Whopper of the Week: Monsanto

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Jan. 31 2002 10:53 PM

Whopper of the Week: Monsanto

First they're liable, then they aren't, then they are, and then they don't remember discussing it.

"A Jan. 1 article on PCB pollution in Anniston, Ala., mentioned a lawsuit scheduled to go to trial Monday. The defendant in that lawsuit is Solutia Inc., the company formed when the former Monsanto Co.'s chemical operations were spun off in 1997. The current Monsanto Co., which produces agricultural products, has no role in the litigation." [Italics Chatterbox's.]

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"A clarification that appeared Jan. 5 regarding a Jan. 1 article mistakenly stated that the new Monsanto Co. had 'no role' in an ongoing lawsuit over PCB pollution created by the old Monsanto Co. in Anniston, Ala. Solutia Inc., the company formed from the old Monsanto's chemical operations, is the lead defendant in that case. Although officials from the new Monsanto entity told the Washington Post that they had no liability and no connection to the Anniston case [italics Chatterbox's], the corporation's public securities disclosures state that it is liable for any judgments Solutia is unable to pay. Monsanto officials declined to comment on the disclosures, citing a gag order in the Alabama case and federal securities regulations."

Correction in the Washington Post, Jan. 11, 2002.

"Monsanto also asked for, and received, a clarification from The Washington Post that stated the 'new' Monsanto had no role in the Anniston lawsuit. The Post later said Monsantoofficials told the paper the company had no liability in the case.

"But two of the company's primary financial documents clearly state the 'new' Monsanto
is responsible for liabilities assumed by Solutia should the spin-off be unable to fulfill them.

"A spokesman for Monsanto said the company does not recall discussing the issue of liability with the Post
[italics Chatterbox's] and never intended to mislead the newspaper."

Associated Press story by David Scott, Jan. 16, 2002.

Discussion:Chatterbox is agnostic on the question of whether Monsanto should properly be said to have a "role" in the Solutia litigation if it's the prospective defendant of last resort. But Monsanto's claim that it can't recall discussing these issues with the Post is belied not only by the Post's assertion that Monsanto did discuss these issues with Post,but also by the very existence of that first correction, which had to have been requested by Monsanto itself.

(Thanks to John Coequyt of the Environmental Working Group.)

Got a whopper? Send it to chatterbox@slate.com. To be considered, an entry must be an unambiguously false statement paired with an unambiguous refutation, and both must be derived from some appropriately reliable public source. Preference will be given to newspapers and other documents that Chatterbox can link to online.

Whopper Archive:
Jan. 24, 2002: Linda Chavez
Jan. 17, 2002: George W. Bush
Jan. 10, 2002: Simon & Schuster
Jan. 4, 2002: The Associated Press

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