How Tender Is the Corporate Conscience

“For sure, as a species we are rather odd …
No other creature needs money, or god.” –Peggy Seeger

I’m not very bright — hardly news to regular readers. But I still have trouble understanding how a corporation can be a person. Most of us have this stuff called DNA that more or less makes us human. Corporations? Well, they have CPAs and CFOs and CEOs that … more or less make them inhuman. If a corporation can ever donate blood, get acne, have nightmares, and die of cancer, maybe corporate “personhood” will make more sense to me.

And yet somehow I can accept that corporations might have profound religious scruples. It’s weird, but I get it, more or less. Of course we know it’s easier to fight for our principles than to live up to them. So Hobby Lobby may seem like hypocrites now (even to CNN!! and who should know more about hypocrisy?) but I’m convinced this corporation is totally sincere … in this case at least. It’s quite simple really. They worship money. So anything that makes them more money (like investments) is in accordance with the manifest will of the great god money. But anything that costs them extra money (such as additional health coverage for their employees) is clearly violating the will of their merciful money-god. And we couldn’t have that.


[transcript redacted from Youtube]
welcome back to Legal View; I’m Ashleigh Banfield. Hobby Lobby says it stands by its biblical principles, even taking its objections over a federal mandate to cover employees’ birth control all the way to the Supreme Court, and winning that argument.
But now there are some big questions being raised about how their company’s religious beliefs apply to the investment that it makes in its employee retirement funds. Hobby Lobby’s 401 k plan invests in the pharmaceutical companies — pharmaceutical companies that make the very same birth control drugs the company finds so offensive. Including the so-called “morning-after” drug, Plan B.
Mother Jones broke this story [see the article below] of Hobby Lobby’s controversial investments months ago, back in April before the Supreme Court made its ruling this week. And the critics are calling these Hobby Lobby investments “hypocrisy at its finest”.
So CNN called Hobby Lobby for comment, and the company has yet to respond, though we’ve given them plenty of time.

[Host and CNN business correspondent then discuss whether Hobby Lobby might have been unaware of such ethical inconsistencies – noting that if they had time to determine faith-based objections to ACA mandates, they also had time to check how their matching funds were invested, and mentioned that such investments can readily be tailored to avoid funding questionable enterprises.]


Hobby Lobby’s Hypocrisy: The Company’s Retirement Plan Invests in Contraception Manufacturers
Mother Jones | Tue Apr. 1, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
By Molly Redden

When Hobby Lobby filed its case against Obamacare’s contraception mandate, its retirement plan had more than $73 million invested in funds with stakes in contraception makers.
When Obamacare compelled businesses to include emergency contraception in employee health care plans, Hobby Lobby, a national chain of craft stores, fought the law all the way to the Supreme Court [1]. The Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, the company’s owners argued, forced them to violate their religious beliefs. But while it was suing the government, Hobby Lobby spent millions of dollars on an employee retirement plan that invested in the manufacturers of the same contraceptive products the firm’s owners cite in their lawsuit.
Documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012—three months after the company’s owners filed their lawsuit [7]—show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby makes large matching contributions to this company-sponsored 401(k).
Several of the mutual funds in Hobby Lobby’s retirement plan have stock holdings in companies that manufacture the specific drugs and devices that the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, is fighting to keep out of Hobby Lobby’s health care policies: the emergency contraceptive pills Plan B and Ella, and copper and hormonal intrauterine devices.
These companies include Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which makes Plan B [8] and ParaGard [8], a copper IUD, and Actavis, which makes a generic version [9] of Plan B and distributes Ella [10]. Other stock holdings in the mutual funds selected by Hobby Lobby include Pfizer, the maker of Cytotec [11] and Prostin E2 [12], which are used to induce abortions; Bayer, which manufactures the hormonal IUDs Skyla [13] and Mirena [14]; AstraZeneca, which has an Indian subsidiary that manufactures Prostodin, Cerviprime, and Partocin [15], three drugs commonly used in abortions; and Forest Laboratories, which makes Cervidil [16], a drug used to induce abortions. Several funds in the Hobby Lobby retirement plan also invested in Aetna and Humana, two health insurance companies that cover surgical abortions, abortion drugs, and emergency contraception in many of the health care policies they sell.
In a brief [17] filed with the Supreme Court, the Greens object to covering Plan B, Ella, and IUDs because they claim that these products can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus—a process the Greens consider abortion. But researchers reject the notion [18] that emergency contraceptive pills prevent implantation the implantation of a fertilized egg. Instead, they work by delaying ovulation or making it harder for sperm to swim to the egg. The Green’s contention that the pills cause abortions is a central pillar of their argument for gutting the contraception mandate. Yet, for years, Hobby Lobby’s health insurance plans did cover Plan B and Ella [1]. It was only in 2012, when the Greens considered filing a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, that they dropped these drugs from the plan.
A website [19] Hobby Lobby set up to answer questions about the Supreme Court case states that its 401(k) plan comes with “a generous company match.” In 2012, Hobby Lobby contributed $3.8 million to its employee savings plans, which had 13,400 employee participants at the beginning of that year.
The information on Hobby Lobby’s 401(k) investments is included in the company’s 2013 annual disclosure [20] to the Department of Labor. The records contain a list [21], dated December 31, 2012, of 24 funds that were included in its employer-sponsored retirement plan. MorningStar, an investment research firm, provided Mother Jones with the names of the companies in nine of those funds as of December 31, 2012. Each fund’s portfolio consists of at least dozens if not hundreds of different holdings.
All nine funds—which have assets of $73 million, or three-quarters of the Hobby Lobby retirement plan’s total assets—contained holdings that clashed with the Greens’ stated religious principles.
Hobby Lobby and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the conservative group that provided Hobby Lobby with legal representation, did not respond to questions about these investments or whether Hobby Lobby has changed its retirement plan.
In their Supreme Court complaint [17], Hobby Lobby’s owners chronicle the many ways in which they avoid entanglements with objectionable companies. Hobby Lobby stores do not sell shot glasses, for example, and the Greens decline requests from beer distributors to back-haul beer on Hobby Lobby trucks.
Similar options exist for companies that want to practice what’s sometimes called faith-based investing. To avoid supporting companies that manufacture abortion drugs—or products such as alcohol or pornography—religious investors can turn to a cottage industry of mutual funds that screen out stocks that religious people might consider morally objectionable. The Timothy Plan and the Ave Maria Fund, for example, screen for companies that manufacture abortion drugs, support Planned Parenthood, or engage in embryonic stem cell research. Dan Hardt, a Kentucky financial planner who specializes in faith-based investing, says the performances of these funds are about the same as if they had not been screened. But Hobby Lobby’s managers either were not aware of these options or chose not to invest in them.

More MoJo coverage of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.
Hobby Lobby’s Hypocrisy: The Company’s Retirement Plan Invests in Contraception Manufacturers [2]
The 8 Best Lines From Ginsburg’s Dissent [3]
Why the Decision Is the New Bush v. Gore [4]
How Obama Can Make Sure Hobby Lobby’s Female Employees Are Covered [5]
Hobby Lobby Funded Disgraced Fundamentalist Christian Leader Accused of Harassing Dozens of Women [6]



About l. l. frederick

I'm pretty ordinary, so I find any number of things in the world interesting, among them: books, music, flowers, food, social justice, politics and (sometimes!) people. As for my writing, I've decided that I can be subtle and tasteful when our only problems are esthetic ones. Or when I'm dead, whichever comes first. In the meantime, read at your own risk.
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7 Responses to How Tender Is the Corporate Conscience

  1. H3nry J3kyll says:

    At least we can applaud the SCOTUS for its consistency. Judicial activism and ensuring that the interests of capital continue to trump all else lol. I wonder if there’s a soul brave enough in the legislative ranks to suggest judicial term limits for the Supreme Court? Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas are foxes guarding the hen-house.

    Always enjoy getting caught up on your blog Linda.

    • Consistent they are, to a fault! Almost every decision sets me snarling. How soon will they revoke the Declaration of Independence, I wonder? “God Save the Queen” is an okay national anthem (though I rather prefer the Sex Pistols’ variant), but I just can’t deal with Yorkshire pudding or warm beer. Thanks for your comment and kind words. – Linda

  2. tubularsock says:

    Linda you make an excellent point. Hobby Lobby does worship money and money is their god and Tubularsock is joining up. Tubularsock does realize that to worship money you need to have some so off to Hobby Lobby Tubularsock goes because using biblical principles greed is bad.

    So by giving Tubularsock a stack of money Hobby Lobby will be glad to alleviate their guilt and stay in line with biblical principles.

    Hmmm. Sometime things seem too easy.

    • Tubularsock, You know sometimes you worry me. Especially when I can almost follow your logic! Now … would you call the payment you’re sure to collect (I have faith in your powers of persuasion!) from those pious Hobby Lobby folks a tithe or a love offering? Thanks for your comment, and for explaining why I don’t seem to worship money — poverty. – Linda

  3. i have long believed that corporations and right wing think tanks and politicians have a strong economic motivation for opposing birth control – namely the significant drop in the US fertility rate. Women have quit having oodles of kids in order to engage in more intellectually demanding and productive pursuits.

    Under our present economic system, continuous economic growth is essential because of they way our money is created (by private banks as debt). Without continuous economic growth, it becomes impossible to pay off the ever increasing debt and the economy crashes.

    Continuous population growth is a very important factor in maintaining this continuous economic growth. Many capitalist countries overtly encourage women to have more babies – some even pay them. In the US it’s done covertly by restricting teenagers knowledge about basic human sexuality and restricting access (by women of all ages) to safe affordable birth control.

    I researched this issue and did a post about it last March:

    • Thanks for your excellent link and comment. So convenient for them when the corporate powers can use high-minded “morality” (or someone else’s) as cover for ruthless self-interest. I wonder if they have that endless-frontier mentality, the belief that no matter how much abuse people and planet must endure, they can move on to fresh pastures, that something will turn up to save them, before they do us all in — or before we go after them with pitchforks, guillotines or rusty steak knives. – Linda

  4. Pingback: Baby Steps | Take Heart!

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