Each year, Global Exchange releases a “Top Corporate Criminals” list to highlight some of the world’s corporate worst-of-the-worst on issues like violations of human rights and workers’ rights, environmental destruction, war profiteering, and tax evasion and other white-collar corporate crime, just to name a few. More importantly, we create this list to bring your attention to these gross violations and call on you to act.

Additional criteria for including a corporation on this year’s list include: actions that particularly affect citizens of the Global South; global impact of the corporation’s malfeasance; major corporations whose crimes have gone under the radar and need to be highlighted; and corporations whose actions are being met by community opposition.

Trump, his deregulating Cabinet, and the Republicans in Congress are currently dominating media discourse about corruption, attacks on the environment, and human rights and other violations.  But it is important not to forget who holds the purse strings for today’s right-wing ascendance: powerful multinational corporations and the billionaires who are profiting from them.

We must now work harder than ever to resist the influence of corporate power in the White House, the halls of Congress, and in our communities. Join us. Together, we hold the power to rein-in corporate abuse and reclaim our democracy. We can use our purchasing power to endorse Fair Trade, pressure companies to do the right thing, boycott those that violate human rights and the environment, and work to elect representatives that represent the people not corporations. We at Global Exchange encourage you to exercise your power as a global citizen to rein in corporate power, demand social justice and defend the Earth.

Global Exchange’s 10 Top Corporate Criminals of 2018
  • Asia Pulp and Paper: For continued destruction of the Indonesian rainforest and peatlands and attempting to “greenwash” its image for the global market.
  • CoreCivic (formerly CCA) (repeat offender) and Geo Group: For profiting from the incarceration of immigrant families and children and Americans in abusive conditions with substandard medical care.
  • Johnson & Johnson: For marketing and selling vaginal mesh implants which caused serious medical complications; putting asbestos in its talcum powder; concealing the adverse effects of antipsychotic medication Risperdal; and more.
  • Lockheed Martin: For being the largest U.S. government contractor and the largest weapons producer in the world; supplying the bomb that killed 40 Yemeni schoolchildren on August 9, 2018; and more.
  • Monsanto/Bayer: For selling seeds for pesticide ­resistant crops (GMOs) and also making the pesticides, cashing in twice on farmers who become ever more dependent on its products.
  • Navient student loan services: For charging military service members excess interest on their student loans; misreporting information to consumer reporting agencies about thousands of disabled borrowers, and more.
  • Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron:Shell took the top spot from Exxon Mobil as the biggest oil/gas corporation in the world in 2018. Shell intends to exploit 80% of its proven oil and gas reserves before 2030. Chevron is heavily involved in oil drilling in the Amazon rainforest, the “lungs of the planet.”
  • Sig Sauer: For being the largest seller of firearms to Mexican military and federal and state police forces, in a time when Mexico is facing an acute crisis of human rights violations and violent crimes, most of which are committed with firearms.
  • Walmart: For boosting corporate profits by forcing employees to work off the clock; cheating them out of required overtime pay and more.
  • Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase: Well Fargo for forcing customers to buy unnecessary auto insurance policies. JP Morgan Chase for being the largest debt holder of private prison and immigrant detention corporations GEO Group and CoreCivic.


Asia Pulp and Paper

In 2013, after years of forest destruction and links to human rights abuses, Southeast Asia’s largest pulp and paper company APP bowed to pressure from NGOs and its customers and adopted a Forest Conservation Policy, committing to end forest clearance within its own and suppliers’ concessions, protect remaining forests in these areas, improve management of peatland and work with communities to resolve social conflicts.  Greenpeace International agreed to advise on implementation.

Five years later, APP-owned concessions were still clearing many thousands of acres of forest and peatland. Greenpeace ended all further engagement with APP and parent company Sinar Mas in May, demanding that the company “come clean about all its ownership links to companies with concessions, stop the bulldozers and restore what was destroyed.”  The Forest Stewardship Council, the main global group for certifying sustainable wood, followed in August, and the World Wildlife Fund sent out an advisory to investors to stop association with APP. This is the latest in a string of broken promises and cancelled partnerships made by APP to environmental and human rights groups.

Meanwhile, the Amazon Rainforest has evolved as of 2017 from being a massive carbon sink, “the lungs of the planet,” to a source of carbon emissions, thanks to illegal logging, forest fires set by cattle ranchers and soy and palm oil farmers to clear land for agriculture, and drought. Under former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Amazon deforestation reached a record low in 2012.  Since then President Michel Temer and now President Bolsonaro are doing their utmost to facilitate large-scale agricultural and industrial development in the Amazon, threatening indigenous tribes and “putting a stake in the beating heart of the Amazon.”

Thus it is more urgent than ever that pressure be put on Asia Pulp and Paper to come clean and stop ravaging the world’s second or third (estimates vary) largest concentration of tropical forest  and the most biologically diverse ecosystem in the world.

Learn More:  

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In the Amazon Rainforest:

CoreCivic (formerly CCA) & Geo Group

As the Wall Street Journal wrote in July, “the Trump administration’s new push for more federal detention facilities for immigrants awaiting asylum hearings or deportation has brightened the outlook for the country’s two largest private prison operators…Shares in both companies rose.”

CoreCivic and Geo Group have always been notorious for increasing profits by keeping wages and benefits for workers low, resulting in high employee turnover, insufficient training, and chronic understaffing. This leads to mistreatment of inmates, poor health and mental health care, unsanitary conditions, inedible food, security concerns, riots, increased violence – and dangerous conditions for correction staff.

Now their focus is on undocumented immigrants, including children.  Currently an estimated 73% of immigrant detainees are held in private prisons.  Human Rights Watch reports that more people died in immigration detention in fiscal year 2017 than any year since 2009. According to the New York Times, as of September 2018, 12,800 migrant children were being held in federally contracted shelters, five times the number in custody a little over a year earlier. Most of these were CoreCivic and Geo Group operations.  Both companies have spent millions in political contributions and lobbying to keep their places at the trough.

Learn more:

Take action:

Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest health care company, has been able to slide by on its benign reputation as the purveyor of bandaids, talcum powder and baby shampoo.  But several scandals in the last few years have tattered that image. The biggest one involves over 24,000 women around the world who have sued the company after suffering serious complications following a vaginal mesh implant procedure. In 2013 juries in several U.S. states found J&J guilty of concealing the adverse physical and emotional effects of the antipsychotic medication Risperdal, promoting it to doctors and patients as better than cheaper generics, and paying kickbacks to physicians and pharmacists to encourage off-label use. Around the same time nearly 10,000 patients who had J&J’s metal-on-metal hips implanted joined class action lawsuits, claiming that they suffered cobalt poisoning, tissue death, and other serious side effects.  In 2014 a J&J subsidiary’s power morcellator device caused rapid spread of uterine cancer and was recalled.

More recently, in July a St. Louis jury awarded nearly U.S.$4.7 billion in damages to 22 women and their families who claimed asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer. Finally, Johnson & Johnson has become embroiled in the opioid crisis, with more than 430 lawsuits accusing it or its subsidiaries of misleading patients about the addictive dangers posed by its painkilling drugs.
Learn more:

Take action:

Lockheed Martin

On August 9, 2018, a Saudi-led coalition warplane dropped a 227kg laser-guided bomb made by Lockheed Martin on a school bus in Yemen, killing 40 children ages 6 to 11. Eleven adults were killed, and 56 children were wounded.  The bomb was one of many thousands sold to Saudi Arabia by the U.S. as part of billions of dollars of weapons exports.  The latest report from the UN high commission for human rights (August 10) showed that there have been 17,062 civilian casualties (dead and injured) in Yemen since 2015, most of them (10,471) a result of airstrikes.

Lockheed Martin is the largest U.S. federal contractor and the largest weapons producer in the world.  By “perfecting the strategy of spreading jobs on weapons programs in key states and congressional districts,” the corporation has locked in Congressional support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Over the years Lockheed has been involved in numerous other controversies, including artificially inflating prices, bribery of foreign government officials, toxic leaks and environmental racism, and race and age discrimination.

Learn more:  

Take action:


In September 2016 Monsanto, the world’s largest producer of genetically modified (GMO) crops, and maker of Agent Orange, the herbicide Roundup, and neonicotinoids that are linked to the widespread deaths of bees and other pollinators, announced it would be purchased by German pharmaceuticals and chemicals giant Bayer AG, to form the largest seed and pesticide company in the world. This will result in their near-monopoly on the agricultural supply chain worldwide, eliminating marketplace competition, raising prices, and forcing even more farmers to rely on GMOs.

Smaller traditional seed sellers will be unable to compete with this megacorporation, and farmers will pay more for fewer choices of seeds due to the cost of seed treatments and technology fees. Green America reports that the merger is projected to raise aggregate seed prices by 5.5% worldwide. The risk of GMO seed contamination of non-GMO crop fields will soar.  Environmental costs of GMO seeds include ecosystem destruction, eradication of important pollinators, superweed and pest development, and soil degradation.

The agribusiness giant plans to drop the infamous Monsanto name, hoping to cast off the curse of its historically terrible reputation.

Learn more:

Take action:

Navient student loan services

Navient is the largest student loan servicer in the United States, managing over 12 million student loan borrowers and more than $300 billion in student debt.  Under Richard Cordray, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed a complaint against Navient in 2017 for “systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment. For years, Navient, formerly part of Sallie Mae, created obstacles to repayment by providing bad information, processing payments incorrectly, and failing to act when borrowers complained. Through shortcuts and deception, the company also illegally cheated many struggling borrowers out of their rights to lower repayments, which caused them to pay much more than they had to for their loans.”

The company imposed abusive interest charges and failed to properly discharge (forgive) debt for student borrowers with a total and permanent disability — including veterans whose disability was connected to their military service — making it appear as if those borrowers had defaulted on their student loans when they had not, thus damaging their credit.  In one case the company attempted to collect loans from co-signers after a student’s accidental death.

The CFPB lawsuit is now stalled because Trump Secretary of Education Betsy deVos and new CFPB head Mick Mulvaney are working to impede and eventually drop the lawsuit; however attorneys general in California, Illinois, Washington and Pennsylvania have also filed suit, and in October 2018 the American Federation of Teachers launched a class action lawsuit against Navient.

Learn more:

For assistance: 

Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron

In 2018 Royal Dutch Shell took the top spot from Exxon Mobil as the biggest oil & gas corporation in the world.  The corporation announced a “15-year decarbonization strategy” with great fanfare in 2018. Shell said it will continue to sell all the oil and gas that “society needs” and will move to lower carbon energy “when this makes commercial sense.”  Meanwhile the company reassured investors that it has a “low risk of stranded assets” because “around 80% of its current proved oil and gas reserves will be produced by 2030.”  Shell, which has known fossil fuels create climate dangers since the 1960’s, is heavily involved in the Canadian tar sands projects and owns 60 percent of the huge Athabasca Oil Sands project in Alberta.  In Nigeria, Shell continues to leave “a trail of oil spills, gas flaring, water contamination, human rights abuses and destruction,” after its support of the military dictatorship which resulted in the notorious murder of activist Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1994.

Chevron, a corporate criminal in Global Exchange’s 2017 list, is the second largest oil company in the U.S., after last year’s top corporate criminal Exxon Mobil.  But a peer-reviewed article published in the journal Climatic Change in September 2017 found that Chevron is at the top of the list of 90 corporations (including Exxon) that have been responsible for more than a quarter of sea level rise and about half the global warming from 1880 to 2010.

In 2003, a class action lawsuit against Chevron was filed in Ecuadorian court by indigenous residents, who accused Texaco Oil of making them ill and damaging forests and rivers by discharging 18 billion gallons of heavily polluted water into the Amazon rainforest without any environmental remediation. Chevron, which had purchased Texaco in 2000, maintained that the company had completed cleanup of the pollution caused by Texaco. In 2011, indigenous residents were awarded $8.6 billion, based on claims of loss of crops and farm animals as well as increased local cancer rates. This was the first time that an indigenous group had ever successfully sued a multinational corporation in the country where the pollution took place.

However, Chevron described the lawsuit as an “extortion scheme” and refused to pay the fine.  The case has gone back and forth, and in September 2018 an international tribunal in The Hague ruled in favor of Chevron, finding that Ecuador “violated its obligations under international treaties, investment agreements and international law,” and Chevron is not required to pay any fines Ecuadorian courts had levied previously.  The tribunal then ordered Ecuador to compensate Chevron for any “damages” arising from the initial judgment. Ecuador plans to appeal. Chevron, like Shell, also has a lengthy history of other environmental, labor, worker safety, human rights and financial transgressions.

Learn more — Shell:

Learn more — Chevron:

Take action:

Sig Sauer

Sig Sauer is the largest seller of firearms to the Mexican military and federal and state police forces, in a time when Mexico is facing an acute crisis of human rights violations and violent crimes, most of which are committed with firearms. In 2015 Sig Sauer received a U.S. commercial license agreement to sell arms to Mexican military and police forces, resulting in the expected transfer of nearly 200,000 firearms by 2024 — including to state and local police in states with extensive charges of police collusion with organized crime.  The U.S. State Department reviews arms export license applications, but there is no evidence that they have denied any transactions in Mexico based on credible reports of human rights violations by the end users of the weapons.

Since 2006 there have been more than 37,435 disappeared persons, more than 1,610 clandestine graves discovered, and 121,035 gun homicides reported in Mexico. In 2017 and over the first half of 2018 gun homicide rates were the highest in Mexico’s modern history. There is a strong link between the increased firearms trade from the United States to Mexico and the dramatic increase in gun homicides and violence in Mexico. Credible evidence exists that members of a number of police and military units throughout the country have colluded with criminal organizations or committed gross human rights abuses themselves.

The company is a strong Trump ally and a major donor to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry.

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Take action:


Wage theft involves boosting corporate profits by forcing employees to work off the clock, cheating them out of required overtime pay and engaging in similar practices. In a 2018 report  Good Jobs First and Jobs with Justice reported that Walmart far and away tops the list of corporations in total amount of settlements, verdicts and fines for wage theft: $1,408,901,183 — triple the amount for the #2 offender, FedEx. This amount does not include wage theft of temp agency workers or “independent contractors,” or wage disputes dealt with through arbitration.  After paying its penalties, Walmart has also been sued for continuing to engage in the same illegal labor practices. Walmart is notoriously anti-union; many of its workers receive food stamps and other public assistance to survive on their low wages.

Violence and harassment against women workers in Walmart’s garment supply chain in Asia has been detailed in another 2018 report, by Global Labor Justice.  Women reported “acts that inflicted sexual harm and suffering; physical violence, verbal abuse, coercion, threats and retaliation, and routine deprivations of liberty including forced overtime.”  Walmart has contributed to risks of this violence through excessive working hours, unsafe workplaces, unauthorized subcontracting and other factors.

Learn more:

Take action:

Wells Fargo and JPMorgan 

As the Corporate Research Project writes, “Wells Fargo is the smallest of the four giants that now dominate the U.S. commercial banking business, but it has surpassed its larger counterparts in the extent to which it has been embroiled in a series of scandals involving reckless lending practices and customer deception” related to mortgages and auto-lending. Revelations of new scandals continued into 2018: the city of Sacramento sued WF for intentionally steering African American and Latino borrowers into high-risk and high-cost mortgages. Also in 2018, the bank was forced to refund customers for pet insurance, home warranties and other unwanted “add-on” products, and reimburse customers for incorrect pricing and fees for foreign exchange transactions.

In February 2018 the Federal Reserve under Janet Yellen froze Wells Fargo’s growth, barring it from growing beyond its asset size as of the end of 2017 — an unprecedented move meant to show the Fed meant business about Wells Fargo’s misconduct.  The Consumer Financial Protection under Mick Mulvaney fined WF $1 billion in April, but as the Chicago Tribune pointed out, “With its 2018 tax cut, Wells Fargo could pay its $1 billion fine three times over and still have cash to spare.”

JPMorgan Chase is the largest investment bank in the world. It is also the largest lender to CoreCivic and Geo Group, the private prison and immigrant detention corporations, and the largest U.S. funder of tar sands oil.  JPMorgan is the largest financier of “extreme fossil fuels” (tar sands, Arctic oil, ultra-deepwater oil, liquified natural gas, coal mining, and coal-fired power) among all U.S. banks, and is the third-largest financier worldwide (after China Construction Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada). Its investments in this area rose from $7.598 billion in 2016 to $11.645 billion in 2017, a 53% increase in one year. The bank has a long history of charging illegitimate fees, accounting fraud, misleading investors, improper foreclosures, excessive interest rates, bundling mortgages into toxic securities, fraudulent debt-collection practices against its credit card customers, charging African-American and Latino mortgage borrowers higher rates than white customers.

Learn more — Wells Fargo:

Learn more — JPMorgan Chase:


Take action:  



See our Corporate Criminals alumni from previous years

The 2018 Corporate Criminals List was researched and written by Jenny White.

MostWanted2013Core to Global Exchange’s founding is providing an analysis of corporate power and challenging neoliberal free trade. Through our work, we provide global citizens with the information to understand the perils of an economic system that benefits very few – the 1% – and empower people to take action. For the 5th year in a row, we’ve compiled a “Most Wanted” list of Corporate Criminals and maintained the Alumni list.

The 2016 list is comprised of six new “most wanted” corporations judged on issues like unlivable working conditions and pay, violations of human rights and voting rights, climate change denial, and environmental destruction. Four corporations, Koch Industries, McDonald’s, Chevron and Monsanto were on earlier lists but are included again, as the corporate behavior of these companies has reached egregious levels this year and merits repeat attention.

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A note on the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Global Exchange has been actively involved in campaigns to stop free trade deals that sabotage worker rights, environmental rights and human rights since the days of the battle against NAFTA. For the 2016 list, we wanted to identify a corporation that has been a leader in promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but we ran into a problem: according to the Center for Responsive Politics, government data on corporate spending on lobbying for the TPP is mixed in with data on other issues. Some of the companies that lobbied on TPP that spent the most overall (on all issues) are Dow Chemical, Boeing, Google, Comcast and Exxon. Trade associations are also among the biggest contributors, including the Chamber of Commerce, PhRMA and the Business Roundtable. So while we were not able to identify a specific “top corporate criminal” on this issue, we want to highlight the crucial challenge the TPP will be this coming fall as President Obama attempts to get it passed. Learn more here.

Join us to stop the TPP and take action with these organizations: Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Communications Workers of America, Greenpeace, Credo Action, Green America

The Ten Top Most Wanted Corporate Criminals list is a guide to learn about what companies like PepsiCo, Exxon Mobil, and others you might have heard less about are doing to undermine human rights and the environment. The more we know, the less corporations can continue to act harmfully and out of the public eye. Share the list with friends, family, and co-workers. Use the Take Action section to add your voice and increase the pressure.

We at Global Exchange encourage you to exercise your right as a global citizen to promote social justice and defend the Earth.

See which corporations made the list!

Today, August 1st, is a statewide day of action in California to end fracking and demand clean, not extreme, energy. (Click here to find an action near you.)

Also, in just a matter of weeks, Global Exchange and our allies have gathered over 150,000 signatures demanding an end to extreme oil extraction in California.

Global Exchange is proud to take a stand with the people of California in their fight to stop fracking and protect water, crops, communities and the climate from this dirty and dangerous practice.

Global Exchange has also long stood in solidarity with communities around the world who share the same struggle to stop dirty energy extraction. In that spirit, we’d like to highlight our upcoming travel delegations to Ecuador:

Ecuador: Social and Environmental Justice in the Andes and the Amazon
December 28, 2015 – January 5, 2016
April 22 – May 2, 2016
July 4-14, 2016

Travel to the northern Amazon region to look at the damaging effects of oil and other extractive industries while you experience the breathtaking diversity and beauty of the Amazon rainforest. Learn about the historic ongoing court-battle against Chevron and its toxic legacy of oil exploitation while seeing the oil pits for yourself.

Go to the fabled Yasuní National Park, a UNESCO world biosphere reserve and what many scientists consider to be the most biologically diverse region on the entire planet. Meet with indigenous leaders and healers, and visit ecotourism projects that provide alternatives to extractive industries like oil and logging. Back in Quito, discuss environmental, social, and economic rights with activists and leaders. 

Whether in California or Ecuador, the challenge of standing up to the power of Big Oil is real. Let’s stand in solidarity.

Today, August 1st, is a statewide day of action in California to end fracking and demand clean, not extreme, energy. (Click here to find an action near you.)

Also, in just a matter of weeks, Global Exchange and our allies have gathered over 150,000 signatures demanding an end to extreme oil extraction in California.

Global Exchange is proud to take a stand with the people of California in their fight to stop fracking and protect water, crops, communities and the climate from this dirty and dangerous practice.

Global Exchange has also long stood in solidarity with communities around the world who share the same struggle to stop dirty energy extraction. In that spirit, we’d like to highlight our upcoming travel delegations to Ecuador:

Ecuador: Social and Environmental Justice in the Andes and the Amazon
December 28, 2015 – January 5, 2016
April 22 – May 2, 2016
July 4-14, 2016

Travel to the northern Amazon region to look at the damaging effects of oil and other extractive industries while you experience the breathtaking diversity and beauty of the Amazon rainforest. Learn about the historic ongoing court-battle against Chevron and its toxic legacy of oil exploitation while seeing the oil pits for yourself.

Go to the fabled Yasuní National Park, a UNESCO world biosphere reserve and what many scientists consider to be the most biologically diverse region on the entire planet. Meet with indigenous leaders and healers, and visit ecotourism projects that provide alternatives to extractive industries like oil and logging. Back in Quito, discuss environmental, social, and economic rights with activists and leaders.

Whether in California or Ecuador, the challenge of standing up to the power of Big Oil is real. Let’s stand in solidarity.

The following guest blog is by Jeff Conant, who participated in the BARONA (Bay Area Rights of Nature Alliance) Rights of Nature Tribunal on October 5, 2014. With 150 people in attendance, the tribunal  imagined how different our world might be if our legal system saw ecosystems as rights-bearing entities—rather than as property to be destroyed for profit. Would fracking be legal?  Deep-sea oil drilling? The tribunal  examined the violations of community and nature’s rights using Chevron’s refinery in Richmond, CA as a case study. Five judges heard  the eloquent testimony of many experts, including residents most affected by the refinery.  Recognizing legal standing for ecosystems is a concept that has been gaining strength over the past decade, in dozens of US communities and in the constitution of Ecuador.

When the newly formed BARONA held a tribunal to see what it might look if we held the fossil fuel industry to account for its violations of the rights of the living universe, I had the opportunity to indulge in a little Stephen Colbert-style theatrics, by playing the role of defense attorney for the industry:

Honorable judges, esteemed witnesses, ladies and gentlemen of the public, I said in my opening speech, if it were not for my client, the fossil fuel industry, none of you would be here today. The energy economy is the very foundation of every advance that we as a civilization have benefited from for the past hundred and fifty years. Yet, despite this fundamental fact, there are those among you who insist that somehow my client has done wrong.

As defense attorney for industry, my arguments were based on two principles – principles we hear again and again from corporations, especially the big nasty ones like Monsanto and Chevron – 1) Our products may have fatal side effects, but they make your life possible, or at least convenient, and 2) Might Makes Right—including the “right” of corporations to be seen as “persons” with vast powers under law to make a profit.

Of these arguments, the first is the hardest to refute. Having grown up in the golden age of fossil fuels (and, most likely, toward the end of this age), we know no other way of living. So, to propose an idea as paradigm-shifting as Rights of Nature is, to say the least, preposterous. But for corporations to maintain their psychic stranglehold over us, they depend just as much on argument #2: we have the power and we’re not letting it go.

And this is precisely where the question of rights comes in as a strategic approach. Ever since the French Revolution, popular pressure to recognize human rights has been a key strategic approach to resisting abuses of power, whether by states or corporations. Though it is still in its infancy as a movement, efforts to gain recognition for the rights of nature could be an important element within a broader set of strategies to resist the abuses of corporate rule.

One of the witnesses at the tribunal, Corinna Gould, a local Ohlone woman who has been active for years in defending the history and culture of Bay Area native peoples, made the point that the U.S. Constitution was written by and for wealthy white men. Well, let me tell you, as the defense attorney for Industry, that really got my goat – so here’s what I replied:

1969125_768268426538543_5066547460394226227_nLet’s remember our history. The Constitution is not the only document written by and for white men in this country. Following the 13th Amendment, which gave people of African descent the status of human beings, some friends of ours wrote the 14th Amendment which says that “No state shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law nor deny to any person the equal protection of laws. Thanks to the Supreme Court decision San Mateo County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, corporations, as we know, are persons. Therefore, under current law – and I don’t see this changing anytime soon – corporate persons, like my client the fossil fuel industry, have rights. Fairy tales like Mother Earth, on the other hand, do not.

In this case, as the faux-lawyer defending the status quo, I rejected the notion that ecosystems should have rights using a version of the Might Makes Right argument that says we are right because we made the laws.

The point I hoped to make, though, was the opposite: laws are meant to uphold and protect rights—those inalienable rights that come not from government but by virtue of being born.  Living things have rights, and laws are made by people.  When laws are unjust and deny rights, they can be changed by people. It is never easy, and it takes time – but power does change hands.

Of course, it’s not only Might that makes Right. In the current era of market fundamentalism, wealth also makes Right, which is why, as defense attorney, I made this point:

When the Chevron refinery in Richmond California suffered a regrettable fire in 2012, we paid the fines. Indeed, that same year, 2012, Chevron earned over $26 billion – its highest annual profits ever. If my client were not within its rights, would our profits continue to grow? Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t think so. And what have we done with these profits? Around the world, we have built schools, clinics, water treatment facilities, parks. We sponsor sports teams.

Does Mother Earth sponsor sports teams? No, she does not.

Your honors, I rest my case.

Jeff-Conant_200x210Jeff Conant lives in Oakland, CA with his wife and family. When he is not moonlighting as a faux-defense attorney for the likes of Chevron Corp. he is the director of Friends of the Earth’s international forests program, which seeks to protect forests and the rights of forest-dependent peoples by addressing the root causes of forest destruction. A longtime  global justice activist, he also co-authored A Community Guide to Environmental Health (Hesperian Health Guides, 2008), a comprehensive community education manual which is being translated into numerous languages. As an independent journalist, Jeff has written frequently for outlets such as Alternet, Corpwatch, Earth Island Journal, Yes!, Race, Poverty and the Environment and Z Magazine.


October 1, 2014

Contact: Shannon Biggs, Global Exchange

shannon@globalexchange.org 415.298.9419

Nature Puts Chevron Refinery and Legal System on Trial

People’s Tribunal in Oakland Seeks to Give Nature a Voice in Law this Sunday

Oakland CA — On Sunday October 5, a People’s Tribunal will examine the violations of community and nature’s rights caused by the fossil fuel industry, using Chevron’s refinery in Richmond as a case study.  Recognizing legal standing for ecosystems is a concept that has been gaining strength over the past decade, in dozens of US communities and in the constitution of Ecuador.

Two years after the refinery explosion that rocked the Richmond, CA community, residents still live in fear, while air quality and land remain contaminated. Despite having been found guilty of 62 violations of the law in 2012, Chevron Corp. will be expanding operations, and 4 new projects will bring Tar Sands and fracked crude from North Dakota to the Bay Area.  The question for a growing many isn’t the violations of the law, but the daily chemical exposure permitted under the law.

 “Chevron has been destroying nature and poisoning people for over 100 years. Humanity is part of the web of life known as Nature. If Nature doesn’t have rights, then a viable future for the next seven generations is doubtful,says Richmond resident and Native American activist Pennie Opal Plant, who will also be one of several expert witnesses at the Tribunal.

Global Exchange’s Community & Nature’s Rights director, Shannon Biggs, one of the organizers of the event added, “the fact is, current law treats nature as property, so it’s easy for corporations to get a permit to blow the tops off of mountains for coal, or frack communities for profit.  Recognizing nature’s rights provides new and critical protections for our communities and the ecosystems we all depend on.”

  The tribunal, a project of the Bay Area Rights of Nature Alliance (BARONA)barona_logo_Mowder takes place Sunday 10 am – 2 pm at Laney College’s Forum, highlighting the impacts on people and nature from the Chevron refinery, and place on trial current legal and economic systems that advance the destruction of nature by the oil industry. Tribunal judges include:

  • Carl Anthony (Breakthrough Communities; Urban Habitat)
  • Brian Swimme (California Institute of Integral Studies; Journey of the Universe)
  • Anuradha Mittal (Oakland Institute)
  • Courtney Cummings (Arikara and Cheyenne; Native Wellness Center, Richmond)
  • Bill Twist (Pachamama Alliance)

The day will also include a “Web of Life Labyrinth,” created by local artists (opens 9:30 am), local music and food for purchase. Members of BARONA, a network of leading Bay Area rights of nature, ecological justice, human rights, local economy, Indigenous, women’s, and other groups will be on hand to answer questions. The event will be part of the global “Earth Rights Days of Action” sponsored by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and the related efforts of the International Rights of Nature Tribunals in Quito, Ecuador (January 2014) and Lima, Peru (December 2014).

Please join us for a rich discussion of just what rights of nature could mean for residents in Richmond, CA—and across the country. Learn what over 100 other communities across the US are doing differently to put the rights of residents and nature before corporate profits.

Save your space for this important event register now.

Banner_web1Pittsburg => Martinez => Benicia => Rodeo => Richmond.

This is the refinery corridor in the northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area consisting of five refineries in four cities servicing Shell, Tesoro, Valero, Phillips and Chevron.

Joining a large coalition of Bay Area organizations, and led by Idle No More, Global Exchange will join four Healing Walks taking place over the next four months to bring people together who are concerned about the effects of the fossil fuel industry on our communities and to learn from one another as we walk with Mother Earth. Please join us!photo 22

Last summer, I participated in a Healing Walk in northern Alberta, through the tar sands around Ft. McMurray. This powerful experience had me touch, breath, see and feel the impacts of heavy crude extraction on the earth and on communites. It also refreshed my commitment to ‘stop the destruction, start the healing’ and re-imagine our communities free from fossil fuel impacts.

Healing walks have a long history in Native and First Nations traditions and as pilgrimages in other cultures. These Connect the Dots Healing Walks are inspired by these traditions and will take place:

Saturday April 12, Pittsburg to Martinez

Saturday May 17, Martinez to Benicia

Saturday June 14, Benicia to Rodeo

Saturday July 12, Rode to Richmond

Participate (walk, bike) together, in teams or relay groups. Do them all, just some, do the whole thing, just part. All are welcome and all are encouraged. To learn more and get the most up to date information (meeting points, times, etc) please visit the Connect the Dots website.

Photo Credit: Noah Chandler

Photo Credit: Noah Chandler

The following post was written by Global Exchange Development Associate, Jessica Nuti.

Exactly one year ago today during our weekly staff meeting, Global Exchange staff and interns shared and discussed the Chevron refinery explosion that had just happened in Richmond, CA.

A few of our staff and interns live in close proximity to the Chevron refinery and had witnessed the devastation caused by a leaking pipe that exploded. Many of us saw plumes of black smoke enveloping the east bay sky.  Zarah thought a bomb had gone off. Drea expressed concern about breathing in the toxic air. It was a day that none of us will ever forget.

Because Global Exchange is a part of the True Cost of Chevron Network, we are well aware of Chevron’s ongoing atrocities around the world. But when the pollution wafts into the air we breathe in such a visible way, it really hits home, as it has for so many other communities affected by Chevron over the years.

So in light of the one-year anniversary of the explosion at the refinery, this past weekend Bay Area residents (including many Global Exchangers) came together and stood up against Chevron for a ‘Summer Heat’ action.

You can see lots of photos of this incredible ‘Summer Heat’ day of action on Facebook.

Photo Credit: Jessica Nuti

Photo Credit: Jessica Nuti

In sunflower power fashion, thousands of people from all over the Bay Area and beyond took to the streets this past Saturday, August 3rd to demand Chevron stop its destructive practices negatively impacting the planet, the people of Richmond, and around the world.

The Summer Heat Richmond masses marched about 2 miles from the Richmond BART station to the Chevron refinery chanting in unison with vibrant banners and signs, and carrying the central symbol of the day, the sunflower.

Many organizations helped make the demonstration a success, including Urban Tilth, 350BayArea.org, Idle No More, Labor Unions, nurses, and many others who also took a stand against Chevron.

Photo Credit: Jessica Nuti

Photo Credit: Jessica Nuti

Thanks to Urban Tilth, hundreds of sunflowers were brought to the demonstration, giving the march, rally, and nonviolent direct action a beautiful visual with great meaning; sunflowers have the power of extracting heavy metals from the ground.

For example, as sunflowers grow, lead-contaminated soil becomes safer for gardening. Since Chevron has been poisoning the planet for years, it seemed appropriate to deliver sunflowers to the dirty energy company to help it extract the toxins from its property.

Hundreds of individuals attempted to plant sunflower starters and seeds onto Chevron’s property after the march. Unable to get through Chevron’s gates, activists participated in a sit in blocking the refinery entrance.

Photo Credit: Mona Caron

Photo Credit: Mona Caron

These activists were later arrested, 210 in all, including a social worker named Maggie Mullen who experienced Chevron’s devastation first hand:

“I work for a hospital where 15,000 people were treated for respiratory issues due to the Chevron Richmond Refinery fire last year.

I was arrested with hundreds of others to take a stand for the folks I work with in Richmond who have suffered the physical and emotional impacts of dirty energy and for whom justice has not been served.  I was arrested to send a beautiful and heartfelt message to Chevron to stop poisoning our air, our water, and our families and to transition to clean energy now.”

Photo Credit: Jessica Nuti

Photo Credit: Jessica Nuti

With tar sands extraction on the rise, the proposed Keystone Pipeline on the table, and oil companies continuing to put profits before all else, now is the time for people to come together and demand that Chevron and other oil companies respect communities and the planet.

Take-ActionTake Action!


GXAug3KXLAs the temperature rises, so do we.

That is the tagline behind the Summer Heat actions taking place all over the country to challenge the fossil fuel industry. From the Pacific Northwest, to Texas, to Maine and many more in between, people are ready to fight against the industry that is wrecking our planet and our future.

Here in California, people of the Bay Area will rise up at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, CA on August 3rd. Just days before the one year anniversary of the Chevron Refinery explosion, we’ll join the Summer Heat Richmond coalition and say No to Chevron, No to Tar Sands Oil, Stop Climate Chaos and Yes to Green Energy.

August 3 will also mark just three months since Global Exchange honored the work of First Nations activist Crystal Lameman, for her work to stop the further expansion of tar sands into the traditional territory of the Beaver Lake Cree. It will also mark one month since I started my journey to Fort McMurray to participate in the Healing Walk – an annual First Nation and Metis event to focus on healing the environment and the people who are suffering from tar sands expansion.

It’s now time to turn local. Gathering at the Richmond BART station at 10AM, we’ll march to the entrance of the refinery and once we reach the gates with a children’s brigade at the lead, we’ll rally and hear from Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and climate champion Bill McKibben. The children’s brigade will start a little later (10:30AM), and meet at George Carroll (aka Washington) Park, Pt Richmond.SummerHeat_12x18-e1372530721430

RSVP and march with us to call for:

Putting together an action like this is a massive undertaking and brings together over 50 local and national organizations: the Richmond Progressive Alliance, Communities for a Better Environment, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the California Nurses Association and many local unions, as well as national environmental networks and social justice organizations. So much to do! There are still lots of volunteer opportunities.

After the rally, affinity groups will carry out nonviolent direct actions, some involving sunflowers – known for their ability to absorb heavy metals from the soil.  If you want to be part of these or develop your own creative, nonviolent actions, please attend a nonviolence training on Sunday July 28.  These actions will be carried out peacefully and carefully separate from those who cannot or do not wish to risk arrest.

Hope to see you there!

For Summer Actions across the country, visit JoinSummerHeat.org.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”  ~James Baldwin

“Action is the antidote to despair.”  ~Joan Baez

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  ~Margaret Mead

Tens of thousands of us have stood up this year and changed the global analysis and understanding of inequality, wealth accumulation and corporate greed and power. Ten of thousands of us have said enough is enough and brought change to our communities, cities and countries.

We here at Global Exchange offer gratitude to all those who have stood up to resist injustice, envision alternatives and take action. Together we are part of monumental shift, and there is no turning back.

We thank:

  • The change makers in Egypt: Thank you to the courageous demonstrators in Egypt whose force grew into a movement that brought about the end of Mubarak’s regime and more recently the military offering its resignation We’re inspired by your bravery, determination, and sheer numbers.
  • Those who saw that Chevron was found guilty: Thank you to indigenous community members and human rights and environmental justice advocates who worked together to ensure Chevron was brought to justice in an Ecuadorian court. The battle may not be over, but it took courage and conviction to get this far. We hope that BP is also held accountable.
  • Unionists and allies in Wisconsin: Thank you to the protesters who occupied the State Capitol Building in Madison, Wisconsin in attempt to stop the bill that curbs the bargaining rights of most state workers (now signed by Governor Walker). With efforts now underway to reclaim democracy, we support your efforts, voice and action.
  • Climate Activist Tim deChristopher: Thanks for your simple act of civil disobedience to scupper a controversial auction of thousands of acres of land, to protect it from false leases that would have been snapped up by gas and oil companies for exploitation. We send solidarity to you, as you serve the 2 year sentence in jail.
  • Money Movers and Shakers: Thanks to…
    · 22 year old Molly Katchpole who single-handedly launched a successful Change.org petition against Bank of America;
    · Move Your Money and other likeminded organizations that helped US bank account holders break up with their bank and move their money from big corporate banks to local credit unions where people are account holders AND owners.
  • Stop Keystone XL Activists: Thanks to the 1253 of you who were arrested in late summer at the White House, the 350 of you who were arrested in late September in Ottawa, the dozens of action teams who followed President Obama this fall, the12,000 of you who surrounded the White House in November, and the massive organizing effort of the Tar Sands Action crew. By making approval of the Keystone XL pipeline impossible to President Obama, we delayed a decision on this pipeline which would have opened up the tar sands in Alberta to an addition 900 000 barrels of oil extraction a day. We know we will stop this.
  • Javier Sicilia and the new peace movement in Mexico: Thank you for building a movement to free Mexico from the spiraling violence of the ‘war on drugs.’ We are grateful for your immense courage, dignity and integrity in the face of unspeakable horrors.
  • Gaza Freedom Flotilla: Thanks to activists aboard the Audacity of Hope and other boats in the Freedom Flotilla for your non-violent efforts this spring to bring needed humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza while striving to lift the illegal siege of Gaza and achieve freedom for the Palestinian people. 
  • Occupiers of Wall Street and Beyond: Thanks to the 99% who are standing up and taking action to say Enough is Enough. On Nov. 15th Berkeley professor Robert Reich shared with the Occupy Cal crowd these words:

Moral outrage is the beginning. The days of apathy are over, folks. And once it has begun it cannot be stopped and it will not be stopped.

Surely he is correct.

Who are you thankful for? What is the next victory and who will make it happen?