Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Another bruise for a big Charlotte business

A peril of being a Fortune 500 kind of city: Sometimes, the companies we call neighbors behave in less-than-exemplary ways. There's been a bit of that going around lately, with Duke Energy and coal ash, plus Bank of America's perpetual legal troubles over unfair lending practices. Now, there's some pending bad publicity for Chiquita Brands International, also based (for now) in Charlotte.

A report today in The Daily Beast says Chiquita has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying against a bill that would allow 9/11 victims to collect damages in lawsuits from the "sponsors of terrorism." 

Chiquita has no connection to 9/11 terrorism, so why would the company care?  Writes The Daily Beast's Tim Mak:

In 2007 (Chiquita) pleaded guilty to making over 100 payments to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a right-wing paramilitary group designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.
Chiquita, which had operated in Colombia for over 100 years, began making payments to the terrorist organization after a 1997 meeting between an AUC leader and a senior executive of its Colombian subsidiary. Nearly every month, additional payments followed. The fruit company has maintained that it only made payments due to extortionary threats of violence, and reacted to protect the lives of its workers.
Through a deal in which Chiquita was represented by now-Attorney General Eric Holder, the fruit company agreed to pay a $25 million fine. Chiquita acknowledged that between 1997 and 2004, it made over $1.7 million in payments in cash and checks to the terrorist group.
“Does [AUC] financing make Chiquita liable for the acts of terrorism and murder committed by those terrorists? That’s the question,” said Terry Collingsworth, a lawyer involved in a lawsuit against Chiquita. “To the extent that (the bill) changes that or clarifies that standard, it would present a threat to Chiquita.”
And so, Mak reports, Chiquita responded to the perceived threat. The company hired a high-powered Washington lobbying firm. It approached members of Congress with Chiquita facilities in their districts, and it apparently found one lawmaker with a sympathetic ear, Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia.

What follows is some rude treatment of 9/11 families and, ultimately, legislation that has been stalled by the lobbying effort. Add it up, and it's a bruise on the banana company, plus Charlotte getting a mention in the wrong kind of way. That's an unpleasant, but survivable, byproduct of being a good place to do business. Besides, we have bigger headlines to wince at today.

Peter St. Onge


Garth Vader said...

Quality companies don't require bribes to relocate. This is yet another argument against corporate incentives. We should have left these two-timing punks stay in Ohio.

And Harris-Teeter should switch to DelMonte bananas.

Anonymous said...

According to this law, did Obama put taxpayers on the hook for boarding 5 terrorists at Gitmo and then flying them back to the middle east? What happens if/when they strike again? Double-standard between govt. and the private sector?

Larry said...

Holder, now where have we heard that name involved in strange activity before?

Rockingruvin said...

Larry, now where have we heard that name involved in troll posts on observer articles?