At Dow’s AGM today, with the shareholder’s vote on a Bhopal resolution safely out of the way, William Stavropoulos finally admitted he had ‘misspoken’ at last year’s meeting when denying the existence of outstanding criminal charges against Union Carbide. After the confession, Stavropoulos slithered away from every other question on the dreaded criminal charges more adroitly than an oiled anaconda. Next year he will be forced to disclose that he’d repeated the original lie – ‘oh, silly old me’ – immediately prior to today’s vote, which despite Dow’s bare-faced concealing of the truth garnered six per cent of Dow’s shares against the company’s motion to dismiss – more than enough to enable proponents to reintroduce the resolution in 2005.
Meantime, there was more plenty more squirming. “To the best of my knowledge, er, we have no knowledge…” Stavropoulos offered in one inadvertent lurch towards profound truth, before it was revealed that what he/Dow knew not of was the MP government’s stated intention to sue Dow over contamination left behind at Carbide’s factory in Bhopal. Designed to put shareholder’s minds at rest over executive management’s understanding of the risks posed by Bhopal, this ludicrous denial was merely one in a bewildering series that also included ‘I have no awareness of Union Carbide making that allegation (of sabotage)’ – meaning that the CEO behind Dow’s 2001 takeover of Carbide would like shareholders to believe he had not actually bothered to look at the alleged causes behind the world’s largest industrial catastrophe before sealing the deal with the fugitive accused.
In all, it was a humiliating display of incompetence by Stavropoulos, acted out purely for the sake of keeping shareholders blind to the gargantuan liabilities crunching unerringly towards the company – those same liabilities which were brought upon Dow by Stavropoulos’s incompetence.
“To The Best of My Knowledge, Er, We Have No Knowledge…”
MIDLAND, MICHIGAN, 13 May 2004 — At Dow Chemicals’ shareholder meeting held today in Midland, Michigan, the Bhopal resolution introduced by Boston Common Asset Management secured more than 6 percent of shareholders’ votes or 40 million shares, enabling the proponents to reintroduce the resolution next year. The resolution, which was supported by influential shareholders such as the California Pension Fund and the New York Comptrollers Office, required Dow to report the steps taken by it in addressing the Bhopal liabilities, and in containing the reputational damage Dow continues to suffer as a result of its ongoing refusal to remedy the situation in Bhopal.
Describing the vote as a postive step in educating shareholders of Dow’s pending Bhopal liabilities, Bhopal survivors and 2004 Goldman Prize winners Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla said they chose to remain outside the shareholders’ meeting because they were “lied to” by the CEO last year. “Our apprehensions were confirmed this year. The company continues to mislead shareholders on significant liabilities that continue to be heard in courts in India and the US,” said Bee and Shukla. “It should concern shareholders and other members of the public that Dow has a pathological tendency to mislead its investors as a means of evading liability.”
Despite acknowledging that he “misspoke” at the 2003 AGM on the matter of pending criminal charges against Union Carbide Corporatation, Dow CEO William Stavropoulos “misspoke” again this year stating that “The 1989 settlement resolved all criminal and civil liabiilties” related to the Bhopal disaster. In 1992, the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal declared Union Carbide Corporation a fugitive from justice for refusing to appear in Bhopal to face charges of manslaughter.
The CEO misled its shareholders that the Union Carbide site in India had been cleaned up, and that any remaining contamination is the responsibility of the Madhya Pradesh Government. Last month, Mr. Babu Lal Gaur, Minister for Gas Relief in the Madhya Pradesh Government, said that the Government will move against Dow Chemical for remediation of the Bhopal site. On March 17, 2004, the Federal Appeals court in New York affirmed survivors’ claims against Union Carbide for site remediation.
“The fact that the CEO said that he will deal with the impending legal challenge by the Indian Government on the matter of site clean up when the matter comes up exposes that Dow is only going to continue to react to increasing liability as opposed to taking a proactive stance,” said Lauren Compere of Boston Common Asset Management, the Boston-based investment firm that had introduced the Bhopal resolution.
On the matter of Dow’s dioxin contamination of the Saginaw watershed, the company fielded several questions by irate shareholders responding that “Chloracne is the most serious illness associated with dioxins in humans.”
Michelle Hurd-Riddick of Bay City-based Lone Tree Council said: “Dow’s responses on dioxin expose the company as either ignorant of science or unwilling to confront and deal with the dioxin problem.”
For more information, contact: Nityanand Jayaraman: 520 906 5216 (cell)