Fortune reporter Bethany McLean was virtually the only journalist in America who dared write about Enron's financial problems prior to November 2001. Now that its collapse has become the nation's hottest story, teams of business journalists are digging into the largest corporate meltdown in American history. But as in the savings and loan debacle a dozen years ago, it took news organizations too long to piece together the clues. "It's fair to say the press did not do a great job in covering Enron," admits Steve Shepard, editor-in-chief of Business Week magazine.
The Bush administration has announced that an eight-year-old, $2 billion federal program to create high-mileage gas vehicles was being scrapped and a new program -- focusing on hydrogen fuel-cells -- was being created. According to Jack Doyle, author of Taken for A Ride: Detroit's Big Three and the Politics of Pollution, this new fuel-efficiency initiative is more PR than progress.
The Wall Street Journal reports that, " Libya's Col. Moammar Gadhafi, is attempting a rehabilitation. Top U.S. and Libyan officials have held several unpublicized meetings in England and Switzerland in recent years to discuss improving ties. Public-relations campaigns and lobbying efforts on Libya's behalf are under way, funded in part by oil money and driven by a desire to cash in on future deals or resume business interrupted by sanctions. ... The four American oil companies that were forced by U.S. sanctions to suspend operations in Libya ... are eager to return to Libya.
PR trade publication The Holmes Report writes: "Accounting giant Andersen--the former Arthur Andersen--is reportedly looking to recruit crisis management and other communications experts as it faces mounting criticism for its role in the collapse of Enron." Anderson has already hired the Virginia-based firm Hartz Consulting and retains Ketchum as its PR agency of record. But the company is expected to enlist more PR consultants as it faces Congressional investigations, a federal criminal inquiry and lawsuits from shareholders.
Major media have been remarkably quiet about the Carlyle Group, "one of the most powerful, well-connected, and secretive companies in the world," which brought together high-powered former politicians including George Bush seniors with Saudi financial moguls and even members of the Bin Laden family. "The Bush administration isn't afraid to mix business and politics, and no other firm embodies that penchant better than the Carlyle Group," reports Red Herring magazine. "Walking that fine line is what Carlyle does best.
Mark Crispin Miller examines the growing power of the world's 10 largest media multinationals: AOL Time Warner, Disney, General Electric, News Corporation, Viacom, Vivendi, Sony, Bertelsmann, AT&T and Liberty Media. "The media cartel that keeps us fully entertained and permanently half-informed is always growing here and shriveling there, with certain of its members bulking up while others slowly fall apart or get digested whole," he observes.
Washington Post reporter Michael Grunwald uncovers a decades-long campaign by Monsanto to hide its extremely toxic PCB pollution in Anniston, Alabama. Monsanto held a monopoly on PCB production in the United States until they stopped making them in 1977. For nearly 40 years while producing PCBs at the Anniston plant, Grunwald reports, Monsanto knew that the PCBs they were dumping into an Anniston creek and open-pit landfills were toxic and they concealed that knowledge.
A subtle blame game may be developing between two former executives most widely suspected of playing key roles in Enron Corp.'s collapse. Former Chief Executive Jeff Skilling and ousted Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow have both made carefully controlled media appearances in the company of the attorneys representing them in scores of civil lawsuits and government inquiries extending all the way to Congress. In both instances, the men or their lawyers distanced themselves from blame, suggesting others were responsible.
PR trade publication O'Dwyer's PR Daily reports: "Robert Monks, Chairman of LENS Investment Management and Ram Trust Services, has filed a resolution calling for the separation of the Chairman and CEO positions at ExxonMobil because he believes the current holder of the posts, Lee Raymond, and his denial of the global warming problem is destroying the reputation of the energy giant. Monks says Raymond's 'extreme position' and negative public image is the reason that ExxonMobil's stock is 'undervalued compared to its peer group when it should be at a premium.'"
PR trade publication O'Dwyer's PR Daily reports: "Omnicom has established SafirRosetti to spearhead its foray into the 'business intelligence' and 'executive and personal protection' arenas. Former New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir and ex-Kroll Assocs. and IBM Security Director Joe Rosetti head the operation that Omnicom CEO John Wren calls a 'natural extension' of the communications combine's business."