Major panic at Dow on eve of Bhopal Court hearing

Jitters at Dow Chemical on the eve of a Bhopal court hearing have resulted in the magical reappearance of something which observers thought had vanished forever – Union Carbide Corporation – in the form of a hastily flung together two-page website.

Dow was due to appear in Court today to show cause why it should not be named as a defendant in the case in place of its 100% owned subsidiary Union Carbide, which has failed to show up since proceedings began in 1992 and which, along with its ex-Chairman Warren Anderson, has been declared an “absconder from justice”.

Union Carbide’s Indian assets were seized by the Court, since when Carbide US has simply thumbed its nose at the judge and said, in effect, “You can’t touch us, we’re American”. Dow, which controversially merged with Union Carbide in 2001, is in a much more vulnerable position. If it is arraigned as an accused, and should the case go against it, substantial assets in India are at risk.

Dow claims that it bears no responsibility for Carbide’s actions and liabilities in India. However it has accepted Carbide’s asbestos liabilities in the US. In the court in Bhopal this morning, Dow’s lawyer argued that Dow (India) had no connection with Dow Chemical (US) and that Dow Chemical had no connection with the affairs of its 100% subsidiary Union Carbide Corporation. Carbide, the lawyer said, is a separate and independent company.

There is in fact overwhelming evidence that Carbide has been completely and seamlessly absorbed into Dow and part of that evidence is the way Dow presented itself and Carbide after the controversial 2001 merger.

In the internet era, it is inconceivable that a company of Carbide’s claimed size and importance would not have its own website, but shortly after the merger, www.ucarbide.com (aka unioncarbide.com) vanished and callers were routed straight to dow.com – and not even to a separate Carbide section of dow.com – a fact which virtually announced to the world that Union Carbide as a separate company had ceased to exist.

Unfortunately for Dow, the evidence for this is preserved in sites like the Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine” which keep copies of old websites going back years. This site has all the details of Carbide’s public metamorphosis into Dow. The cached sites go back to 1997 when Carbide was Carbide. After the 2001 takeover Carbide vanishes and you just get Dow. No separate identity, no independence, not the slightest pretence of it. As recently as two days ago, on 1st September 2004, Carbide was still lost in Dow.

Dow executives have told the media, their own shareholders and now the court that no danger can possibly exist of Dow’s being dragged into the case, but they know this is not true because, at the last minute, on the very eve of the hearing in Bhopal, someone got seriously scared.

Yesterday, a new ucarbide.com site was hastily set up with only two new pages. All the rest are linked back to dow.com with the feeble comment that – “*Some unioncarbide.com content is hosted on www.dow.com, the website of our parent company. In these cases, a separate window will open.”

Why do this in such a hurry, the very day before the court hearing in Bhopal? Why do it so badly? Why bother with the disclaimer? Who cares where your web pages live?

The answer is that Dow has lied to the court, just as it has consistently lied to the media and to its own shareholders. Dow is vulnerable, and is now in serious danger of sliding into the abyss that is the misery of Bhopal.

Comments Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action, “Dow is trying to use the notorious corporate veils to distance itself from the continuing crime in Bhopal. We are hopeful that Dow will soon be caught in its own web of lies.”

Well, the web of lies is there for all to see.

Here’s how we know when Dow had its panic

A larger view of the courtroom and dock, with missing defendants

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