Earlier today, MarketWatch ran a story about my and four others’ arrests at Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting in Houston on May 25, 2010.
The article by John Letzing was entitled: “Chevron shareholder activist faces jail time.”
With the subtitle: “Are criminal charges the best way to deal with a meeting disruption?”
It questioned the decision by Chevron to use such extreme tactics in dealing with its critics.
A few hours later, The Wall Street Journal picked up the story, but applied a new headline, with a decidedly different twist on the story: “Activist Faces Charges in Chevron Meeting Outburst.”
Moreover, the much shortened article leaves out key portions of the journalist’s original story, including these:
“Four other protesters also were arrested outside of Chevron’s gathering and face trespassing charges, according to media reports at the time. But Juhasz was unique as a stockholder pulled from the meeting, the reports said… Each charge against her is punishable by up to 180 days in county jail, though the sentences in the case would run concurrently if she is convicted, according to the Harris County district attorney’s office.
Juhasz stands out as a particularly active critic, who has co-authored exhaustive “alternative annual reports” for Chevron, detailing the “lives lost, wars fought, communities destroyed, environments decimated, livelihoods ruined and political voices silences” because of the company. Until recently, her program was called the Chevron program at Global Exchange, though it was recently renamed. Juhasz said the name change of the program is not related to her arrest. However, she pointed out that her day-to-day duties have been constricted by her status as a defendant. “I’m definitely being limited in my actions,” she commented.
Boston University Prof. James Post said he can’t recall a similar case where a shareholder activist had criminal charges filed against them: “A company almost never wins in a case like that.”
Companies are better off, Post suggested, when they allow critics to vent and then move on. “Corporate democracy can be an ugly thing,” he added.”
The MarketWatch story has led to a very interesting discussion on corporate accountability, free speech, and the rights of shareholders. Some 200 comments have already been posted.
There are, of course, key parts of the story left out of even the MarketWatch piece. I cannot address the arrest here due to the charges against me, but you can read the original press release that The True Cost Chevron network released at the time of the events, “Chevron Denies Access to Shareholder Representatives in a Bid to Silence the Truth About Its Operations Global Community Leaders Barred, Ejected and Arrested from Chevron Annual Meeting,” to get a much fuller understanding.
Follow Antonia Juhasz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AntoniaJuhasz