Coca-Cola's Board of Directors: A Legacy of Shame
Part 1: Sam Nunn
- Open Bigotry
- Catastrophic Crimes by Coca-Cola, Chevron, Dell & GE
- Partnering With the "School of the Assassins"
- Union-Busting Law Firm
- Having Nunn of It
The Coca-Cola Company's Board of Directors is composed of wealthy individuals, who all have something in common. For years they've remained silent on Coca-Cola's worldwide human rights, labor and environmental abuses. And all have enriched themselves by pushing unhealthy beverages on children helping to fuel the obesity and diabetes epidemics that are so prevalent today, all while claiming that their beverages are beneficial to our diet.
A closer look at Coca-Cola's Board of Directors reveals disturbing patterns of complicity in gross injustices around the globe. This article is the first in a series exposing the dark side of Coca-Cola's Board of Directors.
We begin with Sam Nunn, former U.S. Senator from Georgia. A director at Coca-Cola since 1997, Nunn served in the United States Senate from 1972-1996. His record in the Senate was of a conservative Democrat and his days in the public sector are remembered for his bigotry towards people in the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) community.
From 1987 to 1995, Sam Nunn served as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee. It was in this position that he publicly denounced an inclusive military. In his high-ranking position, he led media tours of submarines making ludicrous insinuations and he specifically chose homophobic military personnel to testify before Congress, leading to Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
As someone who often voted with the homophobe Senator Jesse Helms, Senator Nunn had a despicable voting record. He voted for reduction in HIV/AIDS research and prevention funds, for the confirmation of Clarence Thomas, against domestic partnership benefits in the District of Columbia and voted for a ban on HIV positive immigrants.
In 2008, Sam Nunn was being considered for a VP slot on Barack Obama's slate. Being politically opportunistic, he changed his tune on Don't Ask, Don't Tell and said it would be all right to look into the issue again. Too late!
Sam Nunn's disgusting legacy of hate has not been forgotten. Over 14,500 vital members of the military, including numerous Arabic linguists like Lieutenant Dan Choi, have been kicked out of the military, weakening our national defense, thanks to Senator Sam Nunn.
Catastrophic Crimes by Coca-Cola, Chevron, Dell & GE
Sam Nunn sits on the boards of Coca-Cola, Dell and General Electric and only recently left the board of Chevron.
Coca-Cola has been involved in appalling abuses around the globe, including in China, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Philippines and elsewhere. Since 1997, Sam Nunn has remained completely silent on these issues while sitting on the board of Coke.
Each year, at Coca-Cola's annual shareholder meeting, we address CEO Muhtar Kent, Sam Nunn and the other members of the board, asking them why they refuse to deal with these issues, well-documented on www.KillerCoke.org. And while we're saddened that the board is complicit in these abuses, a closer look at Sam Nunn leaves us with little confusion about their silence. For attending a small number of meetings, Coke paid Nunn $210,867 in 2010.
When it comes to environmental abuses, Chevron is in a league of its own. In 1997, Nunn was elected to the board of Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2001. During the years that Nunn had been on the board of Texaco and Chevron, the companies have been involved in many egregious environmental and human rights abuses.
Over three decades of oil drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Texaco dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into the rainforest, leaving local people suffering a wave of cancers, miscarriages and birth defects.
On February 12, 2012, a press release, "A Sordid Tale of Crime and Cover-up By Major U.S. Oil Company," from the Amazon Defense Coalition stated: "In the Ecuadorian rainforest, far from the eyes of the U.S. news media, sits one of the world's most devastating environmental disasters -- one that has killed numerous people and likely will kill thousands more in the coming years from cancer and other oil-related diseases if not properly remediated.
"The cruel impact of this disaster has been largely ignored by Chevron, the company that now faces an $18 billion court judgment for causing it. Instead of remediating his company's contamination, Chevron CEO John Watson has squandered hundreds of millions of dollars of shareholder money on 39 different U.S. law firms in an increasingly futile attempt to evade responsibility for the consequences of this man-made catastrophe.
"But the sordid tale of Chevron's environmental disaster in Ecuador will be hidden no more."
This will remain a part of Sam Nunn's legacy of shame.
Nunn turned a blind eye toward these abuses. As chairman of the Chevron board Public Policy Committee, he was best suited to deal with this issue, but he even declined an invitation to meet with several large shareholders who had toured the Ecuador disaster area.
Corporate Crime Reporter published a report [9/12/11] that "Chevron U.S.A., Inc. and Chevron Stations Inc. will pay $24.5 million settlement to settle a lawsuit filed by the California Attorney General alleging that the companies violated state laws governing hazardous materials and hazardous waste by failing to properly inspect and maintain underground tanks used to store gasoline for retail sale...since 1998...A statewide investigation found violations of hazardous materials and hazardous waste laws and regulations at gas stations in 32 counties across the state."
It is clear that Nunn played the same role at Chevron that he plays at Coca-Cola where profits take precedence over ethics, morality and justice and he has been paid handsomely. In 2010, his compensation from Chevron for attending a small number of board meetings was $327,407.
Nunn's departure from Chevron does not end Coke's close ties to the company.
Carl Ware, a retired vice president of The Coca-Cola Co., is on the board of Chevron.
Robert Denham is a director of Chevron and Fomento Economico Mexicano, S.A. de C.V. (FEMSA). FEMSA, headquartered in Mexico, owns 53.7% of Coca-Cola FEMSA's capital stock and The Coca-Cola Company owns 31.6%. Coca-Cola FEMSA continues to be the target of numerous labor and human rights abuse allegations and lawsuits in Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.
Denham is a partner of the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, a key law firm employed by Berkshire Hathaway whose principal owner, Chairman and CEO is Warren Buffett. Buffett is a former board member of The Coca-Cola Co. and Berkshire Hathaway is the largest shareholder in Coca-Cola with 200 million shares (8.7% of Coca-Cola's common shares). Charles Munger, of Munger, Tolles & Olson, along with Warren Buffett are described as Berkshire Hathaway's top managers.
Dell, where Sam Nunn has been a director since 1999, has come under criticism for alleged labor violations in factories producing their computers in China, including wages below the legal minimum, with workers reportedly earning $50 a month, routine work shifts of 15 hours, and poor and unsafe working conditions. In fiscal 2011, his compensation from Dell was $291,304.
Nunn's position at Dell is very telling. Dell has a despicable record on workers rights and it comes as no surprise that they are a corporate member of the powerful, extreme right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), as is Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola Refreshments (CCR) is Coca-Cola's North American bottler and distributor. Gene Rackley, CCR's Director of Public Affairs and Communications sits on the ALEC Private Enterprise Board. ALEC has been the leading force in persuading lawmakers to pass legislation restricting worker's and women's rights, and laws restricting voting as well as other repressive legislation at the local, state and federal level.
In the United States, Dell Financial Services, LP, has been involved in a class action lawsuit due to their violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by denying credit to individuals based on their ethnic backgrounds. (from Source Watch)
Sam Nunn has also sat on the Board of General Electric since 1997. General Electric "has a lengthy record of criminal, civil, political and ethical transgressions, some of them shocking in disregard for the integrity of human beings," according to CorpWatch. GE, a major military contractor profiting from war, pled guilty to defrauding the defense department, paying "one of the largest defense contracting fines ever (Read article in Multinational Monitor). Not surprising that a former Chairman of the Armed Services Committee would retire to a position like this. GE paid Nunn $314,805 in 2010.
Since leaving the United States Senate, Sam Nunn has collected lavish paychecks for attending board meetings and covering up worldwide abuses for rich corporations.
The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), also known as School of the Americas/School of the Assassins (SOA), is a U.S. military training school for Latin American soldiers located in Fort Benning, Georgia. The school is synonymous with torture and military repression around the world. Its graduates have long been associated with military coups, human rights abuses and the suppression of popular movements. Hundreds of thousands, according to SOA Watch, have been tortured, raped, murdered and "disappeared" by those trained at the SOA.
On the website of WHINSEC there is a description of its Board of Visitors:
"When Congress passed the Defense Authorization Bill for 2001 and President Bill Clinton signed it into law, WHINSEC was created. The law called for a federal advisory committee -- the Board of Visitors (BoV) -- to maintain independent review, observation, and recommendation regarding operations of the institute. The 14-member BoV includes members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, representatives from the State Department, U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Northern Command, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and six members designated by the Secretary of Defense. These six members include representatives from the human rights, religious, academic, and business communities. The board reviews and advises on areas such as curriculum, academic instruction, and fiscal affairs of the institute. Their reviews ensure relevance and consistency with US policy, laws, regulation, and doctrine."
For the past two years, the chair of the SOA/WHINSEC BoV has been Dr. Johanna Mendelson Forman who is a senior associate of CSIS Americas Program. CSIS, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is chaired by Coca-Cola Board Member Sam Nunn. Also on the board of CSIS is Muhtar Kent, the Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Co., as well as E. Neville Isdell, the Company's former Chairman and CEO.
The Vice-Chair of the Board of Visitors is Dr. Joseph Palacios, who is an assistant professor at the Center for Latin American Studies, a part of Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. Coca-Cola Board Member Donald McHenry is a Professor in Practice of Diplomacy at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. McHenry has been a director of The Coca-Cola Company since 1981. Georgetown University is a Coca-Cola campus to the chagrin of many students at the university.
Sam Nunn is a retired partner at the Atlanta law firm, King & Spalding, a notoriously anti-union law firm, and continues to have an office and an email address there. Nunn became a partner in 1997 shortly after he left the Senate.
King & Spalding's website describes their "Traditional Labor Practice":
"We counsel non-union clients on how to remain union free, and we represent clients in union organizing campaigns and unfair labor practice cases. We have also advised clients with respect to decertifying incumbent labor unions, and have had a number of successful decertifications. We often represent clients in collective bargaining, advise clients on contract interpretation issues, and represent clients in arbitration proceedings pursuant to their collective bargaining agreements. We also actively work with clients facing work stoppages, including training management employees, obtaining injunctive relief where appropriate, and advising clients on replacement of striking workers?"
Under "Preventive Advice and Training" King & Spalding states: "We also conduct training for all levels of employees from executives to staff. These training sessions include: The Manager's and Supervisor's role in Maintaining Union Free Status?"
Some of the clients that King & Spalding have represented include Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., The Coca-Cola Co., Chevron, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil Corp, General Electric Capital Corp., General Electric Co., General Motors Corp., GlaxoSmithKline, Lockheed Martin Corp, SunTrust Banks, Inc. and Turner Broadcasting System.
If you've noticed a pattern with Sam Nunn, it's because there is one. Sam Nunn has made millions of dollars lending his name to various company boards and actively avoiding any oversight of the horrific abuses caused by the very same companies. Sam Nunn "earns" his paychecks by harming workers and the environment and the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke will continue to expose Nunn to the world until justice is done.
To confront Sam Nunn directly, please consider joining us at Coca-Cola's Annual Shareholder meeting in April 2012. Once the details are announced, we will post them on the "Upcoming Events" Section at www.KillerCoke.org.
To help the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke and hold Sam Nunn and The Coca-Cola Company responsible for widespread human rights, labor and environmental abuses, please consider making a contribution to the campaign at: www.KillerCoke.org/contribute.php and please work with us to make your organization Coke-free.