Dirt Diggers Digest No. 58

January 24, 2005

Editor: Philip Mattera

1. Blogs as a corporate research tool

2. EWG reveals federal water subsidy recipients in California

3. New corporate slavery disclosure

4. Bureau van Dijk expands business information offerings

5. Critical books on corporations

6. Fifty years of the Fortune 500

7. WorldCom litigation website

8. U.S. government teaches business ethics to former socialists


1. Blogs as a corporate research tool

Taking place in Seattle this week is the Blog Business Summit

<http://blogbusinesssummit.com/>, an event designed for individuals

who are trying to make a living from publishing a web log and for

companies that are seeking to use blogs to promote their products

and services.

As long as blogs were little more than the online diaries of opinionated

and verbose individuals, they were of little interest for corporate

researchers. But today large companies are jumping on the blog

bandwagon and using the medium for marketing and communications

purposes. In addition, individuals (some disgruntled) within large companies

are creating blogs that might provide insight into corporate strategies or

questionable behavior (though prudent bloggers will omit the name of their

employer). There's already at least one blog dedicated to corporate rumors

in general: Corporate Spy, which can be found at http://corporatespy.blogspot.com/.

For a primer on business blogging, see http://www.corporateblogging.info/.

For a general list of blogs, see Blogarama <http://www.blogarama.com/>

or QuackTrack <http://www.quacktrack.com/> .


2. EWG reveals federal water subsidy recipients in California

The Environmental Working Group <www.ewg.org> recently published a

study that for the first time names the specific recipients of federal water

subsidies in California--information that was previously hidden from the public

by state law. Along with the study, which estimates that the subsidies are

worth some $416 million a year, EWG has created a database for searching

the list of recipients, which consists mainly of the state's largest farms

(see http://www.ewg.org/reports/watersubsidies/search.php?start).

EWG has also assembled an updated version of its well-known database of

U.S. farm subsidies (http://www.ewg.org/farm/findings.php), and the group

reported recently that comparable data will soon be available in the United

Kingdom (http://www.ewg.org/issues/agriculture/20050107/index.php).


3. New corporate slavery disclosure

J. P. Morgan Chase & Co. filed a disclosure statement with the

City of Chicago last week acknowledging that two of its

predecessor banks--Citizens Bank and Canal Bank, both of

Louisiana--had accepted thousands of slaves as collateral on

loans made in the 19th Century. The banks were antecedents

of Bank One, which Morgan purchased last year.

The disclosure was based on what the bank said were 3,500

person-hours of research that went into the preparation of a report

posted on the web at http://www2.bankone.com/presents/home/ .
The work was undertaken to comply with an ordinance passed by
the Chicago City Council in 2002 requiring companies that do business
with the city to determine any historical links to slavery. Lehman
Brothers filed such a disclosure with the city in 2003.

Los Angeles followed the lead of Chicago and instituted a similar

disclosure requirement for contractors in 2003; Detroit followed suit

in 2004. All of these followed a pioneering slavery disclosure bill

applying to insurance companies that took effect in California in 2001.

See http://www.insurance.ca.gov/SEIR/main.htm.


4. Bureau van Dijk expands business information offerings

Bureau van Dijk  <www.bvdep.com>, one of the world's leading

publishers of electronic business information, has added to its list of

database offerings. A new product called INVIEW provides data on the

equity holdings of investment funds from around the world. Another new

service called AQUTE analyzes the quality of investment analyst

reports. Bureau van Dijk's products--which contain data on companies

based in North America, Europe and Japan--are sold either by subscription

or on a pay-per-view basis; free trials are available.


5. Critical books on corporations

The Center on Corporate Policy has assembled a handy list of some 100

books that contain a critical approach to corporations and corporate power

(http://www.corporatepolicy.org/issues/books.htm). The most recent of


AND RESTORING DEMOCRACY by Lee Drutman and Charlie Cray, the

latter being the director of the Center and a charter subscriber to the

Dirt Diggers Digest. The book, which represents a report by the Citizen

Works Corporate Reform Commission, deals with issues such as

challenging the corporate claim to constitutional rights and the need for

a serious crackdown on corporate crime. For more details, see:



6. Fifty years of the Fortune 500

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of its famed list of the 500 largest U.S.

corporations, Fortune magazine has compiled data from all the lists into

one database on the web <www.fortune.com/500archive> The site makes

it possible to view the lists from each year and to see a list of every year

that a particular company appeared on the ranking.

One section notes that over the five decades only three different companies

have made it to the number one spot: General Motors, Exxon Mobil and

Wal-Mart Stores. Keep in mind that until 1995 the main list consisted

exclusively of industrial companies, and service firms were ranked in

separate lists by category.


7. WorldCom litigation website

If you want details and documents on the major class action securities lawsuit

against onetime telecom highflyer WorldCom--including the recent landmark

settlement involving the firm's former directors--the place to go is a site called

WorldCom Securities Litigation put up by one of the law firms involved



8. U.S. government teaches business ethics to former socialists

The U.S. Commerce Department, seeking to promote appropriate

standards of behavior for entrepreneurs in those countries new to

capitalism, has published a volume called BUSINESS ETHICS:




The 355-page volume, a product of the Department's Good Governance

Program, has numerous references to environmental issues (including

the concept of a triple bottom line), but when it comes to labor unions

it hedges. In a section titled "You Decide," the handbook notes the ILO

standard on collective bargaining but hastens to add: "In at least one

country in East Asia, employee unions are forbidden." Apparently, it

can be ethical to deny the rights of one's employees to form a union.


A cumulative list of resources featured in the

Dirt Diggers Digest can be found on the web at:



Philip Mattera

Research Director & Director of the Corporate Research Project

Good Jobs First