Dow denies new Amnesty Int'l charge on Bhopal

12 April 2007 23:41  [Source: ICIS news]

Indian protestors demanding action on DowWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Amnesty International USA charged on Thursday that Dow Chemical is pressuring the Indian government to avoid legal liability for the 1984 Bhopal chemical disaster, but Dow in response reiterated that it has no liability for the accident.


New York City-based Amnesty International USA said it has filed a complaint with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), asking that the commission investigate Dow, charging that the company is “secretly pressuring the Indian government to rid the company of its legal liabilities related to the Bhopal toxic chemical disaster”.


In a December 1984 tragedy, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India vented methyl isocyanate, killing nearly 4,000 area residents and sickening thousands more.  Amnesty International USA said that since the accident a total of 22,000 persons have died as a result of the chemical exposure and another 100,000 continue to suffer toxic effects.


Dow acquired Union Carbide in 2001.


Amnesty International USA said letters from Dow to Indian government officials that the rights group has obtained “are strong evidence that Dow believes pending legal liabilities for the legacy of Bhopal present a barrier to investing in India, but the company has not disclosed this to its shareholders”.


The rights group said the correspondence it has obtained indicates Dow is trying to avert an Indian government court action seeking a multimillion dollar deposit from Dow toward remediation of the old Union Carbide plant site in Bhopal.  Dow has denied it is subject to the action.


Dow also denied that it is exerting secret pressure on the Indian government.


“In all of Dow’s communications regarding Bhopal, including with the Indian government, we have consistently, clearly and openly stated Dow’s position that we have always taken regarding Bhopal,” the company said.  “That is, Dow never owned or operated the plant site involved with the Bhopal tragedy and, as such, has no responsibility or liability for the plant site.”


“Amnesty International USA is well aware that this [the Union Carbide Bhopal facility] was not a Dow plant and that the Indian government owns the former Bhopal plant site, and that they have the authority and the ability to resolve any ongoing matters related to Bhopal,” Dow said.


A spokesman for the Securities and Exchange Commission said that as a matter of routine policy the commission will not confirm or deny existence of a complaint or discuss correspondence it may have received.


Under US securities laws enforced by the SEC, publicly held companies have an obligation to disclose any existing or potential liabilities to shareholders.


Scot Wheeler, a spokesman for Dow, said the company “stands by its SEC disclosures regarding Bhopal”.


The Amnesty International allegations come amid speculation that Dow is targeted for takeover.

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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