Jewish World Review Feb. 16, 2005 /7 Adar I, 5765
Weak-kneed corporate CEOs
On Jan. 20, 2005, J.P. Morgan Chase announced that it had
completed research to determine whether it had any links to slavery. Its
website (www2.bankone.com/presents/home/) announced: "Today, we are
reporting that this research found that between 1831 and 1865 two of our
predecessor banks Citizens Bank and Canal Bank in Louisiana accepted
approximately 13,000 enslaved individuals as collateral on loans and took
ownership of approximately 1,250 of them when the plantation owners
defaulted on the loans."
J.P. Morgan Chase went on to "apologize to the American public,
and particularly to African-Americans, for the role that Citizens Bank and
Canal Bank played during that period." They added, "Since these events took
place in Louisiana, we are establishing a $5 million college scholarship
program for students living in Louisiana."
In January 2004, U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle dismissed a
reparations lawsuit brought against companies such as J.P. Morgan Chase,
FleetBoston Financial and Brown & Williamson Tobacco that contended that
either they or their corporate ancestors profited from insuring slave ships,
using slaves or financing businesses built with slave labor. Judge Norgle
said the statute of limitations had long past, the plaintiffs did not have
standing, and they failed to establish a clear link to the companies they
targeted. The court's decision comes close to a kiss of death for
reparations through the judicial process but not through the mau-mau
Some corporations have chief executive officers who double as
the corporations' chief appeasement officers. A CEO/CAO will do nearly
anything to befriend anti-capitalist forces, and J.P. Morgan Chase is seen
as a soft target. Maybe that's why the Rainforest Action Network, an
eco-activist group, transported Fairfield County, Connecticut second-graders
to New York City in an attempt to pressure J.P. Morgan Chase CEO William B.
Harrison into agreeing to stop lending money to development projects that
"cause global warming."
Corporate Social Responsibility Watch (csrwatch.com) keeps an
eye on the leftist attack on American corporations and corporate cowardice
in the face of these attacks. Last year, CSRW listed the "Top Ten Worst
Moments in Free Enterprise for 2004."
Among those listed are Monsanto's CEO Hugh Grant, who caved in
to pressure from Greenpeace and announced the company was shelving plans to
develop genetically engineered wheat.
Ford Motor Co. CEO William Ford Jr., in an effort to befriend
environmentalists, publicly supported a 50-cent-per-gallon gas tax.
British Petroleum's CEO John Browne devised a $100
million-a-year public relations campaign that characterizes oil as a
"necessary evil" and in the process deceitfully started changing its
corporate identity from "British Petroleum" to "Beyond Petroleum."
Citigroup and Bank of America agreed to allow Rainforest Action
Network to dictate their lending practices such as not financing projects
that don't meet with environmentalists' approval.
Also included among CSRW's top 10 are Whole Foods, Starbucks,
Dunkin' Donuts, Kraft Foods and Procter & Gamble, which have been mau-maued
into paying higher, so-called "fair trade" prices for coffee beans in the
name of helping struggling farmers.
Do corporations have social responsibility? Yes. Nobel Laureate
Professor Milton Friedman put it best in 1970 when he said that in a free
society "there is one and only one social responsibility of business to
use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits
so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages
in open and free competition without deception or fraud."
Only people, not businesses, have responsibilities. A CEO is an
employee. He's an employee of shareholders and customers. When the corporate
executive community fails to recognize that fact and engages in activities
unrelated to the pursuit of profits, lower national wealth, higher product
prices, and lower return on investment are the result. Corporate executives
caving in to anti-capitalists' attacks will not buy peace. Capitulation only
whets anti-capitalist appetites for bigger, bolder and more widespread
attacks and extortion.
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