MARCH 1996 · VOLUME 17 · NUMBER 3
N A M E S I N T H E N E W S
JOHN MORRELL AND COMPANY, until recently a subsidiary of Chiquita Brands, International, pleaded guilty in February to dumping slaughterhouse waste into the Big Sioux River in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and deliberately submitting phony test data and discharge reports to conceal its crimes.
Morrell agreed to pay a $2 million criminal fine and spend another $1 million to establish a local environmental cleanup fund.
The charges include conspiracy and violations of the Clean Water Act related to Morrell's unlawful discharges of slaughterhouse waste from a company wastewater treatment plant over an 8-year period, from 1985 to 1993.
Chiquita sold Morrell in December 1995 to Smithfield Foods, Inc. for approximately $60 million.
The government declined to prosecute Chiquita, Morrell's former parent company, which was responsible for disclosing Morrell's violations to the government in 1993, as a reward for its affirmative disclosure. "I want to praise Chiquita for coming forward and initiating this disclosure," says Lois Schiffer, assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "But its disclosure cannot undo the serious and longstanding environmental violations committed by Morrell."
The company filed false reports showing levels of ammonia nitrogen within the permitted range although they were actually well over legal limits. Ammonia nitrogen can harm fish and mammals, causing death, deformity and a limiting of species growth and diversity.
The Morrell plea announcement follows the January 1995 guilty pleas of two Morrell company managers for conspiring to violate the Clean Water Act.
Following the Morrell plea, the Justice Department indicted Timothy Sinskey, former senior vice president and head of the Sioux Falls Division for Morrell, on 30 counts of violating the Clean Water Act, and Wayne Kumm, the Division's plant engineer, on 17 counts. Both defendants pleaded not guilty. Attorneys for the defendants did not return calls seeking comment.
In addition to charges of conspiracy surrounding the eight years of illegal dumping of slaughterhouse waste into the Big Sioux River, Sinskey has been charged with deliberately falsifying monthly discharge monitoring reports submitted to the EPA to cover up the pollution.
According to the indictment, Sinskey asked, "Who's going to jail this month?" when he signed the false reports.
Not Crystal Clear
AMOCO OIL COMPANY in February settled Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that its "Crystal Clear Amoco Ultimate" advertising campaign included unsubstantiated claims about the company's premium gasoline. Amoco advertisements had claimed that its premium gasoline, because it is refined more than competitors' brands and is clear in color, delivers superior engine performance and environmental benefits.
Under the proposed settlement, Amoco Oil has agreed not to make any performance or environmental benefit claim for any of its gasolines without first having scientific evidence to back it up.
"The FTC is especially concerned about claims that higher octane premium and midgrade gasolines offer benefits not provided by regular gasolines," says FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Jodie Bernstein. "Most consumers will not obtain more or better power, performance, engine cleaning, or mileage by using a high-octane gasoline."
One of the challenged "Crystal Clear" ads visually contrasts the dark color of other premium gasolines with Amoco Ultimate's clear color, while the announcer states:
"What's clear? Crystal clear Amoco Ultimate. What isn't? All other premium gasolines. What's clear? Amoco Ultimate is the only premium refined an extra step to remove harmful impurities. ... Why do we do it? For unsurpassed performance and a cleaner environment."
The FTC complaint alleges that Amoco Oil failed to have adequate substantiation for its claims that: because Amoco Ultimate is refined more than all other brands of premium gasoline, it delivers better engine performance and environmental benefits; or Amoco Ultimate's clear color demonstrates its superior engine performance and environmental benefits.
THE WORLD'S TWO LARGEST solid waste hauling and disposal companies -- Waste Management Inc. and Browning-Ferris Industries Inc. -- agreed to end unlawful monopolistic practices after the Department of Justice charged that the companies blocked smaller trash haulers from entering markets in Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee and Iowa.
Waste Management and two of its subsidiaries agreed to stop using long-term contracts with dumpster customers in the Savannah, Georgia and Central Louisiana areas, where the two subsidiaries have large market shares.
Browning-Ferris and two of its subsidiaries also agreed to stop using long-term contracts with dumpster customers in Memphis, Tennessee and Dubuque, Iowa, where two of its subsidiaries have large market shares.
"Waste Management's and Browning-Ferris' large market shares and use of long-term contracts with automatic renewal provisions locked out smaller trash haulers in these markets and allowed them to keep their market power," says Anne Bingaman, assistant attorney general in charge of the Department's Antitrust Division.
-- Russell Mokhiber