Wed, Jun 20, 2018 - Page 8 News List

The real ‘best friend of the court’

By Lin Yi-ping 林宜平 Chen Hsin-hsing 陳信行 Paul Jobin 彭保羅

In the GE brief, the “friends of the court” — the NAM and the NFTC — defend the position of US companies.

What kinds of organizations are they? The NAM was established in 1895 and is the largest manufacturing association in the US, representing about 14,000 small and large manufacturers in various industrial sectors, the brief says.

The NFTC, which was established in 1914, aims to support US companies in the world trade system. It has more than 300 corporate members that specialize in issues such as international trade, investment, taxation, export financing and human resource management, it adds.

The brief does not explain GE’s relationship with the organizations, but according to the groups’ Web sites, the NAM’s board of directors includes two high-level GE executives NFTC also has GE board members.

In other words, GE has a lot of influence in these organizations that aim to powerfully defend the interests of large US companies.

GE was founded in 1892 after merging Edison General Electric Co and Thomson-Houston Electric Co. In 1896, when the Dow Jones Industrial Index was launched, GE was one of the 12 companies to be listed and is the only one that remains today.

In 1919, GE and AT&T jointly established RCA. In the late 1960s, when Taiwan’s economy took off, RCA established RCA Taiwan to set up factories in Taoyuan, Chupei and Yilan to produce components for TV sets and various electronic and electrical products.

In 1986, GE acquired RCA, and the factory continued to produce computer selectors for televisions. In 1988, Thomson Consumer Electronics (TCE) acquired RCA Taiwan’s property rights from GE. In 1992, Thomson declared that RCA Taiwan’s plant would be shut down.

GE has since 1986 owned more than 99 percent of RCA Taiwan’s shares through Bermuda’s RCA Corp. While operating in Taiwan, GE violated the laws for the protection of others and ignored the nation’s various laws and regulations.

To save on costs, the factory did not provide air conditioning during summer, failed to fully ventilate certain areas, did not recirculate exhaust indoors, did not collect groundwater and provided groundwater-contaminated tap water to staff in the shop, restaurants and dormitories.

Even more odious is that during the transaction between GE and TCE, these two well-known multinational companies hired environmental consultants to investigate pollution on the Taoyuan and Chupei sites and found that the soil and groundwater contained various types of organic solvents.

In Singapore in February 1989, GE and TCE representatives signed a consensus report with two environmental consultants. Despite the severe contamination, they did not inform the employees or Taiwan’s regulatory authority.

These three English-language reports about the severe contamination were for many years concealed by RCA, GE and TCE. Two years after RCA was shut down in Taiwan, a former senior employee gave them to a lawmaker, who made them public.

Former RCA employees then filed a lawsuit, and in 2013, expert witness Lambert L. Ding (丁力行) brought attention to the reports to explain the pollution in detail.

The RCA story points out the dark side of Taiwan’s economic “miracle.” The occurrence of environmental and occupational cancers implies a long incubation period and the injured workers have faced a long journey to take legal action.

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