The Multinational Monitor

  June 2001 - VOLUME 22 - NUMBER 6

N A M E S    I N    T H E    N E W S

Condi Rice Renamed

Energy giant Chevron Corp. has quietly renamed one of its big oil tankers.

The Condoleeza Rice, named after the former Chevron director and current National Security Adviser to President Bush, was renamed the Altair Voyager, the San Francisco Chronicle reported in May.

In April, at a White House press briefing, assistant press secretary Scott McLellan was asked about the oil tanker.
The reporter put it this way: “Before she became National Security Advisor, [Rice] was on the board of directors of Chevron Corporation. Chevron –– before she left –– named an oil tanker after her. There’s an oil tanker named the Condoleeza Rice. It’s a 136,000 ton oil tanker that carries oil around the world. Given that Chevron has been accused of human rights abuses with the Nigerian Mobile Police against civilians in Nigeria, I’m wondering whether the president thinks it’s wise to have this close a relationship with Chevron.”

McLellan said that he thought “the issue has already been addressed by Dr. Rice and she will uphold the highest ethical standards in office.”

When asked whether the president should call the CEO of Chevron and say, “Take the name off the tanker,” McLellan said, “I think the issue has been addressed.”
“We made the change to eliminate unnecessary attention caused by the vessel’s original name,” says Chevron spokesperson Fred Gorell.

Asked whether the White House had asked for the name change, Gorell told the San Francisco Chronicle “that’s not for me to discuss.”

In April, when the controversy was brewing, a spokesperson for Chevron said that the company would not rename the Condi Rice tanker. “If you remember, Carla Hills was on our board, and went off the board to take a role in the administration, and we did not rename the tanker,” the spokesperson said at the time.

No Disclosure

Less than one percent of the 60,000 articles published during 1997 in 181 peer-reviewed science and medical journals with conflict of interest policies contained any disclosure of author personal financial interests, according to a report released in April.

The report appeared in the journal Science and Engineering Ethics and examined nearly 1,400 high impact science and medical journals, including a subset of 181 prestigious peer-reviewed journals with conflict-of-interest policies.

“Growth in university-industry collaborations has intensified the conflicts of interest among academic researchers and weakened public trust in science,” says Sheldon Krimsky, professor of urban & environmental policy at Tufts and a co-author of the study. “Disclosure of such interests, while not a panacea, will help to restore that trust.”

In researching the scholarly journals, Krimsky and his UCLA co-author, L.S. Rothenberg, discovered that nearly 66 percent of the 181 journals with conflict-of-interest policies had zero published disclosures of author personal financial interests in the study.

The authors surveyed 181 editors of peer-reviewed science and medical journals with conflict-of-interest policies in effect during 1997. Their findings include:

• 74 percent of the editors reported that they always or almost always publish conflict-of-interest disclosures while nearly 11 percent never do so;
• 19 percent said they have rejected a submitted manuscript primarily on conflict-of-interest grounds;
• 54 percent reported that they expect peer reviewers to use financial interest information in their evaluation of manuscripts;
• 36 percent indicated that they do not request financial conflict-of-interest information from peer reviewers.

The authors conclude that poor compliance with journal conflict-of-interest policies is the most likely explanation for the low rates of personal financial disclosures in scientific and medical journals with disclosure policies.

“Increasingly, journals are adopting financial conflict-of-interest disclosure policies for contributors but editors are unaware of the levels of compliance,” says Krimsky.

White Collar Crime Penalties

The United States Sentencing Commission in April voted to increase penalties for high-dollar fraud and theft offenders.

Under the new guidelines, the perpetrator of a $590,000 investment fraud will be subject to a sentence as high as 63 months.

The new guidelines will go into effect on November 1, 2001, absent any action by Congress.

“The economic crime amendments result from several years of extensive research conducted by the Sentencing Commission in which the experience of countless professionals was consulted,” says Commission Chair Diana F. Murphy. “Because approximately 20 percent of all federal defendants are subject to these economic crime guidelines, it was especially important that we address this area.”

The Commission’s action consolidates existing guidelines on theft, fraud, tax offenses and property destruction in order to increase penalties for high-dollar frauds or thefts and to reduce unwarranted sentencing disparities.

Commission officials said they were responsive to concerns raised by federal judges, probation officers and lawyers regarding sentences imposed for white-collar offenses.

— Russell Mokhiber