ANZ Wins 2014 Roger Award
ANZ Wins 2014 Roger Award
IAG Second; Food & Grocery Council Wins Accomplice Award
The full 2014 Roger Award Judges’ Report is online at http://canterbury.cyberplace.co.nz/community/CAFCA/pdf/roger-award-2014.pdf
The six finalists for the 2014 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation Operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand were, in alphabetical order: ANZ, British American Tobacco NZ, Coca Cola Amatil, IAG/State Insurance, PGG Wrightson, and Rio Tinto.
The criteria for judging are by assessing the transnational (a corporation with 25% or more foreign ownership) that has the most negative impact in each or all of the following categories: economic dominance - monopoly, profiteering, tax dodging, cultural imperialism; people - unemployment, impact on tangata whenua, impact on women, impact on children, abuse of workers/conditions, health and safety of workers and the public; environment - environmental damage, abuse of animals; and political interference - interference in democratic processes, running an ideological crusade.
ANZ, which also won in 2009, has been a regular finalist, most recently in 2013. In 2014 it was selected as a finalist for two major reasons: exploitation of workers, and profiteering. The nominator said: “I take particular exception to this statement by ANZ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) David Hisco: ‘I don’t think employees should see the business they work in as a partnership where profits are shared. Banks don’t ask workers to chip in out of their own bank accounts when they are short of capital’ (Press, 12/11/14; ‘ANZ Bank boss gets bumper pay rise’)”. That particular quote resonated with the judges as well – it appears several times in the Judges’ Report (attached). The Judges’ Statement, by Chief Judge Paul Maunder, concludes: “Some commentators consider that we are in a new period of ‘primitive accumulation’. The behaviour of ANZ would seem to confirm this. It is certainly a worthy winner”.
The Judges’ Report concludes: “ANZ epitomises the ugly face of modern finance, weakening the national economy while it rorts its customers through inflated margins; dodging tax at every opportunity, wriggling through the regulatory loopholes left open by lax legislation and poor enforcement, and dumping on its staff. … ANZ in New Zealand puts into the spotlight the widening gap between ordinary workers and the high-flying club of self-serving greedy chief executives, running large businesses whose corporate strategies entirely lack any sense of social responsibility or ethical sense of direction. CEO Hisco is no more than an overpaid hired gun, facing down the bank’s workforce for the benefit of his Australian owners (and his own pockets), and in the process setting new records for the gap between the top 1% and the rest of us”.
The runner up was IAG/State Insurance, which was a finalist for the third consecutive year (that is no surprise to anyone who has lived in Christchurch since 2010). This time the nomination was for: economic dominance (specifically insurance market dominance and profiteering), and impact on people. “Four years after the Christchurch earthquakes started the insurance transnationals (of which IAG/State is by far the biggest) are still making life hell for many thousands of Christchurch people. For example, see the evidence about State's treatment of one of its 92 year old customers. That is not an isolated instance, either. There is another example about another 90 year old. Nor is it only residential customers who are getting the runaround from IAG/State. There are examples of building and business owners stuck in limbo. We pay insurance for peace of mind. For huge numbers of Christchurch people they have had, and continue to have, anything but that. This sets a precedent for what the rest of the country can expect from IAG/State and the other insurance TNCs in the event of a major disaster”.
The Also Rans
British American Tobacco NZ has been a regular finalist and it won the 2008 Roger Award. The nominator said: “This company; in the certain knowledge that their product kills and disables thousands of people, persists in promoting it. Robbing people of life is infinitely worse than robbing them of material possessions, sovereignty, etc. In my view, no other transnational company can match the depravity of this company’s wanton murder. Reference: chapter 7 of ‘Dirty Politics’.Also NZ Food & Grocery Council as accomplice” (it duly won the Accomplice Award; see below).
Coca Cola Amatil made its first appearance in the Roger Award finalists. The nomination was titled: “Hiding Harm With Clever Marketing”. An extract: “Effectively this nomination is not about anything unusual this year but an affirmation of growing public awareness of the danger of rising sugar consumption and a highly effective company that mitigates the unhealthy nature of its core products through advertising and support for community-focused activities that further promote its brands. By persistently peddling high sugar drinks that can be addictive, Coca Cola Amatil is undermining the health of many New Zealanders and contributing to increased costs to the health budget”.
PGG Wrightson also made its first appearance as a Roger Award finalist. “The grounds are harm to the environment and to animals. They have also placed people in danger… The reason is their development and continued sale of HT (high tolerance) swedes and other herbicide-tolerant brassicas. The seeds were developed by PGG Wrightson and they are sold together with Telar (a herbicide manufactured by Du Pont, but it is PGGW that does the retailing in this case). The herbicide is sprayed after the seeds are planted using the Cleancrop system that was developed by PGGW in partnership with Du Pont. A problem with this is that last year (2013) a significant number of cows fed on HT Swedes grown using this system died. The symptoms sound like some sort of poisoning. It could be either the herbicide or the swedes themselves that are causing the problem, but PGGW sold both the swedes and the herbicide and are continuing to do so”.
Rio Tinto won the 2013 and 2011 Roger Awards and was runner up in 2012, 2009 and 08. One of the reasons that it won in 2013 was it was the recipient of the most outrageous example of corporate welfare that year, namely $30 million of taxpayers’ money to bribe it to keep its Bluff smelter open for a few more years. In 2014 Rio Tinto announced a $3.7 billion global profit, but said that it will keep the $30m NZ handout. In 2014 it was nominated for economic dominance and political interference: “Southland workers and the economy of Southland are being held to ransom”; and for its impact on the environment: “It belches steam and smoke 24/7”. Another nominator said: “Of all the candidates for the Roger Award, Rio Tinto is the arch-villain, and should receive it every year, not just sometimes. A squeaky door, nagging approach is necessary for Rio Tinto”. Paul Maunder wrote, in the Judges’ Statement: “It is the classic transnational act and as a country, we remain the classic victim. Once again, it received good marks and was judged the winner by one of our team”.
Accomplice Award: Winner
This is for an organisation (not an individual) which was the worst Accomplice during the year in aiding and abetting transnational corporations in New Zealand to behave as described in the criteria. The Accomplice Award is in addition to the Worst Transnational Corporation Award and is at the judges’ discretion. It will not necessarily be awarded every year (none was awarded for 2013 because the judges said that there was no competition – meaning that the Government was winning it, unopposed, virtually every year). But for the first time ever, 2014 saw a genuine contest for the Accomplice Award, with four finalists. As always, there was the Government, specifically for its commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). But there were also, in alphabetical order: Callaghan Innovation, the Food and Grocery Council,and Te Runanga A Iwi O Ngapuhi. The nomination for British American Tobacco NZ also nominated the Food and Grocery Council for the Accomplice Award, specifically in connection with BAT.
Paul Maunder wrote: “The winner proved to be an innocuous sounding body, called the Food and Grocery Council. But the Council, in fact, ‘represents a range of large and aggressive foreign and local companies including those marketing alcohol, the biggest seller in supermarkets’. The CEO is Katherine Rich, former National Party MP. The Board Chairman who appointed her was the NZ Managing Director of Coca Cola Amatil.
“Rich has become then, a leading industry lobbyist in fighting attempts at alcohol and tobacco law reform, and public health policies aiming at reducing obesity and other initiatives. Often these are difficult cases to argue (you mean we should feed our kids sugary drinks?), so how does she lobby? Mainly via Carrick Graham, son of former National Minister, Doug Graham, who in turn feeds Whale Oil blogger, Cameron Slater, PR releases, which Slater posts as his own blogs (in return for payment). For example, when Fonterra (a member of the Council) was in trouble for E.coli contamination, Rich could send, via Graham to Slater, a placating and calming statement, which then appeared as Slater’s opinion. The same methodology was used when a class action was proposed against Coca Cola re type 2 diabetes. This involved attacking people involved in the class action. It was the same thing for the proposal to ban energy drinks in schools and attacks on infant formula for babies.
“But the plot thickens, as they say, for Rich was appointed by the National government to the board of the Health Promotion Agency, which guided its policy on alcohol, obesity and tobacco, and was supposedly acting in the best interests of the nation. It is a Mafia world of manipulation by corporate forces and degradation of the political process. Unfortunately, as Nicky Hager has pointed out only too well, it is the political reality within which we live” (the evidence to support this decision came from Nicky Hager’s explosive 2014 book “Dirty Politics”.).
Accomplice Award: Runner Up
“The runner up in the Accomplice Award is Te Runanga A Iwi O Ngapuhi. In 2012 the Roger Award was won by Taejin Fisheries Company Ltd (http://canterbury.cyberplace.co.nz/community/CAFCA/publications/Roger/Roger2012.pdf), for operating slave ships using Third World workers, aided and abetted by the NZ fishing companies that held the quota. The truly awful conditions on these ships had been exposed by journalists, forcing the Government to promise to pass a Bill which would enforce all ships operating in NZ waters to fly the NZ flag and operate under NZ employment law. This Bill duly came before Parliament in 2014, but Ngapuhi inveigled the Maori Party to get an amendment added which would give the Runanga an exemption on the employment of foreign crews on foreign vessels. According to Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell: ‘Maori wanted more time to get into the business’. Presumably he meant more time to accumulate capital, and the best way to do this is to exploit labour. As Talley Group’s Peter Talley stated: ‘It is a national scandal that Maori, given settlement quota for the purpose of bringing young Maori into the business of fishing, are now given a preferential right to use Third World foreign labour to harvest those very resources”. Luckily, the amendment was thrown out, and the Bill passed. It was a scandal that iwi had been involved in this exploitation of their Pacific brothers. To try and hold on to that exploitation was extraordinary. But that, as they say, is capitalism”.
Accomplice Award: Also Rans
“The Government was entered mainly because of its Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations, with one judge agreeing with the nominator, that it ‘will reduce NZ to a conquered nation’. But the majority decided to focus on the other nominees, which are, to say the least, devious.
“The Callaghan Innovation (Fund), of the NZ Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, has been discovered giving taxpayer grants for research and development (R&D) to transnational companies such as Bayer (German-owned), Radio Specialist 4RF (Cayman Islands holding company-owned), Endace Technology (USA-owned), Atlantis Healthcare Group (predominantly British Virgin Islands-owned), CRV Cattle Breeding Specialist (Dutch-owned) and Fisher and Paykel Appliances (China/Singapore…). These companies, operating generally from tax havens, set up a NZ branch which then qualifies for a grant. At the same time, the NZ branch usually ‘loses’ money and produces a tax credit. Bayer, for example, had sales the previous year of $49 billion, with a net profit of $3.2 billion. Why would it need a R&D grant from the NZ taxpayer? As we have seen from ANZ and IAG, ruthlessness is the flavour of the time. Atlantis Healthcare Group is, it seems, a ‘world leader in designing and implementing patient support and adherence programmes’, whatever they may be. It is 76% owned by an entity in the British Virgin Islands, where the company tax rate is zero. Nevertheless, it gets a grant from the NZ taxpayer. The story goes on. We better sell some State houses to pay for this”.
The judges were: David Small, a lawyer and Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Canterbury; Dean Parker,Auckland writer and former Writers’ Guild delegate to the Council of Trade Unions; Dennis Maga, union activist from the May First Movement Philippines, organiser of FIRST Union and founder of Migrante and UNEMIG; Paul Maunder, cultural worker, curator of Blackball Museum of Working Class History and coordinator of Unions West Coast; and Sue Bradford,community activist, and former Green MP.
The winners were announced at a Christchurch event on the night of May 1st.
For the Roger Award organisers