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Cross Posted from The Tortellini:

I was reading Gretchen Morgenson's column($) in the New York Times Sunday and heartened to see her give the "What Would Stalin Do?" award to Robert Nardelli, the CEO of Home Depot, for running the company's shareholder meeting like a Gulag chief.

Nardelli, if you'll recall, appeared with George W. Bush early last year at the White House Economic Conference panel on tort reform, a cause Nardelli has embraced as his company's safety record has deteriorated. Home Depot shareholders this year finally got a good taste of the paranoia about public scrutiny that the company has shown in dealing with injured workers and customers.

In 2003, the Atlanta Business Chronicle published a disturbing investigation into the dangers that lie in Home Depot's aisles of plumbing pipes and aluminum siding, including the story of a 3-year-old who was crushed to death by 2,000 pounds of falling kitchen counter tops. The series highlights Home Depot's legal strategy of covering up stories about people injured or killed in its stores through aggressive use of confidentiality agreements at all levels of litigation, not just in settlements.

None of this is new, but Nardelli's dishonorable mention Sunday just reminded me that I've often suspected it's not really just money that drives business leaders to support tort reform, but transparency. Personal injury lawsuits rarely put a dent in big companies, which have insurance and deep pockets to pay out most of the awards against them. But those suits often dislodge important (and embarrassing) information from companies about their public health and safety records--information that the government rarely obtains. And that's why CEOs hate them so much, especially people like Nardelli, who just can't countenance anyone on the outside questioning the way his company does business, even if it kills someone.

Originally posted to smencimer on Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 09:49 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I stopped shopping with those bastards (7+ / 0-)

    some time ago.  There are marginally better alternatives - Lowes, for example - and there's always discount home supply places and hardware stores.

    "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by bobdevo on Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 09:53:16 AM PST

  •  I knew Home Depot was no dang good... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    monkeybiz, shirah, emeraldmaiden

    Years ago I worked in a head-injury center, and there was one patient there who received their injury in a store like Home Depot (don't actually remember the name). A toilet had come crashing down on him from on high - a miracle he lived through it.

    When I walk through any of those stores, I keep my eyes up!

    You don't know the REAL Homer! It's all burping and neglect! -- Bart Simpson

    by Pandoras Box on Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 09:59:48 AM PST

  •  January 2001 (8+ / 0-)

    That's when I stopped shopping at Home Depot. The culminating event was reading that Home Depot ponied up $100,000 in unregulated contributions for Bush's inaugural ball, on top of all of their other GOP campaign contributions. Reading about Nardelli's subsequent antics continues to help me stick by my decision.

    •  Nardelli had a Bush fundraiser in 2004 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joe Bob, shirah

      at his home in Atlanta that raised $2.5 million.  That's when I stopped shopping there.  Good thing, too, or I might have had something dropped on my head.

      At the Lowe's in Brooklyn, many of the staff are Home Depot refugees.

  •  Remember the Chinese ceiling fans? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shirah

    I don't have the link, but there was that disgusting corporate giveaway bill signed quietly in Air Force One in '04.  The bill was to correct a trade violation but it turned into a free for all for corporations.  One provision was to waive import fees for Chinese ceiling fans that Home Depot sold.  Now it's not like they were going to pass on the savings to their customers -- it was pure profit to the tune of millions.  Of note, this guy you speak of held a big fundraiser for George Bush at his Buckhead mansion during the campaign season.  But the amount he raised wasn't nearly as much as the "bribe" he got for Chinese ceiling fans (oh, and Zell Miller was involved with this big time).  Not a bad night's worth work for him.

  •  not only are they always out of what i need (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JEB

    they don't even know what aisle it isn't in!

    here, lowe's has their stuff displayed in a comprehensible manner, whether its actually in stock or not.  they also don't force me into the satanic "self checkout" area by the simple expedient of opening one human-operated register for every 1782.7 customers in the store, a la the despot.

    we'll stand him up against a wall and pop goes the weasel /rufus t. firefly

    by 2nd balcony on Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 11:16:13 AM PST

  •  Lowe's is eating their lunch (0+ / 0-)

    Although I try to shop at neither place. I do get some solace from the fact that Lowe's is starting to pull ahead of Home Depot here in NH. Head to head at most retail power centers and I always see more cars at Lowe's.

  •  Andbad to its employees + the public (0+ / 0-)

    Mark Consolmagno had received nothing but commendations through his five years with Home Depot. That stopped once he reported to a manager that he had seen a supervisor loading lumber onto shelves in a way that caused lumber to fall could fall onto shoppers and his co-workers. He also reported other violations of company policy by the same supervisor. Within a few weeks he began receiving disciplines and then was fired in a manner that did not comply Home Depot’s stated policies.

    Too bad for Mark.

    The court stated that Pennsylvania law permits an employer to fire an employee even if it violated health and safety policies and the employer’s stated rules.

    Consolmagno v. Home Depot, Case No.06-1097, at 10-12 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 6, 2006).

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