Patrick, however, seems ready for the challenge here. “The real work was, what series of programmatic changes is going to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, and that the company is functioning as responsibly as possible?” Patrick told the Phoenix. “But nobody talks about that when they announce [the settlement]. All you hear is crowing about how much money was recovered.
“That’s part of it,” he adds. “But the fact is, that company is in the fastest-growing sector of the lending business because they loan to people the downtown banks won’t go near. There are a lot of people, here in Massachusetts and elsewhere, who can only get their start by working with Ameriquest or one of their competitors.... So you want those practices to be first-class.” (Another wrinkle for Reilly: Maude Hurd, the national head of the economic-justice organization ACORN and a Dorchester resident, credits Patrick with bringing about key reforms in Ameriquest’s lending practices.)
Maybe Reilly should turn his attention to Coke. According to some labor and human-rights activists, Patrick — during his time as Coke’s GC — was complicit in a troubling situation in Colombia, where independent bottlers working with Coke allegedly used their ties to Colombian paramilitary groups to intimidate union organizers.
Patrick, however, notes that a court cleared Coke of charges that it conspired with the paramilitaries in question. More important, he points out that he publicly promised an independent third-party investigation of the situation — and quit the company when Coke’s CEO refused to allow such an investigation. “To me,” Patrick says, “this was an issue of personal integrity.”
Compelling stuff — but there’s a catch. The International Labor Rights Fund’s Terry Collingsworth, a harsh critic of Coke’s corporate behavior, notes that Patrick continued working with Coke after quitting, receiving $2.1 million for consulting work in 2005. (According to recent public filings, Patrick owned more than $1.5 million in Coke stock in late 2004, just before entering the race.) Given this, Collingsworth says, Patrick’s resignation “hardly strikes me as a moral beacon of hope.”
To be fair, Collingsworth is an activist, and hardly disposed to interpret Patrick’s actions sympathetically. Still, his objection highlights Patrick’s quandary: his corporate years are both an asset and a liability, and if predictable questions like whether CEOs earn too much can put Patrick in a bind, the negatives will outweigh the positives. Here’s some free advice for Patrick: speak bluntly about the excesses of Big Business, even as you share the wisdom you gleaned in the corporate world. Otherwise, you’ll be doing Tom Reilly’s job for him.
On the Web:
Adam Reilly's Talking Politics Blog: http://www.thephoenix.com/TalkingPolitics/
Deval Patrick: http://www.devalpatrick.com/
Tom Reilly: http://www.tomreilly.org
Kerry Healey: http://www.healeycommittee.com/
"No Sympathy for Deval" from the Killer Coke Council: http://www.killercoke.org/octactiv/deval.pdf
E-mail the author:
Adam Reilly: firstname.lastname@example.org