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Page   1 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

Corporations - Page 14

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini

The Economic Elite Vs. The People of the United States
"The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One"

Wal-Mart's $40 Million Employee Class Action Settlement

Employee Advocate - - December 7, 2009

Wal-Mart's $40 million class action settlement will be the largest wage-and-hour class-action settlement in Massachusetts, according to The Boston Globe.

The lawsuit, filed in 2001, accused Wal-Mart of refusing to pay overtime, denying workers rest and meal breaks, and manipulating time cards to lower employees' pay.

In September, Wal-Mart made a $3 million in a similar case in Massachusetts.

Last year, Wal-Mart paid $640 million to settle 63 federal and state class-action wage-and-hour lawsuits.

Jury Awards Wal-Mart Employees $78.5 Million-Plus

Strange Bedfellows

Employee Advocate – – February 16, 2007

The government’s top environmental prosecutor, ConocoPhillips’ VP, and its top lobbyist make strange bedfellows according to the Associated Press (AP). The three bought a $1 million vacation home at Kiawah Island, S.C.

In April 2006, the proud owners were Assistant Attorney General Sue Ellen Wooldridge, ConocoPhillips Vice President Donald R. Duncan, and former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles. AP describes Griles as “the highest-ranking Bush administration official targeted for criminal prosecution in the Jack Abramoff corruption probe.”

Steven Griles is now an oil and gas lobbyist. He began dating Wooldridge when he was her boss. They now own condo together in Virginia.

The prosecutor was romantically involved and owned a home with the company’s lobbyist, who was her former boss. That’s a cozy relationship. When the happy couple jointly owns a vacation home with the company’s VP, that is strange bedfellows indeed! Could such a relationship possibly benefit ConocoPhillips?

On Jan. 5, other prosecutors informed Griles of criminal charges they are seeking against him. On Jan. 8, Sue Ellen Wooldridge resigned her position. But before she did, she sighed proposed consent decrees with ConocoPhillips, delaying a half-billion-dollar pollution cleanup.

Paul Light, a professor at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service, said the ConocoPhillips settlement "creates the impression of favoritism, or favors due…From an appearance standpoint it's awful, and from a legal standpoint it's questionable. Political appointees have been indicted for less."

It seems that ConocoPhillips has suddenly gotten religion. It is making changes to its bylaws and ethics code: "The promise, offer or delivery to an official or employee of the U.S. government of a gift, favor or other gratuity in violation of these rules would not only violate company policy but could also be a criminal offense."

Apparently anything that is not specifically ruled out in the company ethics code is considered fair game. Must the company ethics code incorporate the entire Federal Penal Code to keep the executives under control?

How Feds' Top Environmental Prosecutor Built Home With Big-Oil Lobbyist

Jury Awards Wal-Mart Employees $78.5 Million-Plus

Employee Advocate – – November 14, 2006, 2006

Last month, a jury awarded Wal-Mart employees over $78.5 Million over missed breaks, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Wal-Mart was found to have worked employees through rest breaks and off the clock.

Additional penalties will be awarded by Common Pleas Court Judge Mark Bernstein, regarding state wage-and-hour and contractual laws. These penalties could add another $62 million to the settlement.

Wal-Mart was also ordered to pay the employees' legal fees on top of the award.

Wal-Mart settled a Colorado suit for $50 million and is appealing a $172 million ruling in California.

Wal-Mart ‘Chairman’ Blasts Jews, Arabs and Koreans

Getty Trust Head Resigns Amid Investigations

Employee Advocate – – February 12, 2006

Every time a mass of money is accumulated there will be those trying to get their hands on it. It does not matter if it is pension funds or money for charity, the sleazebags will come out of the woodwork, trying to get at it. CEO’s often get caught with their hands in the cookie jar because they have opportunity. When access and opportunity are combined with a lack of ethics and an abundance of greed, it is no wonder that the cookie jar is so often wiped out.

Thursday, Barry Munitz, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, abruptly resigned amid investigations of improper spending, according to the Washington Post. He is under investigation by the California attorney general's office, an internal Getty committee, and the Council on Foundations in Washington.

Last year, the Los Angeles Times reported Munitz spent foundation money on a $72,000 Porsche, first-class air fair for him and his wife, and $1,000 a night hotel rooms. He also wanted an increase in salary. Evidently he felt that $1.2 million a year was not adequate pay for squandering the foundation’s money.

The most shocking news of all is that the Getty board of trustees stated that Munitz will not receive a severance package! CEO’s usually get a fat severance package, no matter how disastrous their performance has been. Another shocker is that Munitz will have to pay $250,000 to the foundation. The usual rules are whatever money the departing CEO can get out the door is his, plus, he will reap severance pay, bonuses, and pensions galore!

What really makes this an unusual case is that Munitz resigned without being convicted of any crime. Normally, a CEO (or politician) never admits to anything.

When a CEO is charged with a crime, he will:

  1. Declare the case is without merit.

  2. Vow to be fully exonerated.

  3. Promise a “vigorous defense.”

Even as the convicted CEO is being led to a prison cell, he will declare “I’m not a crook!”

But in this case, Munitz voluntarily resigned and apparently accepted punishment. What a radical concept – a CEO accepting responsibility for his actions!

The $7 billion foundation has suffered other problems. Last year, Marion True, Getty Museum antiquities curator, was indicted on charges of trafficking in stolen art in Italy. In October, she resigned, but only after a report of an improper real estate deal appeared.

Edward Goldman, KCRW art critic, said "They are trying to build up a reputation as a scholarly museum. At same time, when something goes wrong, they act like a corporation. They hide behind barriers."

If you ever want to see executives scramble to get behind the corporate veil, just ask what happened to your pension!

United Way Match?

From Fake Flu Shots to Phony Pensions

Employee Advocate – – October 30, 2005

Iyad Abu El Hawa is in federal custody for allegedly selling water, KPRC Local 2 and the Associated Press reported. What’s the big deal? Everybody is selling water these days. Yes, but Hawa is accused of selling and injecting water into people, under the guise of providing flu inoculations!

Hundreds of ExxonMobil employees near Houston received the fake flu shots. U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said Hawa is accused of Medicare fraud. About 1,100 people were stuck with the phony vaccine.

It sounds like Hawa was trying implement all the corporate gimmicks. He was trying to “do more with less.” He was “maximizing profits.” He found a “competitive advantage”: it’s cheaper to inject water than flu vaccine. He was providing “outsourcing.”

This was ExxonMobil’s first attempt at outsourcing flu shots. Corporations really love to save a few dollars through outsourcing. But when the cheap products and services come in the door, quality control often goes out.

ExxonMobil could learn from this experience – and start selling water for gasoline. Profits would soar even greater that their record $9.9 billion take last quarter. But all the cars that would not start at the pumps would be a dead giveaway.

Is there a smoking hypodermic needle? Hawa admitted to giving bogus flue shots to ExxonMobil employees, senior citizens at a La Porte nursing home, and others.

By now, American employees should be used to getting fake goods from corporations. More and more workers are finding that their pension plans are phony and their health care benefits are bogus.

What will ExxonMobil get out of the outsourcing deal, other than saving money at their employees’ expense? It will get nationwide headlines, but not the kind of headlines it wants. It may also get lawsuits from employees.

To ward off any possible litigation, ExxonMobil is offering “counseling” to workers. That should be a riot! What can be said that will alter the situation? Nothing will alter what has happened, but ExxonMobil will get an opportunity to inject its spin. How about this one? “We stress the importance of keeping our workers hydrated. Injecting water into employees is the fastest known method.” Or, “Injecting water will benefit the young, mobile (Mobil?) employee.”

Exxon Mobil Blames Duke Energy

Lowe's Class-Action Overtime Lawsuit

Employee Advocate – – October 4, 2005

A class-action employee lawsuit against Lowe’s Home Centers has been certified by a federal judge, according to the Associated Press. U. S. District Court Judge Carlos Murguia certified the class-action case on Sept. 1.

Employees are seeking compensation for unpaid overtime. The case could represent as many as 75,000 workers.

The Hickory Daily Record reported that Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Viewmont settled a lawsuit over rezoning guidelines. Plaintiff, Stanley Hall, has previously rejected a settlement of over $400,000.

Home Depot and Lowe's Settlement

More Pay for Enron Directors

Employee Advocate – – July 15, 2005

The directors of Enron have decided that more pay is needed, according to The Wall Street Journal. Every now and than a corporation will decided that it needs to pay more. Which employees will receive the pay boost? The pay increases of up to sixfold, voted on by the directors, will go to, well, the directors.

The pay scheme for director and executives seems inverted. Often, the worse they perform, the more money they make. Executives who drive a company into bankruptcy are typically offered big bonuses to stay on and finish the job! Executives who are fired often hit the jackpot. Some make more money by wrecking a company and getting fired than by working each day and doing a good job.

Things work differently on the other end of the spectrum. The employees, holding the company together, can expect shifts in compensation, but these shifts always seem to be negative. Excellent employees have been caught up in follow-the-leader layoffs that only make the company weaker.

Many senior employees find themselves victims of a stealth layoff. They still have a job, but only if they agree to work for another company. The compensation is often less and no separation packages are offered.

Employees who manage to stay employed will probably have a difficult time holding on to their benefits. Pension and health benefits are considered fair game by corporations.

Under the Enron of Houston bankruptcy reorganization plan, directors made $150,000 and the chairman made $200,000. After voting themselves pay raises, compensation ranges from $300,000 to $1.2 million, annualized.

The board plans to revisit the pay issue in six months. That means that they will have to wait a whole six-months before they can raise their pay again!

One reason given for the compensation windfall was "Directors have held dozens of in-person or telephonic meetings…”

No wonder the directors are demanding more money. Who would have thought that they might have to go to a meeting or talk on the phone?

Grigg Looks Back on Enron letter

Greed Rules at Some Energy Companies

Employee Advocate – – July 1, 2005

The Minnesota Attorney General's Office proposed that CenterPoint Energy be fined for cutting off customers’ gas last fall, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. It was alleged that the company broke state law that protects low-income customers with unpaid natural gas bills.

A reasonable fine should make the company more cognizant of the law and reinforce “right behaviors.” Regulators were urged to fine CenterPoint $5 million.

Attorney General Mike Hatch said "The behavior of CenterPoint in this case is particularly depraved. They ignored it. They told their customer representatives to lie about it."

The Public Utilities Commission ordered the investigation after it discovered that CenterPoint had cut off the gas of over 1,000 customers by mid-December.

The investigation found that CenterPoint accepted energy assistance payments for 661 of the customers, but Mr. Hatch said "They just took the money." Mr. Hatch contends the money is intended as assistance for the poor, not a subsidy for a company with a market value approaching $4 billion.

Laws governing indiscriminately disconnecting service are on the books for a very good reason. Cutting off electrical or gas service in the dead of winter can be a death warrant to the hapless customer.

Woman Freezes to Death After Power Cut

Progress Eliminating Older Workers

Employee Advocate – – June 24, 2005

Progress Energy is making progress on ways to save money, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. Progress is going to save money the old fashioned, corporate way – by spending less on employees. Senior employees will be replaced with younger, cheaper workers. To add icing to the Progress cake, the new employees will get less pension and health benefits. The company expects to save $20 million this year by hiring 1,000 lower paid workers to replace those taking the early retirement offer.

Maximizing Profits at All Cost

Employee Advocate – – March 1, 2005

The Associated Press reported that in January, three Huntsville, Alabama children were starving to death. Then Huntsville Utilities got involved. Now Shanieka Y. Ward, 11; Latricia Ward, 9; and Christopher O. Ward, 8, are all dead.

The utility cut off the power to the apartment with the three elementary school students inside. The children were found on the floor and had been dead for at least several days.

How many months was this family behind on their power bill?

Their bill was two weeks past due.

Police said that Nathshay Yvonne Ward, 33, confessed to starving her children. She is charged with capital murder. But citizens have been sending letters to the editor, wondering how the loss of power may have contributed to the deaths. One thing is certain; the loss of light and heat did not help matters any.

Huntsville Utilities rolled out spokesman Bill Yell to explain everything away. He claimed that the utility is following the law. A 30-year old federal court order prohibits Huntsville Utilities from providing "special treatment for individuals or groups desiring exceptions from the court-approved procedures."

You know what a bunch of Pollyanna’s spokespeople are. Mr. Yell even found a silver lining to the zero tolerance power cutting approach. He boasted "By having low debt, our rates are 35 percent lower than the national average."

Some citizens wonder where all the charitable organizations were when needed.

Jeffrey J. Wilken said that he has called all the agencies listed in a charities booklet. He described it as “a worthless piece of paper."

Mr. Wilken added "They tell you you don't qualify because you're too young or too old or not poor enough. They tell you to call someone else, and that person says, 'You're not a member of our church,' or 'Sorry, our pantry is empty.' Hunger is hunger and cold is cold, and I don't care who you are. To say that that woman had places to go for help is wrong. I've been to those places. There is no real help."

Woman Freezes to Death After Power Cut

The Curse of the Dragon Lady

Employee Advocate – – February 20, 2005

Former Boeing CFO Michael Sears will spend four months in prison for aiding and abetting illegal employment negotiations, according to CBS. The former CFO will also be fined $250,000 and have to perform 200 hours of community service. He pleaded guilty in November to illegally negotiating employment for Darleen Druyun, who was in charge of Air Force acquisitions.

Darleen Druyun, known as the “Dragon Lady,” called Boeing CFO Michael Sears and asked him to arrange a job for her daughter’s fiancé. She got what she wanted. This was too easy.

Three months later she wanted a job at Boeing for her daughter. She got it and later awarded Boeing a $4 billion contract. She also helped Boeing obtain more money for other contracts. Maybe there was more milk in this cow.

Ms. Druyun’s daughter emailed Mr. Sears about a job for her mother stating: “She is very interested in talking to us, but we would have to give her something that would blow her out of the water.” Ms. Druyun was offered a $250,000-a-year job as deputy general manager of Boeing’s missile defense systems, with a $50,000 signing bonus.

Evidently getting jobs for family members is all part of the game and is not illegal. But getting a job for herself with a government contractor was a violation of conflict of interest laws. Letting her daughter do the negations did not save her. Ms. Druyun pleaded guilty to a felony and was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

After investigating Ms. Druyun’s emails, Sen. John McCain said "Her job was to get the best possible price of the product for the American taxpayer. Instead, obviously she drove the price up to get the best possible deal for Boeing Corporation."

U.S. attorney Paul McNulty said "Well, in fact, she referred to her decision on the tanker deal as a parting gift to Boeing."

Ms. Druyun admitted to steering other contracts to Boeing and that family jobs "influenced her government decisions."

Boeing CEO Phil Condit decided it was a good time to check out and resigned his position.

Darleen Druyun received everything she asked for from Boeing, including an offer that would "blow her out of the water.”

Boeing’s Cozy Pentagon Relationship

Wal-Mart Follows Duke

Employee Advocate – – January 18, 2005

Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott does not like his position as poster child for greedy executives. But he has earned the reputation of being a money-grubber. He gets a lot of bad press because he makes a lot of bad moves. Wal-Mart is in a position very similar to the one that Duke Energy was in not too long ago. Wal-Mart is getting bad press because it deserves bad press.

Lee Scott is also making the very same mistake that former Duke CEO Rick Priory made. Instead of correcting his mistakes, he is trying to whitewash them. He cannot stand it when the media reports the truth. So he is going to try to drown out the press with his own version of reality, according to the Associated Press. How pathetic!

Wal-Mart bought over 100 full-page newspaper ads across the country in an attempt to revise history. Evidently Mr. Scott cannot see the futility of his actions. He was spending money with newspapers, in an attempt to discredit newspapers.

Truly desperate people will always attack the messenger. Mr. Scott is attacking the messenger for telling the truth. The media only reports all of the lawsuits against Wal-Mart because the suits are being filed. No one is making up stuff to report about Wal-Mart. In today’s world it is not necessary to make up stories about greed and deception; they are everywhere!

Employees are not alone in suing Wal-Mart. Citizens are suing because they do not want Wal-Mart stores in their neighborhoods. Wal-Mart’s Thanksgiving weekend sales failed to meet expectations. Is Mr. Scott going to say that all of the customers are wrong too? The media is not causing Wal-Mart’s problems. Wal-Mart is causing Wal-Mart’s problems. Why are CEO’s always the last ones to see to obvious?

The lawsuits against Wal-Mart run the gamut. Just this month, BBC News reported that Wal-Mart will pay $14.5 million to settle a lawsuit over thousands of gun sales violations in California.

California attorney general Bill Lockyer said "Wal-Mart's failure to comply with gun safety laws put the lives of all Californians at risk by placing guns in the hands of criminals and other prohibited persons."

Did the media force Wal-Mart to sell firearms to criminals? Wal-Mart always promises the proverbial “vigorous defense” against all lawsuits. After the vigorous defense comes the vigorous settlement!

Mr. Scott admits that he cannot blame any one source of criticism for his problems. He said "I liken it to being nibbled to death by guppies."

If Mr. Scott would examine his own statement, the true source of his problems would be reveled. A host of different sources are not likely to all be 100% wrong. It they all say that you are a low-life, skinflint, chances are very good that you are indeed a low-life, skinflint.

How did Mr. Priory’s full-page ads work for him? The situation deteriorated day by day, until he packed his bags. Paul Anderson came back to Duke and began to fix the real problems that were created by Mr. Priory. Mr. Anderson also had the good sense to cancel the silly ads. “I’m not a crook” ads only sends one message to the public – “This guy must really be a crook!”

Greg Denier, union spokesman, said "Obviously, it is a defensive reaction to growing community, consumer and worker concern about the impact of Wal-Mart. The advertising campaign is designed to cover up the reality of their operations, and they are doing it in a typically Wal-Mart deceptive way."

What kind of pay does Mr. Scott receive for constantly squeezing his employees? He made $28,963,872 in total compensation, including stock option grants, in 2003, according to Executive PayWatch.

Mr. Scott’s action is the equivalent of soaking himself in gasoline and striking a match in protest. He is going to get a lot of attention, but the results are not going to be very pretty.

Wal-Mart Employees to get Unions

I Am Not a Crook

Do No Evil

Employee Advocate – – January 3, 2005

The word “corporation” is recognized by many as a dirty word. Corporations go hand in hand with politics; executives go hand in hand with politicians. All it takes is for a country to go downhill is for charlatans to get into office. Likewise, a handful of charlatans in high positions can wreck any corporation. Many will suffer as a few enrich themselves.

In spite of all the corruption exposed over the last few years, there are still a few decent corporations around. There are still some corporations that make money honestly and ethically!

The New York Times referred to straight-shooting CEO’s in the article “Rebels With a Cause, and a Business Plan.” One such CEO is Arkadi Kuhlmann. His Internet based bank, ING Direct USA, actually encourages customers not to go into debt and to save money!

The bank also:

  • has no fees, minimum deposits, or ATM’s;

  • does not encourage debt by issuing credit cards or making auto loans; and

  • does not even encourage spending by offering checking accounts!

Mr. Kuhlmann said "One way or another, most financial companies are telling you to spend more. We're showing you how to save more. What's better than apple pie, the little guy, fighting for the underdog? We want to own that space."

Jim Buckmaster is the CEO of Craigslist, an online bulletin board, based in San Francisco. On Craigslist, users can swap messages, sell goods and services, search for apartments and look for jobs. The site has no frills, no monthly fees, and accepts no advertising! It does not advertise its "brand," does not compete with anyone, and has no logo!

The company makes a profit by charging modest fees to post job listings in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

Mr. Buckmaster said "We're definitely oddballs in the Internet industry, and we always have been. Lots of people made fun of us, especially at the height of the dot-com boom. Most of those people are out of business now."

Speaking of “oddballs in the Internet industry,” Google did not go into wild spending sprees, according to 60 Minutes. Most of the businesses that did are now bankrupt. But Google is more successful than ever.

The Google philosophy is based on the Premise: “You can make money without doing evil.”

It is indeed refreshing that some corporations are making a profit simply by delivering needed services. They do not find it necessary to rob pension funds, trade derivatives, gouge customers, or bilk employees out of their earned benefits.

Corporations - Page 13