Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Corporate Cowards: Dow AgroSciences

Rule of Reason readers will recall that last Monday CAC bestowed its "corporate coward" award on Dow AgroSciences. The Award was first in a new series designed to heap shame on businessmen when they fail to defend their rights in the face of injustice. Dow AgroSciences received our award for settling a plainly erroneous lawsuit brought against it by New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer for advertising the safety of their pesticide products.

So guess what CAC received in its in-box today:

Nicholas Provenzo - I am the primary author of and contact for the press release that may have prompted your December 15 letter. I've been in the business of defending my company -- also my father's company, for that matter -- for 30 years, and for a variety of reasons derived from three decades of personal experience, I don't entirely share the philosophy or perspectives you've espoused. But, if you're willing, I would like two signed copies of that letter on your official letterhead instead of just a fax. I'd like to frame one and keep the other for my scrapbook. If you decide to send them, the address is:

Garry L. Hamlin
[Address omitted]

Merry Christmas.

P.S. This is a personal communication. I am not functioning in any official capacity on behalf of my company or any other organization and this communication should not be used to suggest or imply that I am.
Mr. Hamlin has respectfully asked me to send him a copy of the fax I sent his firm so he may frame it. Interesting, considering I called the executives of his company "sniveling bedwetters." And yet unfulfilling. I don't get the sense Mr. Hamlin grasped that CAC was accusing his company of a shameful crime against its own interests. Attorney General Spitzer's arguments against Dow AgroSciences were utterly bankrupt—literally legal nonsense on stilts. Yet by falling to defend its rights, Dow AgroSciences gave Spitzer's claims of false advertising (and the moral basis by which he made these claims) a legitimacy which they never could enjoy on their own. Mr. Hamlin's thirty years of experience and the pride he feels in following in his fathers footsteps does not negate that his firm that engaged in what Ayn Rand appropriately called "sanction of the victim." A victim's inaction only serves to aid injustice.

Businessmen are certainly within their rights to consider it more practical to settle a costly lawsuit then have their businesses endure a protected fight. Yet I can't help but think if the American founders used the same calculus as Dow AgroSciences did when it calculated the cost of fighting against Elliot Spitzer, we would be living in a much different and much darker world today. I will send Mr. Hamlin a signed copy of his firm's award. And for extra measure, I will be sending him a copy of Atlas Shrugged. If he won't read it, maybe his son will . . .

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