What did we learn in 1998?

by Russell Mokhiber

  • Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates' net wealth -- $51 billion -- is greater than the combined net worth of the poorest 40 percent of Americans (106 million people).
  • Hundreds of hospitals are "dumping" patients who can't afford to pay.
  • The feds are criminally prosecuting big tobacco companies for smuggling cigarettes into Canada. (Never mind addicting young kids to smoke and thus condemning them to a certain, albeit, slow, death -- can't criminally prosecute them for that.)
  • There's a bull market in stock fraud.
  • Prescription drugs may cause 100,000 deaths a year.
  • Two Fox-TV reporters in Florida are fired for trying to report on adverse health effects associated with genetically engineered foods.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposes that genetically engineered foods be labelled "organic."
  • Coal companies continue to cheat on air quality tests as hundreds of coal miners continue to die each year from black lung disease.
  • The North American Securities Administrators Association estimates that Americans lose about $1 million per hour to securities fraud.
  • Robert Reich says that megamergers threaten democracy. Corporate crime explodes, but the academic study of corporate crime vanishes.
  • Three hundred trade unionists around the world were killed in 1997 for defending their rights.
  • Corporate firms lobbying to cripple the Superfund law outnumber environmental groups seeking to defend it by 30 to one.
  • Down on Nike? Chinese political prisoners allegedly make Adidas products.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois is a corporate criminal. Chemical companies are testing pesticides on human beings.
  • Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, questions whether the Pentagon's financial controls have suffered a "complete and utter breakdown."
  • Environmental crimes prosecution are down sharply under Clinton/Gore. Bush/Quayle had a better record.
  • Bell Atlantic buys Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are illustrations to sell telephone products.
  • Companies that have workers die on the job continue to be met with fines. Criminal prosecutions are still rare.

his is the price we pay for living in Corporate America. Wealth disparity, megamergers and the resulting consolidation of corporate power, commercialism run amok, rampant corporate crime, death without justice, pollution, cancer and an unrelenting attack on democracy.

The 1998 market run-up might make plugged-in America feel good about itself, but big business is eating out the democratic foundation of the country. When the empty shell crumbles, what kind of chaos might we anticipate?

If you have justice on your mind, herewith for the tenth consecutive year is Multinational Monitor's effort to pinpoint those responsible. It is, admittedly, a short list -- the Ten Worst Corporations of 1998. But it is a representative list, and as the damage becomes more apparent, as the outrage at, and contempt for, our fearless leaders grows, surely the list, too, will grow.


The Ten Worst Corporations of 1998 are:


Chevron, for continuing to do business with a brutal dictatorship in Nigeria and for alleged complicity in the killing of civilian protesters.

Coca-Cola, for hooking America's kids on sugar and soda water. Today, teenage boys and girls drink twice as much soda pop as milk, whereas 20 years ago they drank nearly twice as much milk as soda.

General Motors, for becoming an integral part of the Nazi war machine, and then years later, when documented proof emerges, denying it.

Loral and its chief executive Bernard Schwartz, for dumping $2.2 million into Clinton/Gore and Democratic Party coffers. The Clinton administration responded by approving a human rights waiver to clear the way for technology transfers to China.

Mobil, for supporting the Indonesian military in crushing an indigenous uprising in Aceh province and allegedly allowing the military to use company machinery to dig mass graves.

Monsanto, for introducing genetically engineered foods into the food stream without adequate safety testing and without labeling, thus exposing consumers to unknown risks.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, for pleading guilty to felony crimes for dumping oil in the Atlantic Ocean and then lying to the Coast Guard about it.

Unocal, for engaging in numerous acts of pollution and law violations, to such a degree that citizens in California petitioned the state's attorney general to revoke the company's charter.

Wal-Mart, for crushing small town America, for paying low, low wages (a huge percentage of Wal-Mart workers are eligible for food stamps), for using Asian child labor and for homogenizing the population; and last, but not least,

Warner-Lambert, for marketing a hazardous diabetes drug, Rezulin, which has been linked to at least 33 deaths due to liver injuries.

As the millennium approaches, keep your eyes open for nasty corporate predators in your neck of the woods. Keep a list. Check it twice. Then send along your nominations for the Ten Worst Corporations of 1999.

Happy New Year.

  Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor. (c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman.