Environmental watchdog group Greenpeace Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Dow Chemical Co., Sasol North America Inc. and two private investigation firms, claiming they illegally obtained information to use against Greenpeace between 1998 and 2000.
Washington-based Greenpeace filed the suit Nov. 29 in U.S. District Court there. The suit alleges that Dow and the other defendants including investigation firms Ketchum Inc. of New York and Dezenhall Resources Ltd. of Washington engaged in theft, unlawful surveillance and other charges.
At the time, Greenpeace was criticizing Dow's and Sasol's manufacturing activities, particularly Sasol predecessor Condea Vista's operation of a plant making PVC feedstocks ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride monomer at a plant in Louisiana.
The suit also names as defendants several employees of private investigation firm Beckett Brown International (BBI) Inc., which in 2000 changed its name to S2I Corp. Also identified in the suit is District of Columbia police officer James Daron, who allegedly used his police badge to help BBI employees gain access to dumpsters that were enclosed by a locked fence at Greenpeace's offices in Washington.
Records used by Greenpeace in the suit came from a former BBI executive, who provided them as part of a 2008 report in Mother Jones magazine.
Greenpeace is seeking unspecified damages from defendants in the case.
Dow spokesman Greg Baldwin said in an e-mail that Midland, Mich.-based Dow has no reason to believe that any Dow employee did anything improper.
Even though the allegations are made by Greenpeace and the alleged activities occurred more than a decade ago, Dow will take the Greenpeace allegations seriously, as we expect all Dow employees and those working on behalf of Dow to adhere to Dow's code of business conduct, Baldwin said.
Sasol North America is a Houston-based unit of Sasol Group, a chemicals and energy firm based in Johannesburg. In an e-mail, spokesperson Jacqui O'Sullivan said the unit is analyzing the complaint.
The alleged behavior of espionage relates to a time period more than 10 years ago, she added.
Sasol believes that it has a claim for indemnification against the previous owner of Sasol North America [at that time called Condea Vista Co.] regarding this matter and is assessing its legal options.