Saturday, May 22, 2010

Exxon Mobil & The U.S. Mass Media Historically

In the early 1990s, before Exxon was allowed to merge with Mobil (despite U.S. anti-trust laws which are supposed to prevent corporate monopolies from being created within the U.S. economic system), Mobil was then the U.S. corporation with the largest direct investment in Saudi Arabia. It was then involved in two huge joint ventures with the Saudi Government: a refinery and a petrochemical complex. Each Mobil-Saudi business project cost more than $1 billion to construct.

In addition, 12 percent of Mobil's imported crude oil came from Iraq before Saddam Hussein decided to annex Kuwait's oilfields in August 1990, in his failed attempt to increase his bargaining power with Mobil and the other transnational oil companies at that time.

Coincidentally, in 1990 a member of Mobil's board of directors, J.Richard Munro, was also the then-chairman of the Executive Committee of Time Warner's corporate board.

Mobil had long been represented on the corporate board of Time magazine's parent company. As early as 1967, for example, Mobil's president at that time, Rawleigh Warner, also sat on Time Inc.'s board of directors.

Despite its historic ties to Time magazine, Mobil was not reluctant during the 1980s to take legal action against U.S. mass media institutions over which it had no control. According to a 1988 book by former Time-Life Broadcast Chairman Richard Clurman, entitled Beyond Malice: The Media's Years of Reckoning, in the 1980s Mobil created a new $10 million insurance policy for its top 100 executives "to cover their costs should any of them find a reason to sue for libel" any U.S. mass media institutions that print articles about them which the Mobil executives don't like.

Newsweek magazine's parent company, The Washington Post, was sued for $100 million by then-Mobil President William Tavoulareas in the 1980s, for example, after the newspaper printed a front-page article which, according to Clurman's Beyond Malice book, charged Mobil's then-president "with setting up his 24-year-old son in a multimillion dollar oil shipping business, which profited mightily from its special relationship with Mobil."

In 1987, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. found the Washington Post story on Mobil's then-president "substantially true" and ruled that "an adversarial stance"--even in relation to Mobil--"is fully consistent with professional investigative reporting." When the then-Mobil president appealed this court decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to even consider reviewing the anti-Mobil, pro-freedom-of-the-press verdict.

(Downtown 10/24/90)

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