Monday, January 28, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 80



Enron's not as evil as some think

Ellen Simonson

My job as a businessman is to be a profit center and to maximize return to the shareholders. It's the government's job to step in if a product is dangerous.

Jeff Skilling, former Enron chief executive officer

As former Wall Street darling Enron continues its slide into infamy, revelations about its dealings abound.

The general idea seems to be that Enron's indiscretions are shocking. I don't think so. What's shocking is the fact that it didn't get away with them.

Say what you will about corporations it can't be denied their primary concern is always the bottom line. Enron is far from the only corporation that's proven this to be true. Here,
thanks to the Multinational Monitor, are some of the top corporate offenders of 2001.

First up is the Coca-Cola Company, which has not been particularly friendly to those who try to organize trade unions at the company's facilities in Colombia. Coke was sued in
2001 by the United Steel Workers Union and the International Labor Rights Fund on behalf of Sinaltrainal, the union that represents workers at the Colombia facility.

Five leaders of Sinaltrainal who have been subjected to torture, kidnapping or unlawful detention in connection with their union efforts are named as plaintiffs in the suit, along
with the estate of one union leader who was murdered while working at the Coke bottling plant in Carepa, Colombia. Sinaltrainal has asserted for years that Coke works in
connection with various "death squads" in the area to intimidate union leaders.

Second on the list is Sara Lee. Twenty-one people died in 1998 as a result of deadly bacteria they encountered in packages of Ball Park Franks brand hot dogs. The
manufacturer, the Sara Lee Corporation, was eventually fined $200,000 for causing the deaths of these 21 human beings.

Sara Lee routinely tested for certain bacteria on its work services until the fall of 1998. After that time, during which an old refrigeration unit was replaced, the tests began
revealing a sharp increase in the presence of these bacteria. The company stopped performing tests in November of that year.

A month later, after the deaths, it issued the recall of millions of pounds of hot dogs and deli meats. Sara Lee, which incidentally had a big hot-dog contract with the U.S.
Department of Defense, pled guilty to two misdemeanors in connection with the deaths.

When put in perspective, Enron's shady financial dealings don't seem quite as bad. All it did was make its CEOs very, very wealthy at the expense of the little guy. At least it didn't
poison people or work with death squads, right?

Simonson, a senior English major, can be reached at

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