Friday, January 11, 2002

Anniston, Alabama: In-Depth

Pollution, Contamination, Betrayal

The story of Anniston is a cautionary tale. Monsanto's internal documents, many of which are being posted here for the first time for the world to finally see, uncover a shocking story of corporate deception and dangerous secrets. As The Washington Post revealed [Monsanto Hid Decades of Pollution" (front page, Jan. 1, 2002) and "In Dirt, Water and Hogs, Town Got Its Fill of PCBs" (Jan. 1, 2002).], Monsanto hid its advanced knowledge of the health effects and vast PCB pollution problems from the public and - most importantly - from its closest neighbors, the people of Anniston. While the documents provide a glimpse into Monsanto's corporate culture, a spokesperson for a Monsanto spin-off corporation, Solutia, has repeatedly asserted that the company is "really pretty proud of what we did" and that Monsanto "did what any company would do, even today."

The Monsanto-Solutia public relations propaganda being used to counter these revelations is replete with assertions that press coverage has been unfair, based on comments from its documents "taken out of context."

Now, the world can read the story of Anniston, in context, and in Monsanto's own words.

When big companies get enough bad publicity what do they do? They change their name, of course ... or do they?

Which Monsanto is the real Monsanto?

(try saying quickly)
The old President of the old Monsanto is the new president of the new Monsanto but he says the new Monsanto isn't the old Monsanto, so if the new Monsanto isn't the old Monsanto and the old Monsanto isn't the new Monsanto but the real Monsanto is the new company ...

Which Monsanto polluted Anniston, AL?

The Story on Monsanto

In its aggressive attempt to distance itself from the toxic skeletons in its closet, the "new" Monsanto Company claims that it's not the Monsanto Company that polluted the community of Anniston, Alabama and other communities. While its current parent company, Pharmacia, prepares to spin off Monsanto into an independent company, the ghosts of Monsanto's past continue to haunt it. This begs questions about the credibility attributed to any company daring enough to sport the name.

Chronology of Monsanto's Evolution and (Supposed) Extinction

1901 Monsanto is born in St. Louis, MO.
1996 Abernathy v. Monsanto Co., Owens v. Monsanto and several other lawsuits are filed in state and federal court in Alabama, over Monsanto's pollution of people in Anniston
September, 1 1997 Solutia, Inc. is spun off from Monsanto Co. and assumes all control over (and liability for) Monsanto's chemical operations
March 31, 2000 Monsanto merges with Pharmacia and Upjohn, forming Pharmacia. Almost 100 years after it was created, Monsanto ceases to exist, in name anyway ... at least for a little while.
October17, 2000 Pharmacia creates an agricultural subsidiary, naming it Monsanto Co. Then, Pharmacia spins off 15% of the subsidiary in an initial public offering. (Pharmacia currently owns 85% of Monsanto Co.) Notably, the new Monsanto states in its 2001 proxy statement that the new Monsanto (not Pharmacia) is responsible for the liabilities of Solutia, Inc.(Old Monsanto's subsidiary) in the event Solutia, Inc. cannot meet its obligations. In the Monsanto prospectus, see bottom of page 16 and pg 17 for information about Monsanto's liability for damages Solutia is unable to pay. In the proxy statement, see page 5 and Appendix A.
November 29, 2001 On the eve of the old Monsanto Co.'s 100th anniversary, Monsanto's parent company, Pharmacia, announces plans to make the "new" Monsanto a fully independent company by the end of 2002.

Pretty confusing stuff.

Despite this self-induced identity crisis surrounding the company name Monsanto, a quick look at the people involved reveals that essentially the same cast of characters has been with the (chemical) company since it was (old) Monsanto, including some executives who've worked for the company for decades.

  • Monsanto's (biotech) President and CEO, Hendrik Verfaillie, has been with Monsanto since 1976 in a variety of positions primarily overseeing the company's herbicide products. Despite his recent assertion in published letters to the editors of several papers that Monsanto is "a new company under new management" Verfaillie himself was the President of the old Monsanto before he became President of the new Monsanto.
  • Another Monsanto Executive, Robb Fraley (Chief Technology Officer) has been with Monsanto since at least the 1980s.
  • Carl Casale, new Monsanto's Vice President of North America, was old Monsanto's Managing Director.
  • Brett Begemann, new Monsanto's Managing Director of Asia Pacific, was old Monsanto's Vice President of U.S. markets.
  • In fact, as a St. Louis Business Journal article from September 4, 2000 explains, "Hendrik Verfaillie, chief executive of the new Monsanto, will have 10 veterans of the old Monsanto ... on his management team." It includes a list of the Monsanto veterans.
  • New Monsanto's Board of Directors also has many old Monsanto names on it. This includes John Reed, who joined Monsanto's Board in 1985, and Michael Kantor, who's been with Monsanto since at least 1997, according to press reports.

It seems as if the "new management" isn't so new after all. Furthermore, Monsanto's chemical spin off, Solutia, also has several executives who came from the old Monsanto, including several who have been around since the days of Monsanto's peak PCB production in the U.S.

  • Solutia's President and COO, John C. Hunter, has worked for Monsanto since 1969 (when Monsanto still produced PCBs) in a variety of chemical marketing and engineering positions. He was named Solutia's President and COO when the new company was created in 1997.
  • Robert Kaley, Solutia's oft-quoted media spokesperson on PCB issues, has been with Monsanto (the chemical company) since 1973, when Monsanto still produced PCBs. Before "leaving" to become the Director of Environmental Affairs for Solutia, Kaley was Director of Environmental Affairs for Monsanto.

Apparently, Solutia is just as confused as we are. In March, 2001, the company posted its history on its website, saying "Although Solutia was created just a few years ago, it has a century-long history."

Wasn't it Monsanto that just celebrated its 100th anniversary? But wait, today, the same page on Solutia's website states that: "Solutia was founded in St. Louis in 1901 as Monsanto Company."


Almost the entire corporate leadership of Solutia has worked for Monsanto (the chemical company) since the days of PCB production, and the others have been with Monsanto since at least before the Abernathy v. Monsanto suit was filed in Anniston:

  • Hunter (President and COO) joined Monsanto in 1969
  • Barnickol (Senior VP, General Counsel, and Secretary) joined Monsanto in 1970
  • Miller (Vice Chairman) joined Monsanto in 1965
  • Belle (Vice President/General Manager, Specialty Chemicals) joined Monsanto in 1966
  • Clausen (Senior VP and CFO) joined Monsanto in 1969
  • Holt (VP and General Manager, Performance Films) joined Monsanto in 1979
  • Saucier (VP and General Manager, Integrated Nylon) joined Monsanto in 1979
  • Hayden (VP Corporate Services) joined Monsanto sometime in the 1970s
  • Feldman (VP Human Resources and Public Affairs) joined Monsanto in 1991
  • Greer (VP New Ventures and Digital Strategy) joined Monsanto in 1996

Another attempt by Monsanto to put distance between it and its past was communicated by the CEO of both the old and new Monsanto Hendrik Verfaillie. He wrote in a letter to the editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that the Monsanto (biotech) Co. "is a different company," "with new management" that "simply took the Monsanto name."

He also claims that "as a new company, we also committed ourselves to doing business in an open and transparent way ... embodied in the New Monsanto Pledge, our commitment to earn the trust of the communities we operate in."

What the CEO failed to mention is that the Monsanto Pledge was actually written back in 1990, when Monsanto (the chemical company) needed some fresh public relations to defend itself from bad press about its pollution problems. The pledge was virtually identical to the "new" company pledge issued in 2000, only it focused on chemicals instead of biotech. It included lofty promises such as:

  • "Ensuring no Monsanto operation poses any undue risk to employees and neighboring communities."
  • "Keeping Monsanto plants open to their communities and involving the community in plant operations."
  • "Managing all corporate real estate, including plant sites, to benefit nature."

Even more disturbing is Verfaillie's statement in his widely distributed letters to newspaper editors asserting that the new Monsanto is not connected to the trial in Anniston. However, Monsanto's 2001 proxy statement, states:

"We have assumed the following liabilities from Pharmacia . . .all liabilities from Monsanto that were assumed by Solutia or any of its subsidiaries on September 1, 1997 in connection with its spinoff from former Monsanto, to the extent that Solutia fails to pay, perform, or discharge these liabilities."
Monsanto's 2001 Proxy Statement, Appendix A.

Despite all the new (or old) company's best efforts, the name Monsanto will forever be synonymous with toxic chemical pollution and betrayal of trust for the people of west Anniston, Alabama and other polluted communities worldwide. As the Birmingham News editorialized on January 3, 2002:

"There's not a spin doctor alive who could hide the truth about Monsanto's wanton poisoning of the water and land in west Anniston."

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