next month, the Star-Ledger of New Jersey reported on a Glaxo memo from the year before, instructing the company's sales force not to talk to doctors about company data showing dangers from prescribing Paxil to kids.

In October, the FDA ordered Glaxo and other SSRI makers to include a "black box" warning with their pills. The warning says SSRIs double the risk of suicide in children, though some medical researchers say the number should be higher. At least one GSK clinical trial showed 7.5 percent of youth taking Paxil suffering from suicidality (versus zero percent among those taking a placebo).

Glaxo continues to insist that it disclosed information to appropriate authorities as soon as it discerned important results from its clinical studies.

Hardee's: Heart Attack on a Bun

When Hardee's introduced the Thickburger this year, Jay Leno joked that it was being served in little cardboard boxes shaped like coffins.

With other major fast food outlets moving to green salads, Hardee's revels in big beef. From Hardee's press release of Nov. 15, 2004:

Now Hardee's is introducing the mother of all burgers the Monster Thickburger. Weighing in at two-thirds of a pound, this 100 percent Angus beef burger is a monument to decadence, yet is still a throwback, as it features lots of meat, cheese and bacon on a bun.

Clearly, Hardee's, a subsidiary of CKE Restaurants, Inc. of Carpinteria, Calif., is not worried about the public health aspects of unleashing the monster into the marketplace.

Eating one Thickburger is like eating two Big Macs or five McDonald's hamburgers. Add 600 calories worth of Hardee's fries and you get more than the 2,000 calories that many people should eat in a whole day, according to Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) earlier this year charged KFC Corporation, owner of the Kentucky Fried Chicken national restaurant chain, with making false claims in a national television advertising campaign about the relative nutritional value and healthiness of its fried chicken.

The false claim? KFC said that eating fried chicken, specifically two Original Recipe fried chicken breasts, is better for a consumer's health than eating a Burger King Whopper.

The FTC says that while it is true that the two fried chicken breasts have slightly less total fat and saturated fat than a Whopper, they have more than three times the trans fat and cholesterol, more than twice the sodium, and more calories.

KFC settled the case.

But there will be no law enforcement action brought against Hardee's. Hardee's makes no pretensions that the Hardee's Thickburger is good for you, and has no qualms about the impact of the monster on the public's health. The fast-food pusher's new advertising campaign is straight up: "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

As The New York Times put it in an editorial, "It is a setback for public health, but a triumph for truth in advertising."

Merck: 55,000 Dead

It's not as if people in power didn't know about the impending disaster what David Graham, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) drug safety official, calls "maybe the single greatest drug-safety catastrophe in the history of this country.''

Testifying before a Senate committee in November, Dr. Graham put the number in United States who had suffered heart attacks or stroke as result of taking the arthritis drug Vioxx in the range of 88,000 to 139,000. As many as 40 percent of these people, or about 35,000-55,000, died as a result, Graham said.

The unacceptable cardiovascular risks of Vioxx were evident as early as 2000 a full four years before the drug was finally withdrawn from the market by its manufacturer, Merck, according to a study released by the Lancet, the British medical journal.

"This discovery points to astonishing failures in Merck's internal systems of post-marketing surveillance, as well as to lethal weaknesses in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's regulatory oversight," Lancet editors wrote.

Authors of the Lancet study pooled data from 25,273 patients who participated in 18 clinical trials conducted before 2001. They found that patients given Vioxx had 2.3 times the risk of heart attacks as those given placebos or other pain medications.

Merck withdrew Vioxx on Sept. 30 of this year after a company-sponsored trial found a doubling of the risks for heart attack or stroke among those who took the medicine for 18 months or more.

Merck says it disclosed all relevant evidence on Vioxx safety as soon as it acquired it, and pulled the drug as soon as it saw conclusive evidence of the drug's dangers.

"Over the past six years," Merck CEO Raymond Gilmartin told the Senate Finance Committee at the November hearing where Graham made his big splash, "since the time Merck submitted a New Drug Application for Vioxx to the FDA, we have promptly disclosed the results of numerous Merck-sponsored studies to the FDA, physicians, the scientific community and the media and participated in a balanced, scientific discussion of its risks and benefits."

Until the September clinical trial results came in, Gilmartin said, "the combined data from randomized controlled clinical trials showed no difference in confirmed cardiovascular event rates between Vioxx and placebo and Vioxx and NSAIDs other than naproxen. When data from the APPROVe study [the September results] became available, Merck acted quickly to withdraw the medicine from the market."

But there is evidence that strongly suggests a different version of the story.

The Lancet findings came in the wake of new disclosures that suggest Merck was fully aware of Vioxx's potential risks by 2000.

The Wall Street Journal revealed emails that confirm Merck executives' knowledge of their drug's adverse cardiovascular profile the risk was "clearly there," according to one senior researcher.

"Given this disturbing contradiction Merck's own understanding of Vioxx's true risk profile and its attempt to gloss over these risks in their public statements at the time it is hard to see how Merck's chief executive officer, Raymond Gilmartin, can retain the confidence of the public, his company's most important constituency," the Lancet editors wrote.

Dr. Graham, the federal drug-safety reviewer, continues to seek to publish his study demonstrating the dangers of Vioxx, but he has been delayed and demeaned by top officials at the Food and Drug Administration.

At the Senate hearing, Dr. Graham said that the FDA "as currently configured is incapable of protecting America against another Vioxx," because of ties between agency reviewers and the pharmaceutical industry. Graham says that as a result of his testimony, his bosses have threatened to toss him out of the FDA's drug safety unit.

At the Senate hearing, Graham said that at least five medications currently on the market pose such risks that their sale ought to be limited or stopped. Graham named the five as Meridia, Crestor, Accutane, Bextra and Serevent.

In November 2004, named David Graham "face of the year."

We join with Forbes in saluting Graham "for his steadfast advocacy of drug safety and his willingness to blow the whistle on his bosses."

McWane: Death on the Job

The New York Times ran a three-part series by David Barstow and Lowell Bergman that exposed the egregious safety record of McWane Inc., a large, privately held Alabama-based sewer and water pipe manufacturer.

Nine McWane employees have lost their lives in workplace accidents since 1995. More than 4,600 injuries were recorded among the company's 5,000 employees.

According to the series, one man died when an industrial oven exploded after he was directed to use it to incinerate highly combustible paint. Another was crushed by a conveyor belt that lacked a required protective guard.

Three of McWane's nine deaths were the result of deliberate violations of safety standards. In five others, safety lapses were a contributing factor.

According to the Times, McWane pulled the wool over the eyes of investigators by stalling them at the factory gates, and then hiding defective equipment. Accident sites were altered before investigators could inspect them, in violation of federal rules.

When government enforcement officials did find serious violations, "the punishment meted out by the federal government was so minimal that McWane could treat it as simply a cost of doing business."

"After a worker was crushed to death by a forklift that apparently had faulty brakes, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation found defects in all 14 of the plant's forklifts, including the one involved in the death," the Times reported. The fine was just $10,500. Employers are further protected by the workers' compensation system, which can make it hard for victims to sue."

According to the Times, in one McWane oven explosion that killed an employee, Frank Wagner, McWane "hired a well-connected lobbyist to lean on Dennis Vacco, then New York State's attorney general, and ended up with a settlement in which it did not admit responsibility for the death."

The experts who looked at the case determined that the explosion that killed him was the result of reckless criminal actions by McWane, which was operating a cast-iron foundry in Elmira, N.Y., where Wagner worked.

"The evidence compels us to act," the prosecution team wrote in a confidential memorandum to Vacco in 1996. The team urged him to ask a grand jury to indict McWane and its managers on manslaughter and other charges. A grand jury inquiry, senior investigators believed, could have taken them up the corporate ladder, the Times reported.

But Vacco never sought an indictment against McWane for any crime.

Only after an unusual intervention by the United States attorney in Buffalo, who threatened federal charges, did McWane agree to plead guilty to a state felony and pay $500,000.

"But as the company and Mr. Wagner's widow are quick to note, that charge, a hazardous-waste violation, specifically did not hold McWane accountable for Mr. Wagner's death," the Times reported.

"It was a reckless act on the part of certain individuals in that company that caused the death of that person. I'll believe that till the day I die," says Donald Snell, who supervised the state environmental agency's investigation. "The ends of justice were not met."

As the Times series showed, in plant after plant, year after year, "McWane workers have been maimed, burned, sickened and killed by the same safety and health failures."

McWane says it is changing and it's certainly paying more attention to PR after the Times series.

"Over the last several years, our Company has embarked on significant changes that are focused on setting the industry standard in employee safety, health and environmental programs," asserts a May 2004 report from the company on health and safety.

That doesn't exactly jibe with what company managers call "the McWane way" what federal and state regulators characterized to the Times as a "lawless" and "rogue" operation that ruthlessly sought profits with disregard for worker safety and well-being.

Riggs Bank: The Pinochet Connection

An explosive report from the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, issued in July, revealed that Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C. illegally operated bank accounts for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and routinely ignored evidence of corrupt practices in managing more than 60 accounts for the government of Equatorial Guinea.

An ongoing internal investigation by Riggs has revealed that the bank's dealing with Pinochet dates back to 1985, while the Chilean despot remained in power, according to a November Washington Post report.

Riggs has not so far been cited for civil or criminal violations in connection with the Pinochet money-laundering scheme. In May, the bank paid $25 million in fines in connection with money-laundering violations related to the Equatorial Guinea and Saudi Arabian governments.

The bank capitalized on its venerable reputation in Washington to become the banker to the embassies that dot the city and the large foreign diplomatic corps resident in the U.S. capital. Riggs eagerly sought to service them all, apparently even when dictators and their families requested the bank engage in illegal activities to launder money.

The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report found that from 1994 until 2002, Riggs opened at least six accounts and issued several certificates of deposit (CDs) for Pinochet while he was under house arrest in the United Kingdom and his assets were the subject of court proceedings. The aggregate deposits in the Pinochet accounts at Riggs ranged from $4 million to $8 million at a time.

What is now becoming apparent is that Riggs was collaborating with Pinochet even a decade earlier, with a scale of activity not yet clear.

Riggs was not a passive or unknowing actor in this drama. According to the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report, high bank officials solicited Pinochet's business, the bank helped Pinochet set up offshore shell corporations and open accounts in the names of those corporations to disguise his control of the accounts, altered the names of his personal accounts to disguise their ownership, and otherwise worked to help him hide his money flow.

Although these activities seem to violate U.S. banking rules, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) did not take enforcement action against the bank after it learned of these matters in 2002. That presumably was not unrelated to the fact that the OCC examiner at Riggs soon thereafter went to work for Riggs.

Pinochet is not the only dictator for whom Riggs undertook money laundering.

Equatorial Guinea is a small, oil-rich West African country dominated by a dictator, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasago. Obiang, his family and cronies live a life of luxury, while the rest of the country remains desperately poor.

The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report found that from 1995 until 2004, Riggs Bank administered more than 60 accounts and CDs for the government of Equatorial Guinea, Equatorial Guinea government officials or their family members. Money laundering to cover up corruption appeared to be routine.

Combined, these accounts represented the largest relationship at Riggs Bank, with aggregate deposits ranging from $400 to $700 million at a time.

Riggs does not deny these activities took place, and its internal investigation is continuing. A number of Riggs employees involved in the scandals have been fired or demoted. In July, Riggs announced that it was going to be acquired by PNC Financial Services Group (see profile of AIG above) for more than $700 million. Ongoing legal problems at Riggs could derail the deal, which is supposed to be consummated early in 2005, but for now both parties say it remains on.

Wal-Mart: The Workfare Company

Wal-Mart faces a class action lawsuit on behalf of 1.6 million women workers, alleging rampant employment discrimination at Wal-Mart.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has announced plans to spend $25 million a year with the ultimate goal of unionizing Wal-Mart, the largest private U.S. employer.

And the company which has already lost more than 200 site fights faces an even more-intensified resistance to its efforts to locate new stores, as it increasingly seeks to enter markets in more urban areas.

But while on a bit of a public relations defensive, the company remains the colossus of U.S. and increasingly global retailing. It registers more than a quarter trillion dollars in sales. Its revenues account for 2 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

A February 2004 report issued by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) encapsulated the ways that Wal-Mart squeezes and cheats its employees, among them: blocking union organizing efforts, paying employees an average $8.23 an hour (as compared to more than $10 for an average supermarket worker), allegedly extracting off-the-clock work, and providing inadequate and unaffordable healthcare packages for employees.

Miller's report's innovation was in documenting how Wal-Mart's low wages and inadequate benefits not only hurt workers directly, but impose costs on taxpayers. The report estimated that one 200-person Wal-Mart store may result in a cost to federal taxpayers of $420,750 per year about $2,103 per employee. These public costs include: $36,000 a year for free and reduced lunches for just 50 qualifying Wal-Mart families. $42,000 a year for Section 8 housing assistance, assuming 3 percent of the store employees qualify for such assistance, at $6,700 per family. $125,000 a year for federal tax credits and deductions for low-income families, assuming 50 employees are heads of household with a child and 50 are married with two children. $100,000 a year for the additional Title I [educational] expenses, assuming 50 Wal-Mart families qualify with an average of two children. $108,000 a year for the additional federal healthcare costs of moving into state children's health insurance programs (SCHIP), assuming 30 employees with an average of two children qualify.

Wal-Mart's abuses are giving rise to countervailing efforts, but it is an open question whether the company has amassed such power that it will be able to defeat such initiatives.

In California, in November, the company was able to stave off by a 51-to-49 percent margin a proposition that would have required every large and medium employer in the state to provide decent healthcare coverage for their workers, with the employer contribution set at a minimum of 80 percent of costs.

Wal-Mart dumped a half million dollars into the anti-Proposition 72 campaign just a week before the vote.

"As one of California's leading employers, we care about the health of our 60,000 employees here," said Wal-Mart spokesperson Cynthia Lin, in celebrating the defeat of Proposition 72. "That's why we provide our employees with affordable, quality health care coverage."

The biggest immediate challenge facing Wal-Mart is the class action lawsuit filed by its women workers. The women allege that Wal-Mart pays female workers less than men, promotes men faster than women and men above more competent women, and fosters a hostile work environment.

While Wal-Mart is willing to bend to consumer demand on marginal issues like covering over the headlines on Cosmopolitan magazine, it is not so flexible on respect for worker rights. Nor is there any sign of a consumer rebellion on anything like the scale necessary to make the company revisit its employment policies.

The full-length version of this piece can be found at The Multinational Monitor.

Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press). Robert Weissman is general counsel for Essential Inventions, a nonprofit mentioned in the Abbott profile.

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 08:09 PM

Interesting to see our friends at Dow Chemicals, of Agent Orange and 2,4,5-T notoriety, on the list.

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 09:18 PM

probably looking at this years listing already.

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 08:54 PM

Click on the link to view the video relating to toxic time bomb of breast implants.

What we find abhorrent is some woman whom have had breast cancer & had these implants will have been traumatized twice, first with breast cancer,
then toxic implants.

Thanks for your investigative report Allison Langdon.


Toxic time bomb

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Reporter: Allison Langdon
Producers: Gareth Harvey, Hannah Boocock

Right now, across the country, thousands of Australian women are worried sick.

They're living with the terrible possibility that a toxic time bomb is ticking away inside their bodies.

For the last ten years, one of the largest manufacturers of breast implants has been involved in a monstrous fraud — filling its products with cheap industrial gels.

What makes this scandal so alarming is that no one fully understands the health implications of what's happened. But the signs are certainly not good.

Read Allison Langdon's blog on this story and have your say


After months of inaction, the Australian government has finally shifted some ground this weekend by announcing that Medicare will subsidize scans of PIP implants to assess if they're ruptured.

For more information about recieving a scan, visit the Department of Health website.

In Europe meanwhile, they've already begun removing thousands of the implants. Medical authorities there stress that the risk of leaving them in far outweighs the risk of taking them out.

Many thanks to Tindall Gask Bentley lawyers – who were invaluable in helping us contact hundreds of women at risk across Australia, and who are preparing a civil class action: Tindall Gask Bentley lawyers website

Darlene Watkins – whose Facebook support group is providing comfort and shared experiences to many women with PIP implants:

Facebook support group

24 hour Breast Implant Information Line: 1800 217 257

TGA website: PIP breast implants

Medical Journal of Australia report on the TGA

News article: reports slams medical device alerts

Full transcript:

ALLISON LANGDON: For two months, we’ve been trying to track down the truth behind the biggest medical scandal in years. A criminal operation that’s put industrial-grade silicone into the bodies of women across the world – including thousands of Australians who feel abandoned by their Government.

FORUM PARTICIPANT: I’m just sick of being sick. It’s just awful.

FORUM PARTICIPANT: All I want the Government to do is help these women, just to help.

JODIE: My days feel black. My days just feel black.

ALLISON LANGDON: Jodie Black decided she wanted breast implants after breast-feeding three kids and having a tumour removed. The operation was sold as simple, if expensive – the implants would be made from high quality, medical-grade silicone. But the truth would be very different.

JODIE: It is all the way around the pain, yeah. It goes all the way through to my shoulder.

ALLISON LANGDON: A year ago, Jodie began experiencing mysterious symptoms with no apparent cause.

JODIE: It’s horrible to hop out of the shower and you know, clumps of my hair’s falling out. Clumps and clumps of hair are falling out and you know, it’s quite devastating.

ALLISON LANGDON: But it was only a sign of worse to come. Just before Christmas, news broke of a shocking crime. Jodie and 300,000 other women around the world learned that their breast implants were potentially toxic. Jean Claude Mas, the owner of French company Poly Implant Protheses or PIP – confessed to police that he’d been making the implants with industrial-grade chemicals. How do you feel now?

JODIE: I feel gutted, absolutely gutted.

ALLISON LANGDON: Are some days harder than others?

JODIE: Much harder.

FORUM PARTICIPANT: This is just a small group of us. There are so many more. So it’s not just us 13 women, there’s hundreds and hundreds of us.

ALLISON LANGDON: Jodie Blake’s not alone – an estimated 6,000 Australian women have PIP implants. We’ve been in contact with over 300 of them – and brought together this group in Brisbane.

SHERIE: A lot of hair loss, a lot of back pain.

ALLISON LANGDON: Their symptoms are remarkably – and alarmingly - similar.

FORUM PARTICIPANT: Just lots of burning sensation.

FORUM PARTICIPANT: I have had a lot of burning and heat coming out of my chest, um soreness under my arms.

FORUM PARTICIPANT: A lot of burning all around my left side.

FORUM PARTICIPANT: Thyroid problem.

FORUM PARTICIPANT: Night sweats, hair loss, headaches.

FORUM PARTICIPANT: Skin irritation, headaches, constantly feeling fatigued.

FORUM PARTICIPANT: Tiredness, vomiting.

ALLISON LANGDON: You don’t think that any of you are sort of linking the pain that you’re experiencing now to the PIP implants, just because this scandal has erupted?


MEG: We all have PIP implants, we all have the same or similar symptoms. You can’t tell me that it’s got nothing to do with the implants.

ALLISON LANGDON: France is where the scandal erupted. It’s here, more than anywhere else on earth where scientists have scrambled to try to discover just how dangerous the PIP implants are. Those same scientists have now delivered a chilling verdict. Is it a crisis?

LAURENT: It is a crisis, yes. Yes, it is a health crisis, clearly.

ALLISON LANGDON: Professor Laurent Lantieri is one of the world’s leading plastic surgeons. He’s seeing firsthand the damage the implants are doing. When the PIP scandal broke, the French government turned to him for advice.

LAURENT: We know that it’s industrial silicone. Let’s just remove it – it’s common sense.

ALLISON LANGDON: So you’re adamant that any woman who has PIP implants should have them removed?

LAURENT: Absolutely.

ALLISON LANGDON: The now-abandoned PIP factory in La Seyne sur Mer in the south of France is hiding a terrible, toxic secret – what exactly, went into the PIP implants? After months of investigation, we’ve identified several key chemicals: Basilone, Silopren and Rhodorsil. Commonly used for rubber tubing, computer components – even mattress-filler. Enough for some European governments, leaving nothing to chance, to order all PIP implants be removed – and at government expense.

JAMES: We don’t know who’s got the good ones and who’s got the bad ones, so we’ve got to treat them all as bad.

ALLISON LANGDON: Eminent plastic surgeons, like Britain’s Professor James Frame, insist there’s no such thing as a safe breast implant – when you don’t know exactly what’s in it.

JAMES: We don’t actually know what’s in there. Um sure, there may be some totally pure implants, but the spectrum runs right the way down to the totally impure, which could be just paraffin. It could be anything to do with the petrochemical industry. It could be anything that’s in there.

ALLISON LANGDON: You do believe that any woman who has these implants should have them removed?

JAMES: Definitely – without any hesitation.

ALLISON LANGDON: But the Australian Government isn’t just hesitating – it’s flatly refusing. The medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration will not pay for PIP implants to be removed.

DANIEL: What I’m suggesting is that the French government made a panicked response to this.

ALLISON LANGDON: Australian cosmetic surgeon Dr. Daniel Fleming is advising the TGA on PIP implants.

DANIEL: What I need is evidence, not anecdote, not the opinions of individual plastic surgeons. They may be right, they may not be right.

ALLISON LANGDON: But you’re dismissing the clinical observations of some of the world’s leading plastic surgeons –

DANIEL: I’m not dismissing it.

ALLISON LANGDON: Of their actual patients.

DANIEL: No, I’m not dismissing their observations at all. I’m saying we need to make evidence-based decisions.

ALLISON LANGDON: What we normally do is do very rigorous testing before we put something in the human body. You’re saying, “let’s do the testing before we take it out.”

DANIEL: If removing these implants was a harmless procedure with no medical or health care consequences, what you say might be a reasonable proposition, but it isn’t.

ALLISON LANGDON: See, I think what the world sees is that the TGA is playing dice with women’s lives.

DANIEL: What an extraordinary statement to make. Australians should be reassured that the TGA is taking this most seriously.

FORUM PARTICIPANT: We’re like lab rats. They’re sitting back with their microscopes watching us closely to see what’s gonna happen to us. When it’s gonna be classed as too late?

ALLISON LANGDON: And adding to the anxiety of Australian women, plastic surgeons are reporting that PIP implants are actually rupturing inside women’s bodies in alarming numbers. So you actually have a ruptured implant, is that correct?

FORUM PARTICIPANT: On the right side.

ALLISON LANGDON: How do you feel, knowing that you have a gel inside your body that is industrial-grade?

FORUM PARTICIPANT: Sick. Scared, frightened and still – what effects it might have on my life down the track.

ALLISON LANGDON: And you’ve been breastfeeding?


ALLISON LANGDON: Do you worry that you’ve harmed your baby?

FORUM PARTICIPANT: Yes. All the time. Sorry. When I first became aware that I had a rupture I felt utterly sick. I started crying.

ALLISON LANGDON: Jodie Blake’s now discovered that she too, has a ruptured implant. And no-one can tell her just what industrial chemicals may be leaking into her body. All she is being told is that the Government won’t pay the $10,000 that the operation will cost.

JODIE: What are they waiting for? Are they waiting for somebody to die?

ALLISON LANGDON: Unprepared to sit and wait, she’s paying for it herself.

JODIE: I’m very nervous.

ALLISON LANGDON: It’ll be fine you know. It’ll be fine. It’s a straightforward operation. First to be removed is Jodie’s intact implant from her right breast. Then it’s her left breast – where the implant has ruptured.

DOCTOR: You can see the ruptured implant coming out.

ALLISON LANGDON: So that’s just free silicone. It’s shocking to think that this substance about which we know so very little was floating free in Jodie’s body for months – and is still inside thousands of other women around the world. Here is an implant that has ruptured, I mean, look at that…

DANIEL: Mm-hmm.

ALLISON LANGDON: And just touch it.

DANIEL: What’s your point? To try and pretend that this – showing this implant, squeezing it, showing it’s sticky – is some kind of evidence, is exactly the kind of anecdotal nonsense which may have the risk of leading to tens of thousands of women having surgery which may not be indicated. We need better evidence than this.

ALLISON LANGDON: The difference is, if that was any other implant, I would know that what was in it was medical-grade silicone. I have no idea what’s in that.

DANIEL: That’s exactly why we need to do the tests that we have been doing. We need to continue to do the tests to see if the non medical-grade silicone has any health consequences.

ALLISON LANGDON: Common sense would suggest that having a product that is used to make computer equipment, to fill mattresses, does not belong in the human body.

DANIEL: It doesn’t belong in the human body, but that doesn’t mean necessarily that it’s harmful to the human body and that’s why we need to do the tests.

ALLISON LANGDON: In the end – only the man who owned PIP, Jean Claude Mas, really knows what he put into his tainted implants. We went to his mansion in the French Riviera where Mas is on bail awaiting trial – to put the question straight to him. Mas’ son – who was also a director of PIP – wasn’t talking. We’re talking about an implant that’s now the centre of a criminal fraud investigation. Do you accept that we’re not talking about a normal breast implant here?

DANIEL: No, we’re not talking about a normal breast implant. There’s no question that in some of the PIP implants, gel was used which was not the authorised gel and that’s a very bad thing, it’s a very worrying thing and we need to get to the bottom of whether or not that has health consequences for patients.

ALLISON LANGDON: Can you see at some point that the TGA will change its mind and that the PIP implants could be removed?

DANIEL: If the evidence changes, most certainly the TGA will change its mind and that would be quite appropriate.

FORUM PARTICIPANT: I spent endless nights crying my eyes out, wondering how I would deal with this. After I had my implants taken out, my health was so much better. I had been very sick; soon as I had the implants out I was – it was good.

ALLISON LANGDON: But unable to afford the operation, many Australian women have no option but to wait as the experts bicker. And that’s taking an extraordinary toll. Cherie, are you okay?

FORUM PARTICIPANT: Cherie has a son, she wants to be there for him. She’s a sole parent, you know what I mean? She cannot afford to have them out. It’s up to the TGA to help them get them out. Simple as that.

FORUM PARTICIPANT: They have let thousands of women down. They know it. They need to stand up, put their hand up and say “yes, we failed you.”

ALLISON LANGDON: The Australian Government has shifted some ground this weekend, by announcing that Medicare will subsidise scans of PIP implants to assess if they’re ruptured. Meanwhile in Europe, they’ve already begun moving thousands of the implants at Government expense. Medical authorities there stress that the risk of leaving them in far outweighs the risk of taking them out.

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 12:33 AM

Cosmetic surgery tycoon had secret offshore company

By David Leigh
November 28, 2012, 9:45 am

Video: How To Dodge Tax
About This Project
This multi-year project aims to strip away the biggest mystery associated with tax havens: the owners of anonymous companies. Our aim is to allow the public to see inside the offshore world in a way that has never before been possible. Read more
Full Coverage

Nominee Directors Linked to Intelligence, Military
Cosmetic surgery tycoon had secret offshore company
Britons Snapped Up Luxury Villas on Thai Island
Post-Soviet Billionaires Invade UK ... Via British Virgin Islands
Who’s Buying Britain? Probe Reveals Real Estate Speculators Hidden By Offshore Alchemy
One Block in London, Many Secret Owners
Video: How To Dodge Tax
About This Project: Secrecy For Sale
Front Men Disguise the Offshore Game's Real Players
‘Fatal Blow’ Against Sham Corporate Directors Not So Fatal After All
Meet the Queen of Nevis
British Virgin Islands Well-Known for Sunny Beaches – and Strict Secrecy
How the nominee trick works

Know More?

Do you have important information on this topic? A question or comment? Pass it on to ICIJ.

Get in Touch

The millionaire head of a controversial cosmetic surgery chain, the biggest in the UK, owned a secret offshore company linked to the clinic, it can be revealed.

Mel Braham’s Harley Medical Group has attracted criticism for refusing free replacements to women during the PIP silicone breast implant scandal. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists/Guardian inquiry has now identified Braham, who has an address in London, as the man behind an anonymous offshore entity registered in the British Virgin Islands under the name The Memphis Company Ltd.

When asked about the tax advantages of having an offshore account, Braham at first denied any connection between his clinic and the British Virgin Islands entity. He wrote: “This Memphis company that you refer to, has not, nor ever has had, any connection with The Harley Medical Group. To the best of my knowledge it has never traded or had any business transaction with The Harley Medical Group.”

However, when, the Guardian provided detailed evidence that the Memphis Company was in fact administered from the London headquarters of his Harley Medical Group, at 11 Queen Anne Street near Oxford Circus, Braham did not respond with any further comment. He would not explain the role of the Memphis Company.

Braham’s cosmetic surgery chain is easily Britain’s biggest, with a turnover of around £30m. Braham, who formerly ran a hair transplant clinic in New Zealand, and now lives in a luxury flat at Chelsea Harbour, is recorded as having made large sums out of the business. His UK-­registered company, the Harley Medical Centre Ltd, paid him director’s fees of more than £500,000 in 2010 and 2011.

In addition, a cash dividend of more than £1m was paid out to his interests in 2010, via an offshore nominee company in Guernsey.

According to the ICIJ’s research, the Harley Medical Group’s then financial controller, Simon Brazier, dealt with The Memphis Company’s routine affairs, but Braham signed some correspondence personally. After Brazier’s return to New Zealand, his successor as financial controller at the Harley Medical Group, Toni Culverwell, took over the role in 2010. Braham also set up a sister BVI company with an “Irish Branch” called The Harley Medical Group (Ireland) Ltd, which is openly registered in Dublin.

Braham faced controversy when he insisted in January this year that the Harley clinics could not afford the surgery for free replacement of the silicone implants they had inserted into almost 14,000 British women, which had proved prone to rupture. The French supplier of the cheap PIP implants, which contained industrial-grade silicone instead of the much dearer medical-grade gel, is currently in jail in France, awaiting trial.

Braham, who described himself as “the innocent party”, was quoted as saying: “We don’t have the number of surgeons, the hospitals and the anaesthetists and we don’t have the financial capacity to do it for nothing.”

“We do roughly 5,000 to 6,000 operations a year and are not capable of adding another 13,900 on top of that.”

Braham demanded the NHS pay for the bulk of the costs.

Faced with a legal class action from a group of aggrieved women demanding compensation, it was disclosed this month that Braham has now put the Harley Medical Centre Ltd into administration, while reopening and carrying on operations under another name, Aesthetic and Cosmetic Surgery Ltd.

A Harley spokesman was quoted as saying: “Legal claims against Harley Medical Centre will no longer be able to take place.” He added: “We were ... faced with liabilities arising from a class action that we simply wouldn’t have been able to survive.”

David Leigh is a member of ICIJ. This story was also published in The Guardian

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 07:30 PM

Drug firms bought East German patients to use as human guinea pigs

Drug firms bought East German patients to use as human guinea pigs

Bruchmüller described how the patient in the bed next to him suddenly died of a heart attack
Tony Paterson Author Biography


Wednesday 05 December 2012

Communist East Germany allowed Western drug companies to use its medical patients as unwitting guinea pigs for tests with untried pharmaceuticals in return for hundreds of thousands in hard currency, a television documentary by Germany’s ARD television channel has revealed.

The disturbing disclosures about the former communist state’s patients-for-cash scheme comes only weeks after an admission by the Swedish furniture giant Ikea that East German political prisoners were used to make its products before the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.

The ARD documentary Tests and the Dead, which was aired for the first time this week, sheds light on other dubious practices East Germany resorted to in an attempt to sustain its failing economy.

The film reveals how Western pharmaceutical companies deliberately turned to cash-strapped Eastern Bloc countries in their search for human guinea pigs after the 1960s Thalidomide scandal which had suddenly obliged them to carry out rigorous tests on their products before they could be sold. In the West, the law stipulated that any patients taking part in drug tests had to be fully informed of the risks involved. However, in Communist East Germany such restrictions appear to have been waived in an increasingly desperate effort to procure enough hard currency to rescue an ailing economy and a crippled health system.

Using information gleaned from East German Stasi files, the film shows how, in 1983, Communist Party Central Committee members hatched a secret deal with Western drug companies enabling them to test their unlicensed products on unwitting patients by using specially selected doctors and clinics. Hubert Bruchmüller, a former East German who is now lives on a disability allowance because of a heart complaint, recalled in the film how he was used as an unwitting guinea pig. The documentary makers showed that without his knowledge, he had been given the drug Spirapril made by the pharmaceutical company Sandoz, while being treated for a heart complaint in a clinic in the East German city of Lotsau in the late 1980s.

Mr Bruchmüller described how the patient in the bed next to him suddenly died of a heart attack. “They just went ahead and did this, because they were told to do so,” he told the film makers. Six of the 17 patients in the Lotsau heart clinic died before doctors were ordered to stop testing according to Stasi file evidence unearthed by the film makers.

In another case, Annelise Lehrer, the widow of a former East German heart patient discovered that her husband Gerhard had been part of a batch of patients who were unwittingly subjected to testing for the blood pressure drug Ramipril, which was developed by the former Hoechst company in 1989.

Gerhard Lehrer died soon after his release from an East German hospital in 1989. His wife discovered that in keeping with Hoechst’s testing procedure, he had been part of a group which was given placebos and had received no treatment for his heart condition.

By 1988, East Germany was said to have signed a total of 165 contracts with Western companies for drug testing. The film makers said it had been impossible to put an exact figure on the amount earned, although studies suggested that Western companies had paid the equivalent of €430,000 (£350,000) to the Communist regime to test their products on the sick.

The makers of Tests and the Dead said they had identified the individuals who had organised drug tests for Hoechst in East Germany, but all of them had categorically refused to be interviewed. Only one former East German doctor was prepared to comment about his role as a drug tester and neither the pharmaceutical industry associations nor the ministries responsible said they had evidence about drug testing in the former East Germany.

Only the French pharmaceuticals giant Sanofi-Adventis, which is a successor company to Hoechst, allowed the film makers access to its files.



Western Pharmaceutical Trials Patients Misused as Guinea Pigs in East Germany

By Nicola Kuhrt

Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany sold patients as unwitting guinea pigs in drug trials conducted on behalf of Western pharmaceutical companies, according to a TV documentary. Journalists have spoken to former patients and their relatives and unearthed official documents proving secret collusion between the East and West.

It was as though Gerhard Lehrer suspected that something was amiss. He was being treated in an East German hospital in Dresden after suffering a heart attack in May 1989, and he decided not to hand back the box of drugs he had been given.

Three weeks after he was discharged, he was feeling increasingly ill. The clinic told him to stop taking the mystery drug immediately and to return all the pills he had left. But Lehrer disobeyed. "Keep hold of them, you may need them one day," he told his wife. He died a year later.

His widow Anneliese Lehrer kept the red packet. It was strange, she recalls, how the doctor praised the red-and-white capsules when her husband was taken to the hospital. "You can only get them with me," he said. When she later saw a television documentary about risky drug tests in East German clinics, she rang up broadcaster MDR.

The pharmaceutical laboratory of Leipzig University analyzed the capsules and found that the pills contained no active ingredient. The result showed that Gerhard Lehrer had been used as a guinea pig in a drug test as part of a group of patients given a placebo. A man with serious heart disease was denied proper treatment.

Dangerous Alliance with Western Firms

Research by journalists Stefan Hoge and Carsten Opitz for a documentary film called "Test und Tote," or "Tests and the Dead," which aired on Monday, shows that communist East Germany became an important location for testing new drugs in the late 1980s. They interviewed affected patients and their relatives as well as pharmaceutical experts and a former manager of the Hoechst drugs company. They also found documents proving the cooperation between state agencies, doctors and Western drugs firms.

They used a number printed on Gerhard Lehrer's packet of pills to trace documents in the archives of the former East German Health Ministry that showed Lehrer had unknowingly taken part in a study of the ingredient Ramipril. Hoechts had been looking for new applications for the successful antihypertensive drug.

The secret tests resulted in part from a chronic shortage of drugs in East Germany during the 1980s. "There were pharmacies that couldn't supply 20 percent of drugs at certain times," said Christoh Friedrich, a historian at Marburg University. "And that situation was, of course, reflected in the clinics."

At that time, drugs firms were feeling the effects of the biggest drugs scandal to date. In the early 1960s, several thousand babies were born with serious physical defects after their mothers had taken the sleeping pill Thalidomide (Contergan in German) developed by German company Grünenthal. The West German government responded by tightening its approval procedures for new drugs. A new drug law came into force in 1978 requiring patients to be informed of their rights and the risks in drug trials.

Western Money for Tests on Humans

The new legal requirements for market approval forced producers to do more extensive studies of their drugs on large groups of patients, which subsequently intensified the search for more doctors and patients willing to participate. Western German companies found these new areas for testing in the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

In the late 1970s, complaints by doctors about the failings of the health system in the country were impossible to ignore, says Opitz, citing files created by East Germany's feared secret police, the Stasi. As a result, the country's health minister, Ludwig Mecklinger, sent a number of urgent letters directly to East German leader Erich Honecker, warning that a growing number of doctors might consider leaving the country. Honecker reacted with a secretive move, ordering the access of state emergency reserves.

In a secret meeting in the spring of 1983 with members of the Central Committee who were responsible for healthcare, the course was set for a deal that would have serious consequences, historian Friedrich says. Select hospitals were to conduct tests on medications from western pharmaceutical companies that had not yet been approved. The money received in exchange was then to be invested in these facilities. Before this, the only western medications to be tested were those set to be approved for import. "They called this 'immaterial exports'," says Opitz, who examined countless documents for the film and spoke to experts and witnesses over the course of two years.

Trial Stopped After Deaths

Documentation reveals how the West German companies took up contracts with a corporation set up to handle East German exports. Months of tough negotiations yielded an agreement for lump-sum compensations for every successfully conducted test, and files from the Health Ministry show that this cross-border cooperation worked well. The number of tests ordered rose from 20 in 1983 to 165 in 1988.

"We weren't just stupid East Germans," says Hubert Bruchmüller, an electrician who lives on a disability pension today. "But when it was presented, one just did it." He had planned on pursuing a career as an athlete, but an undiscovered heart ailment put that to a stop. He was 30 years old when he was sent to the Lostau district hospital in the city of Magdeburg, one of the country's few specialized medical facilities. Without his knowledge, doctors tested the medication Spirapril by the company Sandoz on him. While he was in the hospital, his roommate had a heart attack. "I never saw him again," he says. They were both among the 17 patients who were in the trial in Lostau, of whom six died. At that point, the doctors were stopped, the federal archive files show.

Unanswered Questions

The tests stopped when the Berlin Wall came down, having earned the state millions of deutsche marks. But just how much each study earned can no longer be determined because many of the files were lost after the GDR's Health Ministry was dissolved. But some medication trials are shown to have brought in up to 860,000 deutsche marks.

Research as to whether patients were informed about their unknowing participation in the trials likewise failed to provide much clarity. Despite repeated inquiries at the archives of both hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, the legally valid written consent of patients remains missing. Naturally, they tried contacting the successor companies to Hoechst and Sandoz, Opitz says, but to no avail. Sanofi-Aventis, however, was cooperative and sent a number of test files for patient Gerhard Lehrer out of the archive they took over from Hoechst.

But supposedly neither pharmaceutical industry associations nor the responsible ministries could produce a responsible party who knew about the cross-border tests. Still, the journalists were able to find some workers who had organized tests by Hoechst in the GDR, though on-camera interviews were refused on both sides of the former border.

Just one former GDR doctor was willing to discuss his testing assignments on the patients who were interviewed. But most former East German doctors would prefer to remember their health care services during that time as free of political and economic pressure, Opitz says. His documentary proves that this was not the case

Das Erste
Tests and deaths (MDR) Kultur/Gesellschaft

Monday 3 December 2012, 23:30 to 00:15

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Posted 20 December 2013 - 04:47 PM

Update on the use of industrial silicone used in Breast Implants.

French breast implant firm PIP's founder jailed

PIP boss Jean-Claude Mas sentenced to four years in jail after cheap industrial silicone used in implants

Kim Willsher in Paris
*, Tuesday 10 December 2013 10.37 GMT


The man who sparked a global health scare by selling breast implants containing industrial silicone was jailed for four years yesterday by a court in Marseille.

Jean-Claude Mas (above), founder of Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP), was convicted of aggravated fraud. Four other defendants, former PIP executives or managers, were also found guilty and given jail sentences.

The firm caused international a health scare when it was found that the faulty implants had been made with substandard and non-authorised material not fit for humans. At one time PIP was the third biggest global supplier of breast implants, used in an estimated 300,000 women in 65 countries.

Some of the women were given the faulty implants during breast reconstruction operations after undergoing mastectomies as part of their cancer treatment.

Mas, 74, wearing white trainers and a checked jacket, remained impassive as the judgment was announced on Tuesday. He was also fined €75,000 (£63,000) and banned from ever running a company or working in the medical field.

His lawyer, Yves Haddad, said he was "disappointed but not surprised" and his client would appeal.

The judgment against the man the public prosecutor had described as the "sorcerer's apprentice of implants" will give a modicum of closure to the many women affected. About 50 out of the 7,113 women who were civil parties to the legal case were present in court for the sentencing.

At their month-long trial in May the accused had admitted fraudulently using unapproved gel in the implants, at an annual profit of €1m, but Mas had denied it was harmful, while three of his co-accused said they were unaware of the possible dangers.

The case, however, which involved 300 lawyers, did not seek to establish whether the PIP implants posed a health risk, even though studies suggest they have a higher than average tendency to rupture or leak.

The French Health Products Agency (ANSM) has reported 7,500 cases of PIP implants rupturing and 3,000 cases of "undesirable side effects" – mainly inflammation.

One of the defence lawyers, Jean Boudot, described Mas as an authoritarian boss and spoke of the "terrible normality of the abnormal" at PIP's production plant.

Mas is facing a second trial for causing "involuntary harm", but that case is not expected to come to court for several years.

In 2012, British medical experts concluded the PIP breast implants were more likely to rupture or leak than other implants, but that the substandard silicone in them did not pose a significant risk to women's health in the long term.

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 02:13 PM

China is one of the world's worst countries for corruption & stealing information & recipes for various foods stuffs & medicine so this is interesting in itself.

It's a well known fact they put all kinds of toxic substances into there products.

GlaxoSmithKline to pay £297m fine over China bribery network

Mark Reilly and executives face up to four years in jail over claims that sales team bribed doctors to prescribe company medicine

Nick Fletcher, Friday 19 September 2014 12.30 BST


GlaxoSmithKline has been found guilty of bribery by a Chinese court and has agreed to pay a fine of 3bn yuan (£297m) to the government in Beijing.

At the same time, the former head of its China division, Mark Reilly, and other GSK executives are facing two- to four-year jail terms, according to the state news agency, Xinhua. Reilly was accused of running a "massive bribery network".

The bribery case involved allegations that GSK sales executives paid up to 3bn yuan to doctors to encourage them to use its drugs. Other revelations included news that a sex tape of Reilly and his girlfriend was emailed to 13 company executives last year, including the chief executive, Sir Andrew Witty.

The company said the illegal actions of its subsidiary, GSK China Investment Co, were "a clear breach of GSK's governance and compliance procedures; and are wholly contrary to the values and standards expected from GSK employees". It has published an apology to the Chinese government and its people on its website.

According to its latest results, the scandal knocked four percentage points off GSK's sales growth in emerging markets. The company's staff have also been accused of bribing doctors in Poland, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.

GSK said it had fundamentally changed the incentive programme for its sales force, and increased the monitoring of invoicing and payments. Sir Andrew said: "Reaching a conclusion in the investigation of our Chinese business is important, but this has been a deeply disappointing matter for GSK. We have and will continue to learn from this. GSK has been in China for close to a hundred years and we remain fully committed to the country and its people."

Meanwhile, the Serious Fraud Office is conducting a criminal investigation into the drugmaker's sales practices around the world, including working with the Chinese authorities.

The US department of justice is also investigating GSK for possible breaches of the foreign corrupt practices act.

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Posted 04 April 2016 - 03:55 PM

Email Hamish

Hamish Fletcher
Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Panama Papers: New Zealand is 'complicit' in tax avoidance schemes - expert
2:30 PM Monday Apr 4, 2016


New Zealand is complicit in tax avoidance schemes, says an academic.

"It's shameful for New Zealand to be caught up in international tax avoidance," Deborah Russell from Massey's School of Accountancy said this afternoon.

"The loophole in our laws that allows New Zealand foreign trusts to escape taxation has been known about for years, but nothing has been done to shut it down. This makes us complicit in schemes to avoid tax," she said.

Another tax law expert has also said that the rules around the what foreigners with New Zealand trusts must disclose to Inland Revenue are "weak".

More than 11,600 foreign trusts are registered with Inland Revenue and are likely to deal with billions of dollars worth of assets.

Foreign trusts were thrown into the spotlight this morning, when New Zealand was named in a massive leak of documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

According to The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the 11.5 million document trove show that the law firm's services appear to have been used to "facilitate massive money laundering, tax avoidance and criminal activity, including drugs and arms dealing".

While ths country is named by the ICIJ as a "tax haven" used by Mossack Fonseca, New Zealand entities only make up a tiny proportion of those cited in the scandal.

However, trusts with links to Mossack Fonseca are said to have been set up in New Zealand.

This includes the Rotorua Trust, established by Malta's Energy and Health Minister Konrad Mizzi for "family estate planning" purposes. It, in turn, holds shares in a Panama-based company.

Continued below.


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Company Taxation
NZ Government
Panama Papers

New Zealand is complicit in tax avoidance schemes, says an academic.

"It's shameful for New Zealand to be caught up in international tax avoidance," Deborah Russell from Massey's School of Accountancy said this afternoon.

"The loophole in our laws that allows New Zealand foreign trusts to escape taxation has been known about for years, but nothing has been done to shut it down. This makes us complicit in schemes to avoid tax," she said.

Another tax law expert has also said that the rules around the what foreigners with New Zealand trusts must disclose to Inland Revenue are "weak".

More than 11,600 foreign trusts are registered with Inland Revenue and are likely to deal with billions of dollars worth of assets.

Foreign trusts were thrown into the spotlight this morning, when New Zealand was named in a massive leak of documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

According to The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the 11.5 million document trove show that the law firm's services appear to have been used to "facilitate massive money laundering, tax avoidance and criminal activity, including drugs and arms dealing".

While ths country is named by the ICIJ as a "tax haven" used by Mossack Fonseca, New Zealand entities only make up a tiny proportion of those cited in the scandal.

However, trusts with links to Mossack Fonseca are said to have been set up in New Zealand.

This includes the Rotorua Trust, established by Malta's Energy and Health Minister Konrad Mizzi for "family estate planning" purposes. It, in turn, holds shares in a Panama-based company.

Continued below.
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This trust is managed by Orion Trust New Zealand, a trustee company based at Bentleys Chartered Accountants in central Auckland.

Its directors include Remuera's Roger Thompson and two men from Panama.

The Australian Financial Review referred to Orion as a "Mossack Fonseca trustee company" but Thompson said he couldn't disclose whether or not that was the case.

"We can't give any specific comment on any specific client which we might act for. As a general comment, we always undertake a rigorous due diligence process with any clients we accept and all tax laws and anti-money laundering laws and all those sorts of things are complied with," he said.

News coverage of the Mossack Fonseca leak also said one of Mexico's wealthiest tycoons, Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, is linked to New Zealand via a "chain of offshore entities".

Part of why foreigners set up trusts in New Zealand is that the country is a stable democracy, with a robust legal system.

Our rules also mean that if a foreigner sets up a trust here and then invests trust funds overseas, then they pay no tax here.

New Zealand trustees acting on behalf of a foreign client (unless they are Australian) are only required to disclose the name of a trust and the resident trustees contact details.

They are not required to disclose the assets settled in the trust.

Russell said that a loophole in laws relied on New Zealand tax authorities not collecting and sharing basic information about foreign trusts.

"Trustees of New Zealand foreign trusts should be required to disclose the identities of the people putting property into the trusts, and benefitting from the trusts, and Inland Revenue should be authorised to share this information with other countries' tax authorities.

"This would enable other countries to pursue people who are sheltering property and income in New Zealand foreign trusts."

The only people in New Zealand who benefit from the foreign trusts loopholes are the tax consultants and trustee companies collecting fees from providing trustee services, Russell said.

"Shutting down the loophole might reduce these fees, but it would also restore New Zealand's reputation for being corruption free."

University of Auckland professor and tax law specialist Craig Elliffe said, for instance, a wealthy South American family could settle $200 million in a New Zealand trust, which then invests those funds in a Panamanian company.

"The question is, does the South American country have any right to tax their residents where they've settled a foreign trust? And often the rules will be such that the answer to that question is 'no, they don't have the right'," Elliffe said.

While New Zealand doesn't have any specific secrecy laws blocking another country getting information about foreign trusts, the rules around what these trusts must disclose are "weak", Elliffe said.

"In fact it is so weak that it is actually almost dangerously weak," he said.

Elliffe said it was hard for a foreign government investigating the affairs of one of its citizens to find out about a New Zealand trust unless they knew one existed and what it was called.

"We don't know or, more importantly, foreign revenue authorities have no way of effectively exchanging information with New Zealand revenue authorities in a meaningful way which will expose whether this [the use of a New Zealand-based trust] is blatant tax avoidance or clever tax planning," he said.

- NZ Herald

Read more by Hamish Fletcher Email Hamish Fletcher


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Posted 05 April 2016 - 10:00 AM

I consider that if this matter is investigated probably and thoroughtly, a lot of rip offs are going to be found such as double dipping etc.

It may not be the NZ govt doing it and gaining out of it, but it may be that it is being ignored because individuals who are resident in NZ will be traced to its source in another country.

NZ know how many are Registered here so it should not be had to set up a team to trace the shareholders and beneficeries back to their homelands..............that is where the homeland will be missing out, after reading that story



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