Tag Archives: compensation

Claim against Chiquita for funding Colombian death squads to go to trial in U.S.

After almost a decade of litigation, victims of Colombian paramilitary death squads funded by Chiquita are moving forward in a U.S. lawsuit against the banana giant.

This week, federal judge Kenneth Marra rejected Chiquita’s argument that the case should be heard in Colombia rather than the United States. This ruling could clear the way for the historic case to advance toward trial.

In 2007, EarthRights International and other co-counsel, filed a class action suit against Chiquita Brands International on behalf of the families of thousands of villagers, labor leaders and community organizers murdered by the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, a paramilitary terrorist organization.

The suit alleges that Chiquita made illegal, concealed payments to the AUC for years, totaling at least $1.6 million.

The lawsuit also alleges that the AUC shipped arms and drugs through Chiquita’s ports and on Chiquita boats.

In March 2007, Chiquita pleaded guilty to the federal crime of funding a designated terrorist organization and paid a fine.

“Chiquita profited from its relationship with the AUC and paid the Department of Justice $25 million, but the victims of their conduct have received nothing — it is past time Chiquita compensates the families in Colombia,” said Marco Simons, ERI’s general counsel.

“We are pleased that the court agreed that ‘the United States has a strong interest in monitoring and deterring unethical and illegal conduct of American corporations in supporting foreign terrorist organizations.’ The plaintiffs sued Chiquita here in its home court where Chiquita will get a fair hearing on the merits, something the company seems to have been trying to delay for a decade,” said co-counsel Agnieszka Fryszman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.

Chiquita has pulled out of Colombia and now has no operations or assets there. Still, Chiquita argued that it was more “convenient” to litigate in Colombia than the United States.

The court rejected this claim, finding Colombia to be an inadequate forum in light of serious security risks for plaintiffs and their lawyers.

“Our clients chose to litigate in the United States because it is the only forum where they can litigate safely and where they can be sure that Chiquita will pay,” said Simons.

The plaintiffs also sued several former Chiquita executives who were allegedly responsible for making, approving and concealing the payments to the AUC.

On June 1, Marra ruled the claims against those executives, including claims for torture and extrajudicial killing under the Torture Victim Protection Act, could continue. That case now moves into the discovery phase.

In addition to ERI, the plaintiffs are represented by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP and attorneys Judith Brown Chomsky, Arturo Carrillo and John DeLeon.

The case, Doe v. Chiquita Brands International, No. 08-MD-80421, is joined with several lawsuits against Chiquita proceeding before Marra.­

Tax Day study: U.S. has largest pay gap in world

The new executive pay watch, prepared by the AFL-CIO, was released on Tax Day and shows that the world’s largest pay gap exists in the United States, where CEOsof the largest companies made 354 times the average income of the average rank-and-file worker.

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said the pay gap is by far the widest in the world. In 2012, CEOs received on average $12.3 million while the average rank-and-file worker took home around $34,645, according to Trumka, who said the new data confirms CEO-to-worker pay disparities have increased dramatically over the past several decades.

Thirty years ago, CEOs were paid 42 times that of rank-and-file workers in the U.S.

For Wisconsin, the AFL-CIO survey shows:

• The average CEO pay was $4,907,639 in 2012.

• Average worker pay in 2012 in Wisconsin was $38,869.

The union’s Executive PayWatch is the most comprehensive searchable online database that tracks CEO pay at S&P 500 companies.

In addition to the new data, Trumka said PayWatch explores how CEO-backed groups such as the Business Roundtable and Fix the Debt are “drumming up a deficit scare to conceal their efforts to get more tax cuts for corporations, while hacking at Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits for working people.”

Trumka said, “American chief executives continued to do very well for themselves last year, while workers struggle to make ends meet. We are calling out the hypocrisy of rich CEOs who have the gall to ask for corporate tax cuts to be paid for by squeezing the retirement security of working America. The American public deserves to know the truth about their self-serving agenda.”

Closing a corporate tax loophole that allows U.S. multinational companies to avoid taxation on overseas profits would raise $42 billion in new revenue in 2013 alone, according to the AFL-CIO.

PayWatch also contains a Mutual Fund Votes Survey, which examines votes cast by the largest mutual fund families regarding CEO pay to help investors compare how mutual fund families voted on compensation issues, and a map that allows users to compare and contrast CEO pay ratios of top executives.

On the Web…

http://www.aflcio.org/Corporate-Watch/CEO-Pay-and-You