Montioring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest Perspective
                                                A.V. Krebs  Editor\Publisher

Issue #103                                                                            January 29, 2001


"Inaccuracies in the financial statements” of a IBP, Inc. subsidiary DFG, a small Chicago firm that makes appetizers and desserts which IBP acquired for $32 million in 1998, has raised serious and troubling questions for Tyson Foods in its desire to purchase the nation’s largest meat packing company.

Initially IBP had disclosed that it thought a $9 million reduction in pretax earnings last year would cover the "inaccuracies” in its financial statements

Then IBP revealed it possibly faced a possible $47 million pretax charge. However, that is "only part of our concern" a Tyson spokesperson told Dow Jones Newswires Friday pertaining to a recent letter in which the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) raised questions about numerous other financial issues. Tyson said the SEC's letter concerned various accounting issues, including the methods IBP used to account for recent acquisitions.

So now IBP has implied that the total figure could be even larger since the $47 million pretax doesn't include impairment of goodwill or other long-lived assets  associated with DFG.  Tyson spokesman Ed Nicholson said that "we, like IBP, are also unsure if historical financial statements must be restated or if further impairment" for goodwill and other assets will be necessary.

Tyson also believes that the SEC letter touches other important issues" besides the DFG acquisition, and while IBP management had previously mentioned  DFG-related issues to Tyson executives several times during their negotiations, only on Friday did Tyson learn of the new $47 million increase, announced in (an) IBP press release.

"As you know, we strongly believe this information should have been disclosed to Tyson prior to our negotiation," Tyson general counsel Les Baledge said in a letter to IBP. "We cannot commence the exchange offer for IBP shares until these issues have been resolved."

In light of the new revelations Tyson has extended its $4.7 billion tender offer for IBP to February 7 to allow time to resolve the issues. As of January 24, about 99.2 million shares, or about 94%, of IBP's outstanding stock had been tendered pursuant to the offer.

Since the recent disclosures by the two merging companies IBP's shares have tumbled, closing Friday at $24.69, down $3.93, or 14%, from Wednesday's close of $28.62. This surprising large "spread" that now exists between the stock's trading price and the $30-a-share buyout price suggests Wall Street arbitragers think that there is a real possibility that Tyson may want to lower its purchase price, or perhaps completely terminate the acquisition.

IBP said it hopes to meet with officials at the SEC's Division of Corporate Finance today, having already sent the agency a "written response (that) appropriately addresses all of the SEC's comments." Nicholson declined to comment when asked if Tyson might revisit the terms of the pending acquisition, which is still under review by antitrust officials, that would create the nation's biggest meat supplier. that would merge the world's largest beef processor with the world’s largest processor of chickens.

IBP, the nation's largest beef producer, with 27.7% of the market, and the second-largest U.S. pork producer, with 17.7% of the market. reports $14.1 billion in annual sales and has 49,000 employees.


Washington state authorities are still investigating the charges that many of the cows that enter IBP Inc.’s Wallula processing plant are being butchered while they are still conscious.

The charges stem from a clandestine video that shows upside-down cows kicking and seemingly struggling to release their hooves from an overhead chain winding through the company’s large  slaughterhouse in addition to showing an electric prod being jammed down a cow's mouth. (See Issue #77)

According to a recent report by Jim Lynch writing in The Oregonian the Washington State Patrol, with the help of two other state agencies, hopes to conclude its investigation this month into whether slaughter or animal cruelty laws were violated. A Walla Walla County prosecutor then will decide whether to press charges.

Gary Mickelson, spokesman for IBP, the world's largest beef processor, suggests the allegations are "residue" from a June 1999 strike at the plant in which workers walked off the job, alleging that an unreasonably fast production line caused worker and food-safety hazards.

Mickelson told Lynch that while the company is "extremely concerned" about the animal treatment depicted in the video, it is not representative of the way cattle are treated at the plant, where 1,400 workers butcher about 300 cows an hour. "IBP takes the issue of proper livestock handling very seriously," he added.

The federal humane slaughter law requires that all the cows be rendered "insensible to pain" before they are butchered. Some reflexive kicking may occur, but cows shouldn't be mooing, nodding and blinking while they're getting cut.

Interviews with three former and two current plant workers last week by Lynch indicate cattle-handling procedures may have improved slightly since the video aired regionally in June, but that problems persist. They say "the chain" -- production line -- still moves too fast to give "the knocker" enough time to adequately stun cows senseless with a hand-held device that thrusts a steel bolt into their skulls.

One slaughterhouse worker, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing a job he's held for almost a decade, said he saw 14 "live cows" wiggle through the butchering stations last Wednesday.

When the charges of were first leveled against IBP the company, in an effort to demonstrate its diligence on the humane slaughter issue, paid Temple Grandin, a Colorado State University professor and national expert on animal treatment at slaughterhouses, to inspect the Wallula plant last summer.

Grandin, who has designed stockyards for 25 years and inspected 50 plants during the past five years, said she saw no live cows on the chain when she visited the IBP plant. She said workers exercised good cow-stunning protocol during the three hours she was there, but she didn't like the way the cattle were led to slaughter.

Noisy chute doors, poor lighting and bad traction needlessly alarmed cows, she said. As a result, the animals backed up, requiring the use of electrical prods, which made them jumpy and more difficult to stun. "When a good plant is working right, (cows) just walk up the chute and bang, they're done," she said. "It's no more stressful than vaccinations in the feed yard." But with bad management or bad equipment, she said, "it can be a nightmare."

Grandin says IBP's plants vary in quality. "Some of their plants are excellent," she said. How would she rank the Wallula plant? "Bad," she said, noting, however, that the controversial video unfairly tarnished the entire industry.

"This is a plant that just really messed up," Grandin said. "But to imply the whole industry is hanging live cattle is just wrong." Grandin also told Lynch she knew the chain was running slower than normal when she inspected the Wallula plant, something workers also confirmed. Whenever inspectors arrive, the chain is slowed by 10% to 20% to give workers time to do their jobs well, workers claim.

Meanwhile, the union that represents 6,000 USDA food inspectors nationwide, has voiced support for a Humane Farming Association's petition to the state, asserts that reduced access to slaughterhouses and increased production speeds make plants harder to police. Interviews  by Lynch with Washington state investigators indicate the inquiry has been awkward and difficult. When investigators performed their "surprise" inspection in June, they had to wait for more than a half-hour before they were allowed into the slaughterhouse.



“People of the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment and diversion but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or in some contrivance to raise prices.”
                                    --- Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

As the nation watches with some foreboding the current unfolding energy crisis in California there is both concern and suspicions as to who is behind the crisis and who is profiting from the crisis.

As J.A. Savage, a senior correspondent for the independent weekly California  Energy Markets, recently pointed out in a January 3 AlterNet essay:

“Greed, indeed, is the underlying cause of California's energy crisis. It's a lot of other things too, but the comet-struck electric disintegration in the last few weeks are the embers of a decade of money grubbing. Tracing the electric system's collapse from today backwards, greed plays the major role at every step.”

Noting that “at the same time greed from investors in companies that generate power selling into the wholesale market  . . . .also coincident was the greed of investors in the utilities' parent  corporations” as “the greedy parent companies milked utilities for billions over the last few years.”

Yet, as the debate goes on within the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over how to punish the use of "market power" by sellers of high-priced electricity to California with the state utilities, which buy it, wanting a broad definition of such power, out-of-state generators, who sell it, think it should be defined only in "extreme circumstances."

And as the Associated Press’s Jonathan Salant reports “one of the biggest beneficiaries of the California power crisis is a Texas energy conglomerate that more than any other single company has helped bankroll President Bush's political career. Enron Corp. of Houston is among a handful of a new generation of independent electric power brokers and producers that have reaped giant revenue increases from California's power shortages and higher natural gas prices nationwide.

“The new president's rejection of price controls,” Salant points out, “to hold down soaring electricity costs in the Golden State reflects the views of Enron, the largest wholesaler of electricity and largest owner of natural gas pipelines in North America.”

The company and its employees have given more than anyone else to Bush's two campaigns for governor, his unsuccessful House campaign in 1978 and last year's race for the White House, according to the watchdog Center for Public Integrity.

Enron and its employees gave $113,800 to Bush's presidential campaign, his tenth most generous contributor; $250,000 to the Republican National Convention host committee; and $300,000 to the Presidential Inauguration Committee. Enron Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lay, who raised more than $100,000 for Bush's campaign, is a member of the president's energy transition team and attended his economic summit.

But Enron’s ties to Bush have much deeper roots than just energy policy and those ties are personified in the person of one Dr. Wendy Lee Gramm, a member of Enron’s board of directors.

Gramm, the wife of Texas Republican conservative U.S. Senator Phil Gramm served as Chairman of the U. S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1988-1993, was Administrator for Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget from 1985-1988, the Executive, Director of the Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief, and Director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Economics.

Gramm currently serves as a member of the Boards of Directors, in addition to Enron, of the Independent Women's Forum; the International Republican Institute; Invesco Funds, and State Farm Insurance Companies, the largest single public stockholder of Archer Daniels Midland (“Supermarkup to the World” )

Until December, 1999 she was board member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where cattle futures are traded and is presently an active board member of IBP, Inc., the nation’s largest meatpacker and mostly recently has been serving on the company’s special committee examining buyout offers from DLJ Merchant Banking Partners III and affiliated funds and other investors which included ADM and certain IBP management employees, Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods.

She is also Chairman of the Board of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the creation of Dr. James Leininger who has used his enormous wealth to create a conglomerate of a half-dozen influential foundations and think tanks whose pro-business policy positions have become the basis of key Texas legislative initiatives, including tort reform and school vouchers.

Leininger, 55, also has created numerous political action committees, which he has employed so effectively that he has been nicknamed the “Daddy Warbucks” of the Texas Republican Party. The largest single political donor in the state, Leininger helped to engineer the Republican takeover of the legislature and governor's mansion. In the 1998 election cycle alone, Leininger and his family spent more than $4 million to finance think tanks and political campaigns, according to the Texas Freedom Network, a nonprofit group established to counter the religious right, and reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Bush’s ties to Leininger are strong. Leininger has given Bush’s campaigns $83,750 over the years. While only 73 on the list of Bush's all-time career patrons, his ranking, according to the Network, belies the support that Leininger has given Bush over his political career through his various organizations.

“In 1992, while cutting his political teeth, Bush sat on the board of advisers of Leininger’s flagship think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which churns out conservative policy positions and is modeled after the influential Heritage Foundation in Washington. Bush also spoke at the foundation’s 10th anniversary event in January 1999.”


In an embezzlement charge that had a familiar ring about it, Jerry D. Jones, 43, of Decatur, Illinois and a senior marketing manager for Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) was charged last week with allegedly creating a phony company and submitting fake invoices worth $118,000 over the past 15 months, which ADM paid and Jones deposited in his personal bank account.

Jones, a senior marketing manager for ADM's Refined Oils Division, was arrested last Tuesday evening at the company's headquarters after giving Decatur police a taped confession, according to a sworn affidavit filed Wednesday in Macon Circuit Court. Jones' bond was set at $5,000 in a court hearing on a preliminary charge of felony theft over $100,000. He posted bond a short time after the hearing.

ADM corporate security reportedly discovered and investigated the phony vendor, J & M Enterprises, which listed as its address a post office box belonging to Jones, according to the court records. ADM said Jones had worked for the company for more than 15 years in a variety of positions. He was fired Tuesday.

What was familiar about the Jones arrest was that shortly after the FBI raided ADM’s offices in 1995 ADM accused Mark Whitacre, another one of the company’s executives who had been acting for three years as a FBI mole within the company, of embezzling over $9 million by means of bogus invoices and off-shore accounts.

ADM then filed a suit in Switzerland seeking to recover the funds. Whitacre meanwhile claimed that ADM President Jim Randall had approved all the payments as “special bonuses,” with the first one timed approximately at the same time Mick Andreas, ADM’s vice president at the time, first insisted that he meet and work with ADM executive Terrance Wilson on an international lysine price fixing scheme.

The “Supermarkup to the World” later would plead guilty to the price-fixing charges and pay a $100 million fine. In 1998, the three ADM executives were convicted of conspiring with competitors in Japan and Korea to fix the $600 million world market in lysine, a soybean-based feed additive that promotes growth in hogs and poultry

It was reported that Randall made a personal visit to the ADM comptroller soon after the FBI raid and requested specific invoices be pulled. It was also a few weeks after Whitacre had been exposed that ADM “discovered” evidence of his illegal money transfers “almost by blind luck,” despite what was purported to be a tightly audited corporate comptroller’s office and internal audits.

In a taped interview with the Washington Post’s Peter Carlson in mid-1996 then ADM CEO and Board Chairman Dwayne O. Andreas said he had known about Whitacre’s alleged embezzlements as “early as 1992” but didn’t say anything “because he wanted to get the money back.” Yet, in March, 1995 Andreas circulated a Dain Bosworth report favorable to the company in which Whitacre was mentioned as the next ADM president.

Curiously, two years later farm columnist Alan Guebert reported that in May, 1997 the Swiss lawsuit against Whitacre by ADM was quietly dropped.

During his sentencing hearing Whitacre’s lawyer Bill T. Walker charged  that federal prosecutors possessed a “tape (that) purports to discuss one of these bonuses he (Whitacre) has plead guilty to by Mr. Andreas.”

"The Department of Justice knows good and well that that bonus plan was at ADM . . . (and) they know that tape exists,” Walker added.

Federal prosecutor Donald MacKay “in the strongest terms that I can on behalf of the United States” denounced Walker’s contention. “There is not one shred of evidence that we have uncovered which would in any way lend any support to Mr. Whitacre’s frequent and public pronouncements to the contrary. There are no tapes which would substantiate or establish that Mr. Whitacre discussed this topic with Mr. Michael Andreas or anyone else.”

Lawyer-journalist James B. Lieber in his authoritative book Rats In The Grain: The Dirty Tricks and Trials of Archer Daniels Midland The Supermarket to the World (Four Walls Eight Windows Press, New York, New York: 2000) questions at length the accuracy of that statement. (See AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER review, Issue # 85)

Mark Whitacre, is now serving a nine-year federal prison sentence for allegedly embezzling $9 million from ADM.


Little noted nor much discussed in the twilight of the Clinton presidency and his granting of dozens of federal pardons was his exoneration of former USDA Secretary Mike Espy’s friends and former colleagues who were indicted and convicted in a $23  million investigation that accused Espy of being too cozy with the industry he regulated.

In the days immediately prior to his leaving office Clinton granted Espy's  request for seven pardons and a commutation. ”I felt somewhat responsible because it all started with me,” said Espy, Clinton's first agriculture  secretary. “It's a fitting ending.”

In 1998 a jury found Espy innocent of taking illegal gifts, but eight others pleaded guilty or were convicted of various charges in the investigation by special prosecutor Donald Smaltz. He had accused Espy of accepting gifts and trips from Tyson and other businesses and lying about them.

Espy said he fought to keep his USDA job, but was forced to resign because the Clinton administration did not want to be involved with a scandal (?!?!?!?)

Clinton initially pardoned Tyson Foods executive Archie Schaffer III from a  one-year jail term. On his final day in office, Clinton pardoned six others and commuted the sentence of Espy's former chief of staff, Ronald Blackley. Blackley, serving a 27-month sentence for failing to disclose $22,000 he received from agribusiness interests, was the only one in prison when Clinton issued his pardon

Terming the pardons a disappointment but not surprising Common Cause’s Celia Viggo Wexler noted that:

“The whole thing was such a huge mess. It's the frosting on the cake that's fallen. It's disturbing if it comes out of an attitude that this wasn't serious business that was being investigated.''

Three people who were pardoned had convictions involving gifts --- Schaffer, former Tyson Foods lobbyist Jack L. Williams and lobbyist Richard Douglas. The three other cases centered around illegal campaign contributions to Espy's brother, Henry, who lost a congressional race in 1993.

Pardoned were lobbyist James H. Lake, former New Orleans attorney Alvarez Ferrouillet  Jr. and John Hemmingson, former head of a major crop insurance company. The final two were from Espy's home state of Mississippi  ---- farmer Brook Keith Mitchell Sr., who pleaded guilty to wrongly collecting crop subsidies, and Blackley.


As expected the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), joined by the Michigan Pork Producers Association and various independent pork producers have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the USDA to keep the government's $54-million pork-checkoff program alive.

Their action came the day after the USDA released the results of a referendum held last year in which hog farmers voted 15,951 to 14,396 to kill the program. In Iowa, the nation’s largest pork producing state, the vote was a resounding 4,338 votes against to 2,892 in favor.

The day following the suit Michigan Federal Judge Richard Enslen ruled that the pork checkoff can continue to be collected until a hearing is held February 2 on ending the program. Judge Enslen at that time is expected to consider the merits of the two groups' efforts to overturn the referendum results. The Campaign for Family Farms and hog farmers who voted down the checkoff plan to intervene in the case to protect democracy and the producers' vote to end the mandatory tax.

Opponents say the program has done little to stimulate pork consumption and mostly benefits hog processors like IBP Inc. and Smithfield Foods and large corporate factory farms.

Since 1986, the USDA supervised program has been financed through a mandatory fee, called a "checkoff," charging 45 cents for every $100 of a pig's value when it is sold. Money from the checkoff program goes to the quasi-governmental National Pork Board, which contracts promotional services through the NPPC.

In a same-day news release NPPC officials said they expected other state pork organizations and independent producers to join them in their legal battle. claiming that the "USDA acted unlawfully in holding a binding referendum, despite having no legal authority to do so."

Chris Gabriele, a spokesperson for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, which has supported abolishing the program, said the pork producers' suit was groundless, because outgoing USDA Secretary Dan Glickman was entitled to use his discretion in ordering the referendum. Hog farmers voted on it beginning August 18,  through September 21.

Susan McAvoy, a USDA spokeswoman in Washington, also noted that the agency's inspector general, Roger C. Viadero, had investigated claims by the National Pork Producers Council of referendum irregularities and found no evidence supporting them. “The outcome of the referendum clearly demonstrates that the pork checkoff program does not have the support of its producers," McAvoy said.

"It appears that NPPC has been preparing for quite some time to file this lawsuit" observed Tom Malloy, an Iowa hog farmer and Iowa CCI member who voted to end the checkoff. "It seems strange that a producer funded organization would spend so much time and money to file suit to stop hog farmers' will".

Monica Kahout, a member of the Land Stewardship Project who raises hogs near Olivia, Minnesota, also voted to end the mandatory checkoff.   She was less surprised about the NPPC's lawsuit to overturn the hog farmers' vote to end the pork tax.

Kahout, a spokesperson for the Campaign for Family Farms, pointed out, "The NPPC has always been consistent --- consistently against independent producers, consistently against democracy and consistently against their own accountability to the hog farmers that are forced to fund NPPC's corporate agenda."


A lawsuit claiming that the European Union (EU) has cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in lost banana sales has been filed by Chiquita Brands International Inc. in the Court of First Instance of the European Court of Justice.

Chiquita said despite the lawsuit, accusing the European Commission of failing to reduce trade barriers in response to a 1997 World Trade Organization ruling, it still hopes to reach a settlement with the 15-nation EU but decided the lawsuit might bring a quicker resolution.

The Cincinnati-based company is seeking $525 million in damages from the European Commission, and has asked for the right in their suit to demand future damages if the problems aren't corrected to the company's satisfaction, according to Steven Warshaw, the company's president and chief operating officer. EU officials have said Chiquita's problems are of its own making and not the fault of Europe's trade officials.

Meanwhile, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said the EU expects to challenge $191.4 million in U.S. trade sanctions after the EU's new banana-import rules go into effect later this year. In December, EU agriculture ministers endorsed a banana-import plan that calls for the EU to keep a transitional system of tariff quotas and allocate them on a "first-come, first-served" basis as of April 1 until a tariff-only system takes effect in 2006.

In a recent Wall Street Journal interview Lamy said the EU's revised banana-import system complies with WTO rules, but it's up to the U.S. to decide whether the sanctions will remain in place. Lamy also indicated that the first step would be to try to convince the U.S. that the new system complies with WTO rules, and if the U.S. disagrees, the EU will try to get the sanctions removed.

In late December, EU agriculture ministers endorsed a banana-import plan that calls for the EU to keep a transitional system of tariff quotas and allocate them on a "first-come, first-served" basis as of April 1 until a tariff-only system takes effect in 2006.

This latest banana war first began when the Europeans introduced import controls to protect their banana growers in the Canary Islands, Madeira and French West Indies, and traditional suppliers in African and Caribbean nations. The rules more than halved Chiquita's market share in the EU, where the company used to draw more than half of its profits, Warshaw told the Journal in a telephone interview.

As recently reported here Chiquita is currently negotiating with bondholders for concessions intended to help the company work its way out of multimillion-dollar debt and avoid a possible bankruptcy filing. Some food industry analysts, however, believe that some of the company’s problems date to the early 1990s when management increased debt by expanding the company's shipping fleet, then didn't act to substantially reduce debt in the years when Chiquita was still fiscally healthy.

Chiquita says it has been pushed to the brink of bankruptcy by the EU's system of tariffs and quotas, which restrict the sales of bananas marketed by U.S. companies. According to the Journal, Chiquita controls about 20% of the EU's market, its share --- and profit --- have plunged since the rules were introduced in 1993.

While his company may be suffering financial ills, it apparently hasn’t affected owner’s Carl H. Lindner’s generosity to his trade policy making friends in Washington, D.C.

In the last two years alone Lindner has contributed $650,000 to Republicans and $420,000 to Democrats, according to public financing records.

In recently announcing that the George W. Bush Inaugural committee would not accept any individual or corporate contribution above $100,000, it was noted that one donation exceeded that amount ---- a $200,000 contribution from Lindner, head of the American Financial Group based in Cincinnati, Ohio. But committee spokesman Dirk Vande Beek said half the sum was returned to Lindner because of the limit. Lindner and his family own about 40% of Chiquita through his American Financial Group.


After promised legal action by Iowa and 16 other farm states Aventis CropScience USA, assuring farmers and grain elevator operators that it is financially capable of handling the massive costs associated with containing StarLink, has agreed to cover the expenses farmers and elevators incur because of its genetically-engineered corn contamination.

To date the French multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical and agrichemical giant Aventis S.A., has spent $90 million on StarLink remediation while the costs are expected eventually to exceed $200 million.

Originally designed as a genetically altered corn to make it resistant to the European corn borer, Starlink was approved only for animal consumption, but unknown portions of both 1999 and 2000 harvests made it was into into the human food chain, prompting hundreds of food products to be pulled from grocery shelves last fall.

In recently announcing the agreement between the states and Aventis Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said the pact formalized previous company pledges and gives Iowa and the other states legal authority to sue Aventis CropScience should it fail to live up to earlier promises.

“Aventis agreed that it is obligated to compensate growers and elevators for loss in value resulting from StarLink corn, buffer corn and commingled corn," said Miller.

Among the key portions of the agreement are:

* Aventis will pay elevator operators within 30 days after receiving documented claims. If not, the company will pay interest of 1.4 percent monthly until the claim is settled.

* Aventis will pay for any testing that is done on corn to determine whether it contains StarLink.

* Aventis will cover "excess transportation" expenses that elevator operators incur if they have to redirect corn shipments to approved users once they're found to be contaminated with StarLink.

* Aventis will mail copies of claims documents to all known growers, elevator operators and owners of corn or fields whose crops either adjoined StarLink fields or who found their corn commingled with StarLink.

"We appreciate the states' leadership and we will continue to work together to resolve this StarLink issue," Aventis CropScience said in a prepared statement.


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