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International Alliance for Justice in Bhopal
Press Release: Thursday May 11, 2000
Nisant Jain and Sundaravalli Sudarsan, Association for India's Development (773) 612-0799 on site
Corey Conn, International Alliance for Justice in Bhopal (773) 612-0799 on site
Lucinda V Wykle-Rosenberg , INFACT (617) 842-0738 on site
Ann Leonard, Essential Action (510) 524-4495
Indian and US Activists to Alert Dow Shareholders of two Pending Class Actions: Dow Will Inherit Criminal Liability of UCC
MIDLAND, MICHIGAN (May 11, 2000) Dow Chemical shareholders arriving here today for Dow's annual Shareholders' Meeting will be alerted to two federal class action lawsuits which substantially affect Dow's proposed merger with Union Carbide (UCC). A demonstration by US and Indian citizens featuring large puppets, will take place at 12:30 pm outside Dow Gardens. Participants representing a growing coalition of students and environmental health activists concerned with environmental justice and corporate accountability will contrast the ethics of Dow's pledge of Responsible Care with the actions of its new partner, Union Carbide.
Members of the International Alliance for Justice in Bhopal will offer details of the pending lawsuits which Dow officers did not disclose to their shareholdersnor, evidentlyto the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The activists fear that Dow will eliminate the Union Carbide name without resolving UCC's outstanding and substantial liabilities. Consequently, the acquisition may be severely overpriced.
Dow has four subsidiaries in India where Union Carbide has been officially declared a "proclaimed absconder" or fugitive from justice with the result that all of UCC's properties in India are attached by the Bhopal District Court. Satinath Sarangi, who lives in Bhopal and is a member of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action and a plaintiff against Union Carbide in the recent class action suit, explained that UCC is liable for damages in excess on $1 billion and, if the merger goes through, "we will seek confiscation of Dow's assets in India to put towards Union Carbide's criminal and environmental liabilities."
Naming as defendants both Union Carbide and its former CEO, Warren Anderson, one suit alleges grave violations of international law and fundamental human rights, actual and constructive fraud, civil contempt, and reckless and depraved indifference to human life, and total failure to comply with the lawful orders of the U.S. and Indian courts. The second suit, filed last week, specifically alleges that Dow violated Section 13(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 when it filed with the SEC on August 13, 1999, documents containing false statements and omissions regarding Dow's exposure to potential liabilities stemming from the 1984 disaster at Union Carbide's former pesticide plant in Bhopal, India should Dow acquire Union Carbide by merger. Dow's shareholders may be eligible to participate as plaintiffs in this lawsuit.
Union Carbide continues to deny responsibility for the deadly chemical release and has never apologized for its negligence. Over half a million people in Bhopal, India have been permanently disabled by chronic illnesses and over sixteen thousand have died from their exposure to a mixture of toxic gases leaked from Union Carbide's pesticide factory fifteen years ago. Monthly, 10 to 15 new victims succumb to chronic bronchial asthma, recurrent chest infections, and immunological disorders. Additional potential liabilities derive from the migration of toxic chemicals from the abandoned pesticide plant into surrounding community water supplies. Over 200 wells have been declared unfit for human consumption by Bhopal municipal authorities. Gynecological problems in the communities immediately surrounding the factory include elevated rates of spontaneous abortion and stillbirth. Studies of children of mothers exposed to the gases revealed evidence of chromosomal aberrations including sister-chromatid exchange indicating likelihood of congenital abnormalities among future generations.
"If the merger is permitted, all Union Carbide's outstanding legal and moral liabilities must be assumed by Dow" insisted Corey Conn, with the International Alliance for Justice in Bhopal. According to Conn "Indian and US activists are demanding the release of withheld data regarding the composition of the gases , the provision of medical care and economic compensation for those who lost family members, health and livelihoods. The contaminated factory in Bhopal must be cleaned and Union Carbide's unlawful evasion of due process and court orders must end."
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