Corporations

'Mendacity' 'Obfuscation' 'Spin' Not Good For Corporate Ethics PR Work

"Public relations firms giving advice on corporate ethics? That sounds like a plot line straight out of a movie by Woody Allen," Jeff Barge, president of Lucky Star Public Relations, wrote in a July 30 Wall St. Journal letter-to-the-editor. Quoting Barges remarks, Paul Holmes, editor of the Holmes Reports, reflects on PR's role in ethical corporate policy making.

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What's Good for Exxon Is Bad for Terrorism?

The U.S. State Department is seeking dismissal of a human rights lawsuit against Exxon Mobil's activities in Indonesia, where villagers say that they were victims of murder, torture, kidnapping and rape by the military unit guarding the company's gas field. "In response to a request by the corporation for an opinion, the department declared that pursuit of the case would harm Washington's campaign against terrorism," reports the New York Times.

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Roping Off the Information Commons

Public domain information - including our shared culture of literacy and democratic dialogue, basic drug research and government information resources paid for with public tax dollars - has grown in importance now that the Internet has empowered everyone to become a creator and to readily share information with others. As a result, writes David Bollier, corporate "content aggregators" -- film studios, publishers, record labels -- have "brazenly cast a broad net of claimed ownership rights in the intangibles of our culture.

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Adelphia's Makeover

Adelphia Communications is using Robinson Lerer & Montgomery for crisis PR in the aftermath of its bankruptcy filing and the arrest last week of several company executives. "RL&M's mission is to reassure cable subscribers that the company has a future once its reorganization is completed," writes O'Dwyer's PR Daily. An ad campaign will urge cable subscribers to "stick with us," characterizing the bankruptcy as "a reorganization effort to rebuild the company and restore its integrity."

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So Many Scandals, So Little Time

"With the avalanche of corporate accounting scandals that have rocked the markets recently, it's getting hard to keep track of them all--but our Corporate Scandal Sheet does the job," boasts Forbes magazine. "Here we'll follow accounting imbroglios only--avoiding insider-trading allegations like those plaguing ImClone, since chronicling every corporate transgression would simply be impractical."

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Suing the Survivors

In 1997, the wife of Phillip Bonaffini died from an infection she contracted during cardiac surgery at Bridgeport Hospital. Another patient, Eunice Babcock, was left wheelchair-bound due to a staphylococcus infection that she contracted during surgery at the same hospital. The hospital settled the cases out of court by paying Bonaffini and Babcock an undisclosed sum in exchange for signed confidentiality agreements.

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Judicial Watch's "PR Stunt"

The White House allegedly threatened a Judicial Watch process server with arrest while he was trying to provide legal notification of a lawsuit to Vice President Dick Cheney. The conservative organization Judicial Watch has brought a lawsuit against Cheney for fraudulent accounting practices at Halliburton Corporation while Cheney was the company's chief executive.

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"Restoring Trust" the DOD Way

In a feature article "Restoring Trust," PR Week talked to PR experts about restoring confidence in the business world. "American corporations have to understand that the best thing they can do right now is to communicate: completely, honestly, transparently, and often," Notre Dame University business professor James O'Rourke told PR Week. "If more CEOs sounded like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in their briefings, we'd all be better off. If things aren't good, say so and explain what you're going to do about it.

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Ethics on the Corporate Payroll

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is calling for bioethics institutions and journals to disclose their financial relationships with the biotech industry. So far, the request has mostly fallen on deaf ears. "The industry's increasing recruitment of bioethicists has been widely debated, as has the scope of the contributions," notes Hal Cohen. "Most bioethics institutions don't publish such statistics, leaving the public to draw its own conclusions about conflicts of interest.

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