A landmark corporate charter revocation petition against Unocal was filed with the California Attorney General's office in Los Angeles last Thursday, September 10th.
I am happy to say that I was one of the co-filers.
For background and ongoing updates on this case, go to http://www.heed.net/revoke.html.
Action Resource Center
Alliance for Democracy of USA
Alliance for Democracy of Austin, TX
Alliance for Democracy of San Fernando Valley, CA
Gloria Allred, individual
Asian/Pacific Gays and Friends
Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County, CA
Earth Island Institute
Michael Feinstein, City Councilmember, Santa Monica, CA, individual
Feminist Majority Foundation
Free Burma Coalition
Free Burma - No Petro-dollars for SLORC
Randall Hayes, individual
National Lawyers Guild of USA
National Lawyers Guild of
Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Clara Valley and San Francisco
National Organization for Women (NOW)
National Organization for Women (NOW) of California
Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy
Rainforest Action Network
Harvey Rosenfeld, individual
Surfers Environmental Alliance
Transnational Resources & Action Center
Following is some of the fantastic press the filing has generated.
Subject: First Press on Unocal Revocation
Date: Sat, 12 Sep 1998 21:33:35 -0800
(Also, not included below, AP wire story, Corporate Crime Reporter, L.A.Weekly, San Francisco Daily Journal, Los Angeles Daily Journal, Pacific Network Democracy Now, and multiple TV and radio broadcasts in Los Angeles and San Francisco.)
Financial Times (London)
September 11, 1998, Friday USA Edition
Petition hurts Unocal image
The Union Oil Company of California (Unocal) suffered a public relations
debacle yesterday when a coalition of 19 environmental, women's rights, human
rights and consumer advocate groups petitioned California's Attorney General to
revoke the company's licence to operate in that state.
The petition accused Unocal, which had revenues of more than $ 6bn last year,
of worker rights and environmental misconduct.
The petitioners were particularly concerned with the construction of a gas
pipeline through Burma to Thailand. "The building of the pipeline in Burma has
been done with forced labour and caused the forced relocation of villagers in
the area," alleged Robert Benson, the lawyer who wrote the petition.
Unocal dismissed the allegations as "ludicrous". "I admit we've made some
mistakes," said Barry Lane, a spokesman for the group. "But we've always taken
responsibility for our actions." The company has admitted to numerous
Occupations Safety and Health Act violations; in its annual report, the group
said it may bear some of the liability for 82 toxic waste sites. Victoria
Griffith, Boston Comments and press releases about international companies
coverage can be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Los Angeles Times
September 11, 1998
CALIFORNIA / NEWS AND INSIGHT ON BUSINESS IN THE GOLDEN STATE ;
GROUP WANTS UNION OIL'S CHARTER REVOKED
ENERGY: PETITION BY COALITION OF RIGHTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISTS ALLEGES VIOLATIONS HERE AND ABROAD. MOVE IS PART OF A YEARS-OLD PROTEST CAMPAIGN.
BY NANCY RIVERA BROOKS, TIMES STAFF WRITER
A coalition of environmental and human-rights groups petitioned California
Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren on Thursday to revoke the corporate charter of Union Oil
Co. of California and seize the oil giant's assets because of alleged violations
of state and international laws going back nearly three decades.
The unusual legal strategy is part of a protest campaign that has waged for
years against Unocal, the El Segundo-based parent of Union Oil, and other
multinational companies that do business in politically troublesome parts of the
world, such as Afghanistan, Indonesia and Myanmar.
Unocal has already been the target of lawsuits concerning its activities in
Myanmar--where it is a partner in a project to build a natural gas pipeline due
to begin operation in December--and has been hit with protest rallies at various
Unocal spokesman Barry Lane blasted the coalition's petition as "an attempt
to organize anti-business pressure and further the political agenda of these
"We operate to very high standards and we work very hard at that, and when we
do make mistakes, we try to correct them," Lane said. "There is no legal basis
for this action. . . . We have not violated any international laws in any of our
The coalition delivered its petition to the attorney general's Los Angeles
office during a protest at the Ronald Reagan State Building downtown. Staci
Turner, an attorney general's office spokeswoman, said the document will be
The last time the corporate charter of a large company was revoked in
California, it was 1976 and Evelle Younger was attorney general, said Robert
Benson, a Loyola Law School professor who was the principal author of the
coalition's 127-page document. Younger went after a water company that was
purported to be selling tainted water, but the firm settled and its assets
were sold before its charter could be revoked.
Corporate charter revocation is gaining popularity as a legal maneuver.
Earlier this year, the New York attorney general asked a court to revoke the
charters of two tobacco industry research firms, and an Alabama judge, acting as
a private citizen, filed suit to pull the charters of six tobacco companies in
that state, Benson said.
The petition to revoke Union Oil's corporate charter (the parent company,
Unocal, is chartered separately in Delaware) lists 10 causes of action alleging,
among other things, complicity in "crimes against humanity" and environmental
abuses related to Unocal's dealings in Myanmar, formerly Burma; its plans,
currently suspended, to build a gas pipeline through Afghanistan; its treatment
of U.S. workers; and various oil spills and chemical leaks.
Journal of Commerce
September 9, 1998,
SECTION: WORLD TRADE
HEADLINE: California coalition wants Unocal's assets frozen over Myanmar dealings
BY MICHAEL S. LELYVELD
In one of the harshest attacks on a corporation in recent memory, human
rights groups have launched a legal assault against Unocal Corp., citing its
dealings with dictatorships in Myanmar and Afghanistan.
A coalition of some 30 feminist, consumer and environmental groups are
expected to file a 120-page complaint Thursday with the California attorney
general, seeking to revoke Unocal's corporate charter. The groups allege that
the Los Angeles-based oil company has broken a host of U.S. and international
The goal is to freeze Unocal's assets and force it to stop the practices that
rights groups find objectionable.
""Ultimately, what we're looking for is the dissolution and breakup of this
company,'' said Robert W. Benson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los
Angeles. ""This is strong stuff, but we're frustrated at the regulatory process
and we're frustrated at the company.
""Personally, I don't know how they can sleep with themselves at night, doing
business with places like Burma and Afghanistan,'' he said.
Unocal strongly denies any violations of law or responsibility for rights
abuses by Myanmar, formerly Burma, or by the Taliban militia, which has
conquered most of Afghanistan.
""It's absolutely old ground,'' said Unocal spokesman Barry Lane. ""The
underlying allegations have been proved repeatedly to be without merit.''
The legal action appears to be a new mark in activism against U.S. companies
which have business dealings with authoritarian countries. Mr. Benson said the
move is similar to one taken in New York against two tobacco industry research
The advocates are pressing a principle of tort law that companies can
be held responsible for the actions of their business partners. They are also
citing the California Unfair Competition Act, which bars corporations from
engaging in any business practice that is unlawful or unfair, Mr. Benson said.
The groups will ask California Attorney General Dan Lungren to freeze
Unocal's assets and appoint a receiver for the company while their action is
But Mr. Lane said the targeting of Unocal is undeserved.
He said the company is not even involved in Afghanistan after suspending a $2
billion gas pipeline project on Aug. 21, one day after the U.S. missile raid on
a suspected terrorist camp there.
But organizers of the legal challenge disagree. Before it halted its plan to
pipe gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan, Unocal worked on
planning and promoting the project as part of a consortium for some three years.
""They've suspended the project, but they haven't said they'll pull out of it
completely,'' said Mary Hood, press secretary for the Feminist Majority
Foundation in California. ""We think that Unocal should be held accountable for
dealing with this militia group that treats women so terribly.''
The feminist group has been joined in the petition by groups ranging from the
National Organization for Women and the National Lawyers Guild to the Surfers'
Environmental Alliance. Women's associations have been particularly incensed by the Taliban's practices.
The fundamentalist Islamic sect has repeatedly defended its restrictions on
women, which include bans on education and professional employment. Ms. Hood said that Unocal has hosted Taliban officials during a visit to the United
Groups that include the Free Burma Coalition have also joined in condemning
Unocal's investment in a consortium that has been developing the $1.2 billion
Yadana gas field project off the coast of Myanmar. The controversial project,
which is scheduled to begin production December, includes a pipeline to carry
gas to Thailand for electricity generation.
Mr. Lane defended the project.
""We have a commitment to the people of Myanmar. We have a contractual
commitment,'' he said. ""The bottom line is this project is benefiting the
people of Myanmar.'' But advocates are furious at the company for its Burma
business. The country has been ruled for the past decade by a military junta,
which set aside the results of a democratic election in 1990. Unocal is part of
a consortium that includes state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, Total SA of France and Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production.
Mr. Benson said Unocal bears responsibility because Myanmar's military is
providing security for the pipeline.
News World Communications, Inc.
September 11, 1998,
HEADLINE: Protesters: Revoke Unocal charter
BYLINE: AP, BLOOMBERG NEWS, DOW JONES, REUTERS AND STAFF REPORTS
A coalition of environmental, consumer and human rights groups want
California to overturn Unocal Corp.'s corporate charter, contending the oil
company pollutes the environment and does business with oppressive governments.
September 10, 1998, Thursday, BC cycle
SECTION: Regional News
HEADLINE: Groups: Unocal should lose charter
DATELINE: LOS ANGELES, Sept. 10
A coalition of nearly 30 groups is petitioning California Attorney General
Dan Lungren to revoke Unocal's corporate charter because of alleged violations
of environmental, women's rights and human rights laws over the past four
In a 120-page petition filed today, the coalition accuses the
California-based oil giant of environmental devastation, unfair and unethical
treatment of workers, enslavement and forced labor. The groups are asking
Lungren to use ''the most effective corporate crime-fighting tool'' at his
command to punish Unocal for alleged violations of the law. The coalition is
urging Lungren to follow the precedent set by California Attorney General Evelle
Younger, who went to court in 1976 to revoke the corporate charter of a private
water company that was accused of distributing possibly tainted water to its
customers. The company sold its assets to a public water district.
The petition accuses Unocal of compiling a ''long list of environmental
liabilities'' and demonstrating ''a pattern and practice of polluting
the locations where it
operates.'' The coalition also alleges that Unocal exploits cheap and slave
labor abroa, aids in the oppression of women and gays in foreign countries and
has ''openly interjected itself'' into military conflicts in Burma and
Afghanistan. The coalition includes the National Lawyer's Guild, Rainforest
Action Network, Burma Forum, Alliance for Democracy and Feminist Majority
Foundation. Unocal officials couldn't be reached for immediate comment. ---
Green group asks Calif official to dissolve Unocal
By David Brinkerhoff
LOS ANGELES, Sept 10 (Reuters) - A group of activists, claiming big
corporations are too often above the law, on Thursday demanded that
California's attorney general dissolve Unocal Corp. by invoking a rarely used state statute that would put the company out of business.
The activists, including environmentalists, feminists and human rights
advocates, also said they will look into dissolving the charters of other
companies, but alleged Unocal stood out for its record of violations.
In a 127-page petition filed with the attorney general, the group, which does
not have a name, blasted the El Segundo, Calif.-based firm for alleged crimes
against humanity and the environment, and demanded its charter be revoked.
"What this will mean is the dissolution of the Union Oil Co. of California
(Unocal), the sale of its assets under careful court orders to others who will
carry on in the public interest," said Robert Benson, a law professor at
Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles who co-wrote the proposal. Benson was speaking at a news conference held outside the attorney general's office here.
A Unocal spokesman called the group's charges "ludicrous" and said they was no
legal basis for its action.
"We've got a case of activists attempting to subvert the will of stockholders,
the buying public, the courts and leaders of nations around the world," said
Unocal spokesman Barry Lane. "Unocal has met highest the ethical standards in
all our activities," Lane said.
The attorney general barred the group from entering the state office building,
but sent a representative to pick up the petition.
Incorporated in 1890, Union Oil Company of California is the principle
operating subsidiary of Unocal Corp., a holding company incorporated in
Delaware. Lane said most of Unocal's $7.5 billion worth of assets reside in
Activists said if Attorney General Dan Lungren, the Republican contender for
governor, refuses their petition they will go to court to force him to
"Unocal is the mere creature of California law," said Michelle Sypert, an
attorney who co-authored the petition.
The petition was the latest in a series of attacks on the company. At its
annual meeting in June some shareholders objected to Unocal's plan to build a
pipeline in Afghanistan, a country under control of the Taleban, an Islamic
movement that critics say represses women and violates human rights.
The company said it had spent $10 million to $15 million on the project since 1995.
At the June shareholders' meeting, Chief Executive Officer Roger Beach said
the company had not signed any commercial agreements with the Taleban or other factions and was conducting itself according to U.N. regulations.
Unocal has said it remained politically neutral and planned to donate $1
million in aid to the country in 1998.
The company's Thailand project, which pipes in natural gas from offshore
Myanmar, formerly Burma, also has come under fire.
The U.S. government has imposed unilateral sanctions on Myanmar, barring any
new investment in the former Burma because of allegations of human rights
abuses in connection with the pipeline's construction.
Unocal's Lane said two lawsuits filed against the company over Burma have
turned up no evidence of human rights violations, according to the courts
hearing the cases. Both suits remain in pretrial stage.
While Unocal has paid millions to settle pollution suits in its home state,
Lane said the company has acknowledged its mistakes and paid for them.
"We've taken responsibility for them and corrected them," Lane said.
City News Service
September 10, 1998, Thursday
Attorney General Dan Lungren was urged today to revoke Unocal's corporate
charter, to punish the oil giant for doing business with regimes in Myanmar and Afghanistan.
At a news conference in front of the State Office Building in Los Angeles,
activists described Unocal as a dangerous, scofflaw corporation with ties to
rogue regimes that oppress women, violate human rights and engage in
disastrous environmental practices.
Barry Lane, a spokesman for the El Segundo-based oil giant, did not return
phone calls seeking comment.
''We're letting the people of California in on a well-kept legal secret,''
said Robert Benson, a Loyola Law School professor.
''The people mistakenly assume that we have to try to control these giant
corporate repeat offenders one toxic spill at a time, one layoff at a time,
one human rights violation at a time.
''But the law has always allowed the attorney general to go to court to
simply dissolve a corporation for wrongdoing and sell its asset to others who
will operate in the public interest,'' said Benson, lead attorney for the
National Lawyers Guild's International Law Project for Human, Economic and
The activists said if Lungren, the Republican candidate for California
governor, doesn't revoke Unocal's charter and appoint a receiver to dissolve
the company's business in the state, they will ask a judge to make him do it.
A representative from Lungren's office came downstairs to receive the 127-
page petition on behalf of the attorney general, but refused to comment on the case.
Kathy Spillar of the Feminist Majority Foundation said if Lungren refuses to
take action on the matter, the activists will take their case directly to the public.
''If American women and men knew what is happening to the women and girls of
Afghanistan they would demand action,'' she said. ''Unocal cannot win in
the court of public opinion.''
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