Sunday, May 10, 2015

Chiquita Banana

Chiquita Brands International Inc. is an American producer and distributor of bananas and other produce. The company operates under a number of subsidiary brand names, including the flagship Chiquita brand and Fresh Express salads. Chiquita is the leading distributor of bananas in the United States.
Chiquita is the successor to the United Fruit Company. It was formerly controlled by Cincinnati businessman Carl H. Lindner, Jr., whose majority ownership of the company ended when Chiquita Brands International exited a prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 19, 2002. In 2003, the company acquired the German produce distribution company, Atlanta AG. Fresh Express salads was purchased from Performance Food Group in 2005. Chiquita's current headquarters is located in Charlotte, North Carolina.[1]
On March 10, 2014, Chiquita Brands International Inc. and Fyffes plc announced that the Boards of Directors of both companies unanimously approved a definitive agreement under which Chiquita will combine with Fyffes, in a stock-for-stock transaction that is expected to result in Chiquita shareholders owning approximately 50.7% of ChiquitaFyffes and Fyffes shareholders owning approximately 49.3% of the proposed ChiquitaFyffes, on a fully diluted basis. The agreement would have created the largest banana producer in the world and would have been domiciled in Ireland.[2] Though an intervening offer by Cutrale and Safra groups of $611 million in August 2014 was rejected by Chiquita, with the company saying it would continue with its merger with Fyffes,[3] on October 24, Chiquita announced that the shareholders at a Company Special Meeting had rejected the merger with Fyffes. Instead the Cutrale-Safra acquisition offer was then accepted by the shareholders.

On May 3, 1998, The Cincinnati Enquirer published an eighteen-page section, "Chiquita Secrets Revealed" by investigative reporters Michael Gallagher and Cameron McWhirter. The section accused the company of mistreating workers on its Central American plantations, polluting the environment, allowing cocaine to be brought to Borneo on its ships, bribing foreign officials, evading foreign nations' laws on land ownership, forcibly preventing its workers from unionizing, and a host of other misdeeds.[10] Chiquita denied all the allegations, and sued after it was revealed that Gallagher had repeatedly hacked into Chiquita's voice-mail system. (No evidence ever indicated that McWhirter was aware of Gallagher's crime or a participant.) A special prosecutor was appointed to investigate, because the elected prosecutor at the time had ties to Carl Lindner, Jr.
On June 28, 1998, the Enquirer retracted the entire series of stories and published a front-page apology saying it had "become convinced that [the published] accusations and conclusions are untrue and created a false and misleading impression of Chiquita's business practices".[11] The Enquirer also agreed to pay a multi-million-dollar settlement. The exact amount was not disclosed, but Chiquita's annual report mentions "a cash settlement in excess of $10 million". Gallagher was fired and prosecuted and the paper's editor, Lawrence K. Beaupre, was transferred to the Gannett's headquarters amid allegations that he ignored the paper's usual procedures on fact-checking.
In an article examining the Chiquita series, said the "Chiquita Secrets Revealed" series "presents a damning, carefully documented array of charges, most of them 'untainted' by those purloined executive voice mails."

On March 14, 2007, Chiquita Brands was fined $25 million as part of a settlement with the United States Justice Department for having ties to Colombian paramilitary groups. According to court documents, between 1997 and 2004, officers of a Chiquita subsidiary paid approximately $1.7 million to the right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), in exchange for local employee protection in Colombia's volatile banana harvesting zone. Similar payments were also made to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as well as the National Liberation Army (ELN) from 1989 to 1997, both left-wing organizations.[14][15] All three of these groups are on the U.S. State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Chiquita sued to prevent the United States government from releasing files about their illegal payments to Colombian left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups.[16]
According to a Wall Street Journal report in 2004, outside attorneys for Chiquita notified the company that the payments violated U.S. anti-terrorism laws and should not continue. However, payments to the groups continued until Chiquita sold its subsidiary, Banadex, in June 2004.[17] On December 7, 2007, the 29th Specialized District Attorney's Office in Medellín, Colombia subpoenaed the Chiquita board to answer questions "concerning charges for conspiracy to commit an aggravated crime and financing illegal armed groups". Nine board members named in the subpoena allegedly personally knew of the illegal operations.[18] One executive for the company penned a note which proclaimed that the payments were the "cost of doing business in Colombia" and also noted the "need to keep this very confidential — people can get killed."[19]
In 2013 and 2014, Chiquita spent $780,000 lobbying against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.[20]
On July 24, 2014, a US appeals court threw out a lawsuit against Chiquita by 4,000 Colombians alleging that the corporation was aiding the right-wing paramilitary group responsible for the deaths of family members. The court ruled 2-1 that US federal courts have no jurisdiction over Colombian claims.

In May 2007, the French non-governmental organization (NGO) Peuples Solidaires publicly accused the Compañia Bananera Atlántica Limitada (COBAL), a Chiquita subsidiary, of knowingly violating "its workers' basic rights" and endangering their families' health and their own. According to the charge, the banana firm carelessly exposed laborers at the Coyol plantation in Costa Rica to highly toxic pesticides on multiple occasions. Additionally, COBAL was accused of using a private militia to intimidate workers. Finally, Peuples Solidaires claimed that Chiquita ignored some union complaints for more than a year

Chiquita's 'Banana Republic' History Is Why It's Lobbying Against a 9/11 Victims Bill

Unpeeling the Controversial History of Bananas

In the wake of the latest military coup in Honduras, the original ‘Banana Republic,’ Leonie Nimmo investigates the shocking history of Chiquita Brands International.

The phrase ‘Banana Republic’ describes a country heavily dependent on one type of plantation agriculture, controlled by a servile dictatorship and corrupt elite, in thrall to shady foreign powers with an iron grip over its economy. It was originally applied to Honduras, a country which has for the last hundred years been dominated by Chiquita Brands International Inc, formerly the United Fruit Company. In the 1920s the company controlled almost a quarter of the country’s arable land.[1]

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