Category Archives: Antitrust

In Latest Populist Betrayal, Trump Executive Order Unchains Wall Street Greed

Orders signed Friday are ‘nothing more than special favors for the same Wall Street banks that crashed our economy in 2008 and put millions of Americans out of work’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-21-2017

Photo: YouTube

In yet another Wall Street giveaway, President Donald Trump on Friday afternoon took executive action to chip away at Dodd-Frank financial regulations and roll back rules aimed at reducing corporate tax avoidance.

Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for watchdog group Public Citizen, described the orders signed Friday at the Treasury Department as “nothing more than special favors for the same Wall Street banks that crashed our economy in 2008 and put millions of Americans out of work.” Continue reading

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The future of US net neutrality under Trump

Administrative decisions related to the country’s telecommunications policy often go unnoticed by the majority of the US citizenry. But now, net neutrality in its purest form is in peril.

By Michael J. Oghia. Published 3-17-2017 by openDemocracy

Welcome and Opening Remarks from Commissioner Ajit Pai, May 2014.Wikicommons/Federal Communications Commission.Public domain.

As this openDemocracy series has poignantly highlighted, digital rights should never be taken for granted. For all those keeping a close eye on US politics, this reality could not resonate more ominously. With the new Republican administration of Donald J. Trump, there is plenty of kindle to fuel a fire of discussion and, often enough, outrage.

Yet, behind all of the grandstanding, tweeting, and obscene showmanship, there lies a political machine forged in the corridors of Capitol Hill, skyscraping towers of corporate America, and musty legal libraries ready to take up the bureaucratic responsibility of running the United States. You see, outside of the more widely covered political issues such as immigration and healthcare, administrative decisions related to the country’s telecommunications policy often go unnoticed by the majority of the US citizenry. Continue reading

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‘Dangerous’ and ‘Dumb’: Trump Signs Executive Order Torching Regulations

“It will fundamentally change our government’s role from one of protecting the public to protecting corporate profits”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-30-2017

A demonstrator in Washington, D.C. holds a sign on Jan. 27, 2017. (Photo: Lorie Shaull/flickr/cc)

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday that aims to slash regulations—an action, advocacy groups say, that puts lives at risk.

The order—the latest of a flurry since he took office—states that “for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination,” fulfilling a campaign promise he made.

“For fiscal year 2017, which is in progress, the heads of all agencies are directed that the total incremental cost of all new regulations, including repealed regulations, to be finalized this year shall be no greater than zero,” it adds. Continue reading

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State Lawmakers Urge Rejection of Militaristic, Conflict-Ridden Nominees

125 state legislators demand U.S. Senate only confirm cabinet nominees who respect diplomacy, civil liberties, and ‘our sacred tradition of a civilian-led government’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-9-2017

“From crumbling bridges and inadequate road maintenance to the opioid crisis and a lack of support for our veterans, the last 15 years of war and nation-building endeavors have taken an enormous toll on our communities and our ability as state lawmakers to provide critical services to our constituents,” the letter reads. (Photo: Adventures of KM&G Morris/flickr/cc)

A coalition of progressive state lawmakers from around the country on Monday sent a letter to Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), demanding the U.S. Senate only confirm cabinet nominees “who have an established record of respecting the importance of diplomacy and other tools of statecraft over the unnecessary use of force, respecting civil liberties, placing American interests over personal interests, and upholding our sacred tradition of a civilian-led government.” Continue reading

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Conservatives Plot Their Course on the Rising ‘Sea of Red’ in State Capitals

Meeting in private, enthused activists promise that the growing Republican dominance in state government will unleash a wave of laws to cut business taxes, restrict unions and expand school privatization.

By Robert Faturechi, Pro Publica. Published 1-7-2017 by Common Dreams

The Kentucky State Capitol. Photo: Seifler (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Shortly after the November election, with the nation’s political attention focused on the Trump transition, an influential advocacy group met outside Washington to discuss how to leverage the extraordinary shift of power to Republicans in the rest of the country.

The American Legislative Exchange Council — a nonprofit better known as ALEC — briefed its members and allied groups on the bright future for its agenda now that Republicans will effectively control 68 of the nation’s 99 state legislative bodies, as well as 33 governor’s mansions. Among other things, group members said they would push bills to reduce corporate taxes, weaken unions, privatize schooling and influence the ideological debate on college campuses. Continue reading

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State AGs Vow to Be “First Line of Defense” to Block Trump’s Constitutional Violations

Statements from five states’ top legal officers follow ACLU promise to defend against Trump’s “one-man constitutional crisis”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-18-2016

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaking at an event in February. (Photo: Jennifer Cogswell via City Year/flickr/cc)

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaking at an event in February. (Photo: Jennifer Cogswell via City Year/flickr/cc)

As members of vulnerable communities and their allies gear up for threats the upcoming Donald Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress could unleash, the top legal officers in at least five states are also preparing, announcing they are ready to be “the first line of defense” to block any constitutional violations.

Reuters reports that the statements come from the state attorneys general in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and Washington. They are all Democrats.

Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, for example, said in a statement that “[i]f the incoming administration chooses to try to act in ways that are unconstitutional, my office will take action to protect the rights and liberties of our residents and our state.” Continue reading

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The DuPont and Dow Chemical Merger: Bad Deal for People and the Planet

Groups are calling on the Department of Justice to reject the deal to protect food supply

By Sarah Lazare, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-11-2015

"Just a handful of large chemical companies including Dow and DuPont already control most of the seed supply used to grow crops like corn and soybeans, as well as the herbicides that genetically engineered seeds are designed to be grown with," said Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch. (Photo: Desmanthus4food/Wikimedia/cc)

“Just a handful of large chemical companies including Dow and DuPont already control most of the seed supply used to grow crops like corn and soybeans, as well as the herbicides that genetically engineered seeds are designed to be grown with,” said Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch. (Photo: Desmanthus4food/Wikimedia/cc)

Watchdog groups are sounding the alarm after two of the oldest and largest corporations in the United States—DuPont and Dow Chemical—announced Friday plans to merge into a $130 billion giant, thereby establishing the world’s biggest seed and pesticide conglomerate.

The new behemoth, named DowDuPont, would then be split into “three independent, publicly traded companies through tax-free spin-offs,” according to a joint corporate statement marking one of the the largest deals of 2015.

These companies would focus on agriculture, material science, and “technology and innovation-driven Specialty Products company,” the statement continues. Together, they would form the second-largest chemical company world-wide. Continue reading

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Monsanto to go on Trial in The Hague

“The time is long overdue for a global citizens’ tribunal to put Monsanto on trial for crimes against humanity and the environment.”

Image via Internet (electronzio.com)

Image via Internet (electronzio.com)

On December 4, 2015, at the COP21 conferences in Paris, an announcement was made that has gone largely ignored by the US media. The transnational corporation Monsanto, considered to be the environmentalists’ and activists’ worst enemy in the struggle to save Planet Earth, is to be brought before a Tribunal in The Hague in October, 2016.

According to news reports covering the event, “The time is long overdue for a global citizens’ tribunal to put Monsanto on trial for crimes against humanity and the environment. We are in Paris this month to address the most serious threat that humans have ever faced in our 100-200,000 year evolution—global warming and climate disruption,” the president of the Organic Consumers Association, Ronnie Cummins, said at the press conference.

He also said, “The Tribunal will rely on the ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’ adopted at the UN in 2011. It will also assess potential criminal liability on the basis of the Rome Statue that created the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2002, and it will consider whether a reform of international criminal law is warranted to include crimes against the environment, or ecocide, as a prosecutable criminal offense, so that natural persons could incur criminal liability.”

The Tribunal will convene on October 12th through 16th of next year.

The following information comes from MonsantoTribunal.org:

Tribunal Monsanto in The Hague –12th -16th of October 2016

For an increasing number of people from around the world, Monsanto today is the symbol of industrial agriculture. This chemical-intensive form of production pollutes the environment, accelerates biodiversity loss, and massively contributes to global warming.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Monsanto, a US-based company, has developed a number of highly toxic products, which have permanently damaged the environment and caused illness or death for thousands of people. These products include:

  •  PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), one of the twelve Persistent Organic  Pollutants (POP) that affect human and animal fertility;
  •  2,4,5 T (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid), a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant, Agent Orange, which was used by the US Army during the Vietnam War and continues to cause birth defects and cancer;
  •  Lasso, an herbicide that is now banned in Europe;
  •  and RoundUp, the most widely used herbicide in the world, and the source of the greatest health and environmental scandal in modern history – this toxic herbicide is used in combination with genetically modified (GM) RoundUp Ready seeds in large-scale monocultures, primarily to produce soybeans, maize and rapeseed for animal feed and biofuels.

Monsanto promotes an agroindustrial model that contributes at least one third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions; it is also largely responsible for the depletion of soil and water resources, species extinction and declining biodiversity, and the displacement of millions of small farmers worldwide. This is a model that threatens peoples’ food sovereignty by patenting seeds and privatizing life.

According to its critics, Monsanto is able to ignore the human and environmental damage caused by its products and maintain its devastating activities through a strategy of systemic concealment: by lobbying regulatory agencies and governments, by resorting to lying and corruption, by financing fraudulent scientific studies, by pressuring independent scientists, by manipulating the press and media, etc. The history of Monsanto would thereby constitute a text-book case of impunity, benefiting transnational corporations and their executives, whose activities contribute to climate and biosphere crises and threaten the safety of the planet.

The Monsanto Tribunal, which will be held in The Hague from 12 to 16 October 2016, aims to assess these allegations made against Monsanto, and to evaluate the damages caused by this transnational company. The Tribunal will rely on the “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” adopted at the UN in 2011. It will also assess potential criminal liability on the basis of the Rome Statue that created the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2002, and it will consider whether a reform of international criminal law is warranted to include crimes against the environment, or ecocide, as a prosecutable criminal offense, so that natural persons could incurr criminal liability.

Recognizing ecocide as a crime is the only way to guarantee the right of humans to a healthy environment and the right of nature to be protected.

Aware of these planetary stakes, the initiators of the Monsanto Tribunal are appealing to civil society and to all citizens of the world to participate in financing this unique operation through the biggest international crowd-funding campaign ever carried out.

Defending the safety of the planet, and the conditions of life itself, concerns us all. Only collective action can stop this machine of destruction!

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‘Mind-Blowing Abuse of Power’: Walmart Spied on Workers With FBI, Lockheed Martin’s Help

Newly released documents show retail giant used ‘every deceptive tactic under the sun’ to keep tabs on pro-union employees

Written by Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-25-2015.

Image via Worldwide OURWalmart Strike Facebook page.

Image via Worldwide OURWalmart Strike Facebook page.

Retail giant Walmart enlisted the help of a private military contractor and the FBI to spy on workers pushing for a $15 hourly wage and organizing Black Friday protests in 2012 and 2013, newly released documents (pdf) reveal.

“We are fighting for all workers to be paid a fair wage and enough hours to put food on the table and provide for our families,” said Mary Pat Tifft, a Wisconsin Walmart employee of 27 years. “To think that Walmart found us such a threat that they would hire a defense contractor and engage the FBI is a mind-blowing abuse of power.”

A document made public Tuesday by worker organization OUR Walmart reveals company testimony to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in January stating that Walmart had enlisted the help of arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to monitor workers who were organizing for higher wages and the right to unionize.  OUR Walmart workers said they were illegally fired and disciplined for taking part in the “Ride for Respect” strike during Walmart’s shareholder meeting in June of 2013.

But the surveillance had long been in progress. Walmart executives mobilized the so-called “Delta” emergency response team in 2012 when they first got wind of plans for a nationwide Black Friday worker strike. As Bloomberg explained in an investigative piece published Tuesday, “the stakes were enormous.” In addition to the NLRB testimony, the new reporting states, “The details of Walmart’s efforts during the first year it confronted OUR Walmart are described in more than 1,000 pages of e-mails, reports, playbooks, charts, and graphs.”

“Any attempt to organize its 1 million hourly workers at its more than 4,000 stores in the U.S. was an existential danger,” Bloomberg‘s Susan Berfield wrote. “Operating free of unions was as essential to Walmart’s business as its rock-bottom prices.”

Berfield reports:

During that time, about 100 workers were actively involved in recruiting for OUR Walmart, but employees (or associates, as they’re called at Walmart) across the company were watched; the briefest conversations were reported to the “home office,” as Walmart calls its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

[….] Walmart’s aim isn’t only to watch 100 or so active members of OUR Walmart, says Kate Bronfenbrenner, a lecturer at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. “They are looking for the thousands who are supportive so they can intimidate them.” Walmart declined to comment on her statement.

The FBI came on the scene next, after the company heard about plans for the Ride for Respect demonstration, which brought a caravan of striking workers to Bentonville for the shareholder meeting, during which 14,000 Walmart managers, investors, and hand-picked associates joined the founding Walton family for a week of events, including an Elton John performance.

Berfield continues:

A Delta team began operations. When global security heard that members of the Occupy movement might join the protests at corporate headquarters, they began working with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces. The documents from the NLRB hearing don’t provide any details about the collaboration or indicate whether it was unusual for Walmart to bring in the FBI. The bureau had worked with local police forces across the country as they dealt with Occupy protesters.

“With some assistance from LM [Lockheed Martin] we have created the attached map to track the caravan movements and approximate participants,” Kris Russell, a risk program senior manager, wrote to colleagues on May 30.

OUR Walmart brought the case after Walmart allegedly retaliated against Ride for Respect strikers by disciplining 70 participants and firing almost 20 of them. Walmart said it was simply enforcing its attendance policy.

Tifft, of the group’s Wisconsin chapter, said elected officials “should launch an official investigation and hold [Walmart] accountable. Instead of wasting their giant profits on every deceptive tactic under the sun to track low-wage workers going hungry, they should pay us what we earn and treat us with respect.”

As the nationwide movement for a $15 federal minimum wage claims more and more victories, workers are not backing down from their plans for this year’s protests.

“This Black Friday, we stand united in telling Walmart—enough is enough!” Tifft said.

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In Biggest Tax Evasion Scheme of Its Kind, Big Pharma Becomes Behemoth

Mega-merger between pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Allergan could lead to higher drug prices, watchdogs warn

Written by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-23-2015.

The so-called "corporate inversion" would allow Pfizer to profit from a lower corporate tax rate in Allergan's home country of Ireland. (Photo: Chris Potter/flickr/cc)

The so-called “corporate inversion” would allow Pfizer to profit from a lower corporate tax rate in Allergan’s home country of Ireland. (Photo: Chris Potter/flickr/cc)

Big Pharma just became Huge Pharma.

Creating the world’s largest drugmaker—and paving the way for higher pharmaceutical prices—Viagra-maker Pfizer Inc. and Allergan PLC, which manufactures Botox, said Monday that they would merge in a so-called inversion deal worth up to about $155 billion.

The takeover “would be the largest inversion ever,” according to the Wall Street Journal, allowing Pfizer to profit from a lower corporate tax rate in Allergan’s home country of Ireland.

The LA Times reported that the deal “is likely to fuel critics’ concerns that consumers would pay even more for drugs as competition declines among manufacturers, insurers and retailers.”

As Gustav Ando, research director for the business information and consulting company IHS Life Sciences, told the Washington Post: “This merger isn’t meant to benefit patients, it isn’t meant to innovate in any kind of way…and certainly the benefits won’t be passed on to consumers.”

Addressing this aspect of the deal, presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Monday that the merger “would be a disaster for American consumers who already pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.”

What’s more, Sanders added, “[i]t also would allow another major American corporation to hide its profits overseas.”

While Pfizer cried poor in an effort to justify the merger—saying the U.S. corporate tax regime was forcing it to compete against foreign rivals “with one hand tied behind our back”—the coalition Americans for Tax Fairness showed earlier this month that the company had in fact “dramatically overstated its corporate tax rates” and was already enjoying a significant competitive advantage over those who pay their fair share.

And a Citizens for Tax Justice report released last month found that Pfizer has a stunning 151 subsidiaries in known foreign tax havens—more than all but five other Fortune 500 corporations.

As U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in a speech on corporate tax reform last week, “Only one problem with the over-taxation story: It’s not true. There is a problem with the corporate tax code, but that isn’t it. It’s not that taxes are far too high for giant corporations, as the lobbyists claim. No, the problem is that the revenue generated from corporate taxes is far too low.”

On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department unveiled new rules aiming to curb tax-lowering inversion deals. But even at the time, analysts said “there was scarce evidence they would stop the biggest inversion of them all, between Pfizer Inc and Allergan Plc.” The Obama administration has said Congressional action is necessary to eliminate corporate inversions for good.

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