In an event thought to be a direct consequence of the Dow-Carbide Merger, two corporate officials have been jailed after surrendering themselves to US justice. The sentences “should send a strong deterrent message to those,” according to corporate crime busting US Deputy Attorney General James Griffin “who participate in international cartels that target American businesses and consumers.”
In affirming the punishment due the two Norweigan executives of Odfjell ASA, world’s foremost operators of deep-sea chemical tankers, the Deputy Attorney General could hardly have been more specific about the quarry of ‘corporate accountability’, US style. The dastardly price-fixing duo, Bjoern Sjaastad and Erik Nilsen, are now out of Norway and into a US slammer thanks to a voluntary extradition agreement struck by their company with US officials. To make matters worse, the Wall Street Journal has speculated that Ofdjell ASA and their main competitor Stolt-Nielsen were only fixing prices because the bottom had fallen out of the chemical tanker market after Carbide became Dow.
In the meantime, former CEO and Assistant Secretary of Union Carbide Warren Anderson and John MacDonald – fugitives from justice for over 11 years, the former as accused no.1, the latter as summoned representative of the also fugitive company, both in breach of conditions set by a US Federal judge, participants in a culpable homicide that targeted thousands of India’s poorest people – live comfortable, affluent lives unmolested by the US justice system yet under its very nose. It’s now been six months since India finally asked the US for Anderson, and the silence from the US Justice department is deafening. Hold on, did we just hear someone say “double standards”?
As the man summoned to represent his company to answer charges of culpable homicide in the Bhopal court, John MacDonald is the unknown figure in Union Carbide’s rarely mentioned criminal evasion of the law. In October 1991, criminal charges were reinstated against both Anderson and Carbide. On February 21st 1992, after several summons had been ignored, the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal, Gulab Sharma, published a notice in the Washington Post declaring that MacDonald, as Carbide’s named official, “has absconded or concealed himself to avoid the service of the said warrant”, thus joining Warren on the lam.
But whereas Warren slipped into the shadows of his exclusive golf club, MacDonald brazenly carried on his career with Carbide, reaching the highly respectable position of President of the Union Carbide Foundation, Carbide’s very own grant making trust. You can judge for yourself just how charitable the Foundation’s awards have been here.
So while Messrs Anderson and Macdonald continue their hyper privileged lives, a CEO ordinarily resident in another continent has been sent to prison in the US without even a formal extradition process for a financial crime committed against Dow-Carbide and others that was made necessary by the Dow-Carbide merger. He must be wishing he’d merely killed a few thousand people instead.
You can read about the two sorry Norwegian executives and the staggering ironies of the case here.