GM Tree Company ArborGen Defrauds Employees, Fined $53.5 Million

GM Tree Company ArborGen Defrauds Employees, Fined $53.5 Million

ArborGen has reportedly been fined $53.5 million in compensation and punitive damages by a court that found the GM research and development company defrauded its employees using “trickery and deceit.”

It’s one thing when you trick and deceive the public in order to force genetically modified trees on them, but when you ‘trick and defraud’ your own employees, a court of law can have a very clear reason to attach a fine. That is the fate of ArborGen, the company responsible for introducing genetically modified loblolly pines as well as GM eucalyptus trees into the U.S.

In a 180-page ruling, ArborGen was named along with timber company founders, International Paper, MeadWestvaco (now WestRock), and New Zealand-based Rubicon, as well as several of their Board members.

Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, said:

“It is a shame that this story came out on 29 December, in the middle of a holiday week, and has gone almost completely unreported. Only two articles have covered this important story in South Carolina papers.” [1]

She added:

“We have always argued that ArborGen is acting recklessly in their pursuit of the commercial development of unproven and potentially dangerous GE eucalyptus, pine and other trees. Now we find out that ArborGen has lied to and defrauded their own employees. How could anyone possibly believe anything they say about the ‘safety’ of these GE trees?”

ArborGen employees, including high-level executives, were defrauded by being tricked into accepting incentive plan changes that depleted most of their wealth.

Rosen Hagwood, a lawyer who represented the workers, stated:

“The defendants orchestrated a scheme to [give] the employees false information, misrepresentations and concealment as part of a wrongful scheme to defraud them [and which] failed to provide the employees with the value they were entitled to.” [1]

Ten ArborGen employees were named in the trial as having been promised more than $11.3 million in equity, but were given what amounted to only $414,330 in actual equity.

From the Summary of Court’s Findings of Fact, [p. 96]:

“This court finds that ArborGen’s legacy employees …were in turn abused by ArborGen, its founders, its board members and its management team. Based on promises made in writing and signed by ArborGen’s CEO Plaintiffs entered into contracts, which the Defendants did not honor.” “The Defendants orchestrated a cover-up scheme created and executed to switch the Plaintiffs out of the [Dot 3 financial plan] that the Defendants had determined to be “too rich”…” [1]

So while the company was defrauding its own employees with empty financial promises, it was likely lobbying our own Congress and regulatory agencies to force GM trees on us, too. Sounds like the typical corporate biotech slugs have been up to their regular slime.

When a judge says specifically that a company resorted to “trickery and deceit” with an “intent to defraud,” you can bet they will resort to the same when playing the gene-alteration game.


[1] Global Justic Eecology