January 30, 2013; Source: CNN

As a result of a criminal suit filed more than four years ago, a Swiss court last week ordered Nestlé and the Swiss security company Securitas AG to pay compensation to Attac for infiltrating and spying on the anti-globalization group. Why spy on Attac? Here is a taste of one of the articles on the group’s website:

  • “Disarm financial markets and put the banking sector under public control: forbid harmful speculative mechanisms (e.g. high-frequency trading, naked short selling, speculation on derivatives, over-the-counter agreements), and impose a tax on all financial transactions at a rate of at least 0.1%; strictly regulate banks (e.g. separate deposit and investment banks, dismantle “too big to fail” banks).
  • Allow public and democratic financing of the economy: build up a public and cooperative banking sector under democratic control, to ensure the financing of social and economics needs, guarantee social rights and finance ecological transition. Trade policies should be revised to adhere to these objectives, in cooperation with developing countries.”

You get the picture.

This is a setback for Nestle, which CNN describes as “the world’s biggest food company,” in that it has put some effort into overcoming the blemishes on its reputation resulting from its marketing of formula milk in developing world countries, a practice which drew widespread protests during the 70s and 80s. It has also drawn fire from environmental groups due to its water privatization efforts. According to this CorpWatch article:

“Nestlé sells $91 billion worth of products a year such as Nescafé coffee, KitKat chocolates and Maggi noodles. The company has frequently been criticized for marketing baby food in poor countries in violation of a 1981 World Health Organization code that regulates the advertising of breast milk substitutes. It has also come under fire from Greenpeace for using palm oil grown on deforested land in Borneo and buying cocoa beans from plantations that used child labor in Cote d’Ivoire in a film entitled ‘The Dark Side of Chocolate.’”

Attac filed criminal and civil charges against Nestlé and Securitas in 2008 after Swiss TV alleged that an Attac workgroup had been infiltrated by a female Securitas employee using a false name and working at the behest of Nestle in 2003. Securitas claims that it no longer engages in this type of activity. The criminal case was eventually dropped in 2009. A Nestlé spokesperson responded to the decision in the civil case by saying that the company was disappointed in the decision and noting “that incitement to infiltration is against Nestlé’s corporate business principles.” Attac, on the other hand, declared that it was “very satisfied” with the civil court’s ruling. Attac affirms that it continues “to critically observe the worldwide activities of multinational corporations.” –Ruth McCambridge