June 02, 2011

Done deal

It looks like the sale of Massey Energy to Alpha Natural Resources is a done deal. Legal challenges to the sale have been turned back, while shareholders voted yesterday to approve it.

It really is the end of an era. For decades, Massey was a massive presence in West Virginia, not only in the coal industry, but in state politics, the media, and the courts. Its former CEO Don Blankenship was the face of Big Coal.

My initial reaction was to view the sale as a good thing. However, Ken Ward at Coal Tattoo had a great post yesterday about remaining questions regarding Alpha and promises that may have been made to retain key Massey personnel, including those connected to the management of the Upper Big Branch and Aracoma mines.

I can't help but think Alpha would have to get up pretty early in the morning to be worse than Massey in the Bad Old Days. We'll see.

Ward, who for my money is America's best coal reporter, posted this quote from Delaware Judge Leo Strine Jr. about Massey:

Convinced that it knew better than the public authorities charged with enforcing laws designed to make mining a safer and cleaner business, Massey management, with board knowledge, fostered an adversarial relationship with the company’s regulators and accepted as ordinary the idea that the company would regularly be accused of violating important safety regulations.

Of course, when a company has strong opinions about knowing better than the regulators, it is optimal to match that with a record of worker safety and environmental protection that is substantively spotless. But in the case of Massey, no such match existed, at least insofar as one credits actual judgments and other regulation-related losses suffered by the company under Blankenship’s tenure as CEO.

HOW WE GOT IN THIS MESS. Here's a brief from the Economic Policy Institute on the 10th anniversary of the Bush tax cuts.

THIS DIDN'T HELP EITHER. Here's a look at major companies that made big bucks but managed to have a negative tax rate.

SPEAKING OF MESSES, here's Robert Reich on the state of the US economy.

ALL THIS FROM TEETH? Scientists have found clues about the social structure of human ancestors from studying their teeth.


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