This just in: Catherine Kinney, President of the NYSE, has abruptly cancelled her appearance before the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, where she was expected to be asked why she precipitously reversed course and postponed the listing of Huntingdon Life Sciences at the 12th hour.
THE president of the New York Stock Exchange has pulled out of giving evidence at a Senate hearing into why the Big Board cancelled the stock market listing of Huntingdon Life Sciences, the animal research group, last month.
Catherine Kinney had been scheduled to appear before the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee into animal rights activism today, but has been replaced by Richard Bernard, the NYSE’s chief lawyer. A spokesman for the NYSE declined to comment about the change of plan.
Ms Kinney’s appearance was considered crucial by the committee as it is understood that it was her decision to stop the listing of Huntingdon’s shares. She had been due to give evidence along with Jerry Vlasak, an animal rights activist banned from Britain for advocating violence against company directors.
The committee wants to know about the connection between Dr Vlasak, a heart surgeon and official spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front in America, and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac), a group of animal rights protesters who have targeted the research company in a relentless campaign of intimidation, vandalism and violence.
The panel will ask Dr Vlasak if he knows of any threats that would have led the NYSE to cancel Huntingdon’s listing at the last minute. It is understood that the committee will focus its questioning of Dr Vlasak on an attack by animal rights activists this year on a New York area yacht club. Some members of the club are understood to have a close association with the NYSE and Huntingdon’s Wall Street advisers, sources said.
There was, of course, more than the attack on the yacht: As Christopher Byron reported: "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." Plus, Animal Rights activists had launched an e-mail writing campaign urging the NYSE not to list HLS.
Dr Vlasak told The Times last night, however, that he was not aware of any reason why Huntingdon’s float was pulled, but did admit that he knew about the yacht club attack.
The NYSE has not explained why it halted the listing a move that angered Huntingdon directors, who were gathered at the NYSE for a celebratory breakfast when the decision to stop their listing was announced by Ms Kinney.
Nor are Kinney and company likely to . . . again, I call on Kinney to do the honorable thing and to resign.
Mr Bernard is set to be questioned just as intensely as Dr Vlasak. The senators are understood to be incensed that the supposed bastion of market freedom in America would apparently capitulate before a threat from extremists.
We should all be very worried that extremists could panic the President of the NYSE so easily into making such a horrible decision. If she buckles to one group of extremists, why not to others?
Talk about throwing gasoline onto a fire — what better incentive for extremists is there than Kinney's abject capitulation to what appears to be a minor threat.
I continue to believe that if she can't stand the pressure, she should resign.
Last year Dr Vlasak was banned from entering Britain under orders from David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, because he advocates violence. Dr Vlasak told The Times that he still believes the animal rights movement should use violence. “I think like any struggle against oppression there unfortunately may be the need for violence. Not against innocent people, but against those who are responsible,” he said.
Looks like Kinney got the AR message, and is, in addition, afraid to testify before the Senate!
She needs to resign.