Admittedly, I've been delinquent in covering a story that deserves to be covered. In fact, it is of the utmost importance.
At the last moment, the New York Stock Exchange caved in to animal rights pressure and withheld it's listing of Huntingdon Life Science. Here's a biting editorial on the NYSE's cowardice — or more specifically — the cowardice of the NYSE's president, Catherine Kinney:
The question arises because of some disturbing recent developments at the New York Stock Exchange, where President Catherine Kinney has been field-testing a new approach to institutional leadership that is strange to say the least: Talk the talk, but don't walk the walk . . . and don't explain why.
We'll get more deeply into Kinney's perplexing behavior. But for the moment it is enough to know that her actions have abruptly catapulted the NYSE into one of the strangest — and scariest — situations in its 213-year history.
Specifically, rumors were flying up and down the trading floor last week that Kinney herself had succumbed to a campaign of threats and intimidation from an international animal-rights fringe group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). Rumors had it that without seeking the approval of the board of directors, Kinney had ordered the Big Board to dump its planned listing of a New Jersey company that performs drug testing on animals. [My emphasis . . . ed]
If the rumors are true, the NYSE is under the control of Animal Rights fanatics. We've seen something similar to this: the UK's National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) once offered strong support for combating "investment terrorism" but then abruptly abandoned their position. (The NAPF controls roughly 20% of the shares of the UK stock market.)
If you think Animal Rights activists are a trivial worry, think again.
The exchange clearly knew what it was letting itself in for when it agreed, early this summer, to consider Life Sciences Research Inc. for a listing. SHAC has for years been conducting a well-publicized international terrorist campaign to drive Life Sciences out of business.
SHAC had already been linked in press reports to an assault on Life Sciences' CEO in Britain four years ago, when three hooded men leaped from the bushes in front of his house as he was returning home one evening and beat him nearly to death with pickax handles. SHAC insists it was not involved.
Seven people who federal prosecutors say are either members of, or affiliated with, the New Jersey chapter of SHAC are now awaiting trial in Newark on vandalism and conspiracy charges involving Life Sciences. Charges include slashing the tires and overturning and destroying cars belonging to Life Sciences employees, spray-painting animal-rights graffiti on executives' homes, rock-throwing through their windows, vandalizing their country clubs, and setting off smoke bombs in their offices.
SHAC also maintains a Web site that lists the names, addresses and phone numbers of all Life Sciences' clients and suppliers worldwide, along with links to the Web sites of SHAC chapters throughout Europe and Asia.
The site's home page includes a running tally of the latest attacks by activists on the company and its business partners, and offers "how to" advice for, among other things, making harassing phone calls from untraceable phone numbers. In recent weeks, the SHAC Web site has been listing the direct-dial office phone numbers and e-mail addresses of dozens of the NYSE's top officials.
For the NYSE to have agreed to list Life Sciences shares for trading on the Big Board may have been gutsy, but it was certainly unnecessary. And it was plainly idiotic, having issued a press release announcing that trading would begin on Sept. 7, to invite the company's top officials for a celebratory breakfast, only to inform them, mere minutes before the opening bell, that there'd been a change of plans and the listing would be "postponed" indefinitely.
It wasn't just idiotic, it was unconscionable. And it makes my point — in spades — that terrorism is effective.
According to Life Sciences' Chief Financial Officer Richard Michelson, who attended the traditional breakfast, the bombshell news of the exchange's about-face was delivered to the group by Kinney herself, who cleared her throat, looked at the Life Sciences brass seated around here and declared, "Well, there's no way to sugarcoat this, but the listing will not be taking place today. It is being postponed."
Once her stunned listeners were able to gather their thoughts, they began asking her to explain why. Had the Big Board found some skeleton in the company's closet? Some financial irregularity? Anything?
No, explained Kinney. It was nothing like that.
Well, what then?
"[Kinney] just wouldn't say," Michelson said. "She kept questioning us about SHAC and the animal-rights people," he said. "But she simply wouldn't say why the NYSE had changed its mind."
Kinney can be intimidated . . . if I were the AR crowd, I'd be focussing my attention on her, and her family . . . I'd push her until she cracked or stepped down, and I'd get everything I could from her.
A person who can be so easily intimidated is easy pickings.
A few minutes later, Kinney summoned NYSE PR boss Margaret Tutwiler, a former chief press spokesperson for the U.S. State Department in Washington, and ex-Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy in the Middle East, presumably someone who could be counted on to keep a secret.
But not even Tutwiler knew what was up. When she came in and sat down, she seemed totally clueless as to why she was even there, and had to be briefed by Kinney as to why she had been summoned at all: To prepare a press release announcing that the Life Sciences listing was being postponed — a subject she seemed to know nothing about.
TWO days later, I contacted a member of the board of directors who agreed to speak if not identified by name. The member said no one on the board was informed, adding, "Security is the biggest hot-button issue imaginable at the exchange, and I cannot believe something of this magnitude would have happened without the board being briefed."
Believe it . . . Kinney is running scared.
At week's end a wall of silence had descended around the exchange, with officials refusing to answer questions of any sort regarding the Life Sciences matter, from The Post or indeed any other media outlet.
The stonewalling even extended to the NYSE's seeming defiance of a U.S. Senate Committee, which early last week opened its own probe of the Big Board's behavior. Sources in Washington said the committee had been unable to get the exchange to even return phone calls. [My emphasis . . . ed]
Ms Kinney is a coward . . . and that doesn't bode well for the NYSE. One of the first things any boss must reckon on is this: if your decisions are going to be influenced by fear, step down. You owe it to your constituency not to sell them out because you can't handle your fear.
This is certainly not the sort of behavior one would have expected from an institution that had been at the forefront of post-9/11 calls for Americans to show defiance of terrorists by going about their business unintimidated and unafraid.
Yet with the exchange suddenly in the crosshairs of a terrorist group, "going about one's business" seems to be the last thing on the minds of the Big Board's top brass. And as history teaches clearly enough, trying to appease lunatics simply brings on the need for more — and greater — appeasement to come. [My emphasis . . . ed]
Amen. And if you yourself can't stand your ground against the pressure to appease, then resign. You owe that to your constituency.
Why the modern world has spawned a guerrilla movement of people who think that puppies are entitled to the same rights as people is beyond our purposes here — though the truth of the matter may be no more complicated than unraveling the politics of a generation of people raised on singing mice, sexless dogs, and all the other anthropomorphized creatures that sprang from the mind of Walt Disney.
How many children watched Bambi's father be gunned down by that despicable lower life form known as a Man, and grew up to believe that rats, cats and monkeys all ought to come within the embrace of the equal protection clause of the Constitution is anyone's guess. But beyond the world of animal rights loom even wackier belief systems — like the fair treatment for trees movement and the brown shirts of eco-terrorism.
These are the people Kinney and her bunch will hear from next: Delist Weyerhaeuser and Georgia Pacific or we'll blow up your house!
If I were advising a group of fanatics, that's exactly what I'd be thinking! I'd tell them to pick their targets, and encourage my charges to pressure the appeasing Ms Kinney into compliance.
How foolhardy and shortsighted to have let this all happen. And ultimately how sad, for by seeming to appease SHAC — and not even attempting to spin the facts more favorably afterward — Kinney and Co. have hung a great big "Kick Me" sign around their necks and invited every wacko group on earth to come to the corner of Broad and Wall for a free kick.
Boy — wish I'd written that!
So — what is to keep other groups with radical agendas and/or a taste for violence, like MeCHA or al Qaeda, from intimidating Ms Kinney into compliance?