CEO’s Eating Their Own Toxic Products

We’ve got competing CEOs on the all-Congress channel today, with the Peanut CEO in front of Commerce Committee and the Bank CEOs in front of Financial Services.

There will be some scuttlebutt from the Bank CEOs–as when a few of them admitted they’ve been raising credit card rates since they started sucking on the federal teat.

But the news coverage will open today with Stewart Parnell (CEO) and Sammy Lightsey (Plant Manager) of the Peanut Corporation of America.

Both of them came in, got sworn in, and repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment. Neither of these guys appear to be as bright as their Wall Street counterparts–I got the sense that Parnell, and especially Lightsey–were under very strict orders to say nothing beyond "On the advice of my counsel, I respectfully decline to answer your question based on the protection afforded me under the US Constitution" Lightsey, in particular, was struggling with all the legalese.

But the highlight of the hearing came when Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) offered up a plastic bin wrapped with big yellow CAUTION ribbons–with Peanut Corporation peanut material inside. Walden asked Parnell and Lightsey if they would be willing to eat some of their own product right there, before the Sub-Committee.

"On the advice of counsel, I uh respectfully exercise my rights Fifth Amendment of the Constitution."

A simple yes or no might have sufficed.

In any case, there’s real irony with the competing CEOs show. The ones before the Financial Services Committee, after all, have done far broader damage than the Peanut Corporation–and their actions may well lead to many more deaths than the salmonella outbreak (which is not to minimize the grief of the families affected by the peanut outbreak). 

But no one is asking those CEOs–the bank CEOS–to eat their own toxic products.

50 replies
  1. plunger says:

    As evidenced by Geithner’s non-plan yesterday, there is no way out. They simply broke the entire system, and that’s that.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Yeah, but conservative on the liberatarian end of the spectrum, rather than the corporate toady end of the spectrum like the Plantation Caucus is my hunch. More focused on property rights and individualism than on underwriting military-industrial complex and bloated contracts in Alabama and Mississippi.

    • Bison says:

      Walden’s legislative district covers the eastern 2/3rds of OR, but he lives in Hood River, which is in the western part of the state. I just moved to Hood River a few weeks ago, and it’s certainly not the kind of place you’d expect to find a conservative Republican. It’s something of an outdoor recreation mecca and palpably liberal. Hood River County went almost 2:1 for Obama.

      Alas, the rest of Walden’s 2nd District is not so blue. I just crunched some numbers, and it looks like McCain got around 25% more votes there than Obama. The more populous counties like Jackson and Deschutes went to McCain by very narrow margins, but the vast, sparsely-populated counties far to the east went at least 2:1 for McCain, and some were very close to 3:1.

      From a quick review of Walden’s voting record, it looks like he’s no friend to the NAACP, ACLU, NEA, NORML, AFL-CIO, League of Conservation Voters, etc. But the NRA, oil companies, Christian Coalition, credit card companies, etc. seem to love him. He looks to be pretty much your standard-issue rightwing conservative with the occasional sane position on things like stem-cell research.

  2. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    But no one is asking those CEOs–the bank CEOS–to eat their own toxic products.

    Man, I’m only catching this hearing in fits and starts but can’t wait to catch up on all of it later; the bits that I’ve seen have been quite eye-opening. I gather that Wall Street indicators went down yesterday, which I assume occurred because they’re pissed and panic over the fact that Geitner didn’t promise to cover the ‘marked prices’ (i.e., fantasy numbers) sitting on their ledgers.

    I’m not seeing evidence that the CEOs/bankers grasp the fact that they need to eat their own toxic financial products. I assume they’re counting on Geitner to cover their butts in ‘the fine print’ and the ‘details’ coming out in coming weeks. But did I miss something…?

    • bobschacht says:

      I think James Galbraith had it right on Democracy Now! yesterday: Banks that are, in fact, insolvent, regardless of size, should be taken over by the FDIC as with any other bankrupt bank. This might amount to de facto nationalization, but with an American face: FDIC insolvencies are an accepted part of the American financial system, and would be much more accepted by the public than these phony bail-outs that let the swindlers-in-chief continue their rapacious ways.

      Bob in HI

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Yeah, was that an interview with Ron Reagan? ‘Cause if so, a friend who manages a huge number of hardware and software components for a big, big outfit told me to listen to it. Is that the interview you mean? She happened to catch it in her car and said it was the best thing she’s heard recently.

        BTW: I just popped back on here b/c I heard a question that I’ve been waiting for — how come you (jackasses) want us to bail you out when for trashing up our mailboxes and sending out kids crap ‘free credit’ offers the past ten years?
        Not sure who asked that question, but hey — props to that Congressman!

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        that let the swindlers-in-chief continue their rapacious ways.

        I’m glad to see questions about CDOs and CDSs coming up. I hope you’ve read masaccio’s Oxdown diaries — he’s amazing in explaining these toxic assets.

  3. Loo Hoo. says:

    Speaking of funny, here’s Colbert:

    Nation, the GOP must find a way to thrive. For two years the Democrats have occupied Congress but not everyone is willing to surrender. Like Texas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions, who told the National Journal last week that to fight the Democrats “insurgency may be required”. Now, before this man gets taken out of context, he was not saying the GOP should model themselves after Al Qaeda. That would be offensive. No. He was just saying the Republicans model themselves after the Taliban. That is a meaningful substantive difference. Like the difference between work and a job.


  4. LabDancer says:

    Could it be that the peanut industry took a big a hit in the smarties when Jimmy Carter left it for Washington? Or should we be happy for the boom Beltway lawyers are enjoying so much they have no time to work for peanuts?

    Except for the bosses of crime syndicates [and, these days, Wall Street banking executives and Red State Republicans, to the extent each is a materially distinct category], it makes me and I’m sure many other lawyers cringe when witnesses resort so reflexively to the 5th – like going to all the trouble of sending your best suit out to be drycleaned and pressed then ruining the impression by hanging a big Kick Me, Congress sign on your back.

  5. Knut says:

    The peanut guys were ranked lower down on the scale when they got out of Wharton, and couldn’t make the Masters of the Universe pay-grade. That’s why they are stumbling. They probably stumbled in grad school, too.

  6. i4u2bi says:

    Taking the fifth always works for the Mafia and the usual criminals..that is until the IRS audits their income..he he.

  7. dosido says:

    someone downstairs called ‘em “banksters”.

    Let’s serve some good ol fashioned PB*J sammies to the banksters today compliments of the other hearing…

  8. dosido says:

    It is a poetic juxtaposition of hearings. Big fat cat bank ceo’s get ginormous bailout money from the govt and the people are left to eat rancid peanut butter.

  9. applepie says:

    penny wise peanut foolish.

    someones counting the gold and most others are eyeing the peanut butter and wondering whether to throw it out or… eat it.

  10. globalcitizen says:

    If we buy any more of their toxic products as taxpayers they should be paid in the same products at the same price, not in cash. It isn’t quite eating them, but close enough for me.

  11. bluebutterfly says:

    ” The FBI is conducting more than 500 investigations of corporate fraud amid the financial meltdown, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, and there is an even bigger mountain of mortgage fraud cases in which hundreds of millions of dollars may have been swindled from the system. “….._0211.html

    • acquarius74 says:

      Good link, bluebutterfly! Looks like there should be an increase (doubling?) in the FBI funding in this bail-out package. I’d sure be in favor of that if the FBI really goes after and prosecutes the fraudsters that put us in this sad situation. Looks like the search for and prosecution of the cause of it all would justifiably be included in the ‘rescue’ plan.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Man, that would be grrreat!!
        I’d sure as hell rather pay for cops than pay extortionists and fraudsters.

        jacqrat — ewwwwwwwwww!

        • acquarius74 says:

          readerOfTeaLeaves, if any of you have a congresscritter who is worth a dam (I don’t), please tell them to strip out that $1 Billion in this crappy bail-out bill that the senate added-in for Nuclear Weapons Infrastructure and give that $$$Billion to the FBI fraud investigation section.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      From the little that I can tell, the FBI is way, wayyyyyy underfunded and understaffed on this mess. FBI agents were re-assigned to ‘terrorism’, and it sure looks to me as if someone knew that was going to be trouble. And probably the same ’someone(s)’ who deliberately got the CDO legislation through the Senate at the end of the 90s in a form that put them outside of regulatory control.

      I’m in the Puget Sound region, which had a phenomenal housing boom between 86 – 2006. WaMu was centered here. The Seattle PI had an editorial in July 2007 about the desperate underfunding and understaffing of FBI agents for mortgage and white collar fraud — so that was 18 months ago and I’m not sure they’ve had additional funding since that time.

      Remember that this is also the time period in which online banking and electronic transfers took off like wildfire. It only makes sense that bad actors were screwing with the works in an environment of go-go, hard-driving ROI built on bullshit.

      Aq-74, thanks very much for that link!

      • LindaR says:

        of course, according to Republicans, we can’t staff up the FBI or the FDA because those are government jobs and they don’t produce anything meaningful to the overall economy.

  12. Blub says:

    oh but they do eat their toxic products, after a manner. I still have a few worthless shares in my former employers’ mgmt private equity and leveraged buyout funds, which they rammed down our throats. Literally worthless. The senior exec types have the same exposure, multiplied a few thousandfold. They thought they’d all become Warren Buffett on the leverage.

  13. pajarito says:

    In the financial sector, if they accept government bailout money, require all CEOs and corporate executives to take 50% of their compensation in the form of their lowest rated CDO, mortgage bundle or other instrument. If they sell ‘em to others, it must be good enough for them!

  14. Mary says:

    no one is asking those CEOs–the bank CEOS–to eat their own toxic products

    And no one is asking the pro-torture govt elements, Dems and Republicans, Admin, prior admin and anti-admin, to acquiesce in having that kind of interrogation conducted of them – and yet they have played much more direct roles in the loss of American lives than Maher Arar ever did.

  15. PJEvans says:

    Arlen is saying, in commenting on the economic situation, that he didn’t run for Congress ‘to further my political ambitions’. (seen on captive-audience screen in elevator, about five minutes ago)

    Yeah, right. And there’s really a tooth fairy and an Easter bunny. /s

    • dosido says:

      Heh. I heard that too and a lot of tap dancing for their corporate sponsors saying “we had to do the right thing for the american people (sorry)”.

  16. oldtree says:

    that seems odd. Greg Walden was a big friend of Gordon Smith who’s senate campaign was partially derailed by the public finding out that he apparently knew his frozen food business used water contaminated by feces to water the food they sold to the public. I find it strange that this congress person would come attacking anyone for doing the same dirt as his pal did? Is he not beholding to the industry? Clearly not.

    • emptywheel says:

      Interesting context, oldtree, thanks.

      I don’t know anything about Walden–though he sure trumped up a nice TV moment, there.

      Actually Commerce’s Oversight Committee has been doing good work for a while. Havign Waxman’s pub staff on it will give them better TV time.

  17. pdaly says:

    I’m missing the hearings.

    Has anyone asked the credit card CEOs about their practices of lowering credit card limits based on where you shop?, asked them about the ethics of lowering the credit limit if you shop at stores where other clientele have low credit scores?

    Kevin Drum at Mother Jones retails the story of Kevin Johnson and how American Express informed Johnson with a letter that they were doing exactly this. (How is this not redlining?). Drum then shows American Express backtracking their official story the next week in the NY Times.

    Something I noticed on Johnson’s website: he hosted a fund raiser for Obama in March 2007 (see his picture with Obama). Imagine if Amercian Express didn’t agree with Obama’s and thus your politics?

  18. NorskeFlamethrower says:


    Citizen emptywheel and the Firepup Freedom Fighters:

    I think you’d have a tough time convincin’ the parents of kids killed by peanut products that there is ANY difference in the criminality between the peanut folks and the bankers…they are both, after all overseeing the fields for the slavemasters. What IS different, of course, is the deference givin the bankers by the elected politicians…but in the end, there is not a dime’s worth of difference between the three groups (let’s include the politicians) after all, murder is murder no matter the scale.

    Now would you tell me again about our wonderful system of justice and the “rule of law”…what a fuckin joke!! The whole God damned tree hasta come out at the roots!


  19. nonplussed says:

    aaaah who let LIEberman on my teevee (stimulus pr on C-span3_

    There’s no time to lose! Call to have a qualified Technician install a Commode Diode into your set. It flushes all such undesired shit from your Television directly to ground.

  20. pdaly says:

    From the credit card company perspective, it’s a great easy way to create profit: credit card companies lower one’s credit limit. Card holder’s credit score drops the following month if he/she carries a balance (because the new ceiling has been lowered closer to the existing balance). A lowered FICO score justifies a bump up in the interest rate on the card and this is applied to existing balances.

    Nice work if you can get it. Of course credit card companies are raising rates directly without these intermediate steps.

  21. scribe says:

    What? These crackers don’t go so well with their eat-shit-and-die peanut butter?

    What is the world coming to?

  22. 4jkb4ia says:

    !!! To think that Obama was campaigning on a federal mortgage fraud act back during the primary. (reply to 21)

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