Three M

Paying the Piper. 3M, which tarnished its good corporate citizenship reputation by trying to use bankruptcy to limit its product liabilities, has agreed to pay $6B to resolve claims that use of its earplugs designed for combat triggered hearing loss.

The company filed voluntary bankruptcy proceedings last July for its Aearo Technologies unit and committed a $1B fund to pay soldiers who blamed hearing loss on Aearo earplugs.

3M claimed the Chapter 11 was the right thing to do for all involved. It pitched the process as a way to achieve an efficient and equitable resolution, reduce uncertainty, and increase clarity for all stakeholders, while reducing the cost and time that could otherwise be required to litigate thousands of cases.

"We have great respect for the brave men and women who protect us, and remain committed to the military as an active partner and valued customer going forward," said 3M CEO Mike Roman in the July 26, 2022 bankruptcy press release. ”We determined that taking this decisive action now will allow 3M and Aearo Technologies to address these claims in a way that is more efficient and equitable than the current litigation.”

Without bankruptcy, 3M said it “could take years, if not decades, to litigate on a case-by-case basis.”

But a federal judge in June rejected the Aearo Chapter 11 scheme and 3M announced on Aug. 29 that it had reached a mediated agreement to pay $5B in cash and $1B in stock through 2029 to settle the earplug claims.

The agreement is not an admission of liability and 3M maintains the earplugs are safe and effective when used properly.

It is telling that 3M’s press release announcing the settlement, which is six times more than the company’s proposed in its Aearo Chapter 11 scheme, does not include a statement from Roman.

He should take a bow.

Vatican’s PR disaster….The Vatican’s PR shop went into full damage control after Pope Francis seemingly praised two Russian czars who invaded parts of Ukraine.

In a video speech to Russian Catholics, Francis spoke of the legacy of the “Great Russia of saints, rulers, Great Russia of Peter I, Catherine II, that empire—great enlightened, of great culture and great humanity," according to the New York Times.

That was sweet music to the ears of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, who considers himself the reincarnation of Peter the Great and is trying to vanquish Ukraine as an independent state.

Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, took Francis to task. He wrote on Facebook that is “very unfortunate that Russia's grand-state ideas, which in fact, are the cause of Russia’s chronic aggression, knowingly or unknowingly, come from the Pope’s mouth.

A Vatican spokesperson said Francis was praising Russia’s culture and not its record of imperialism.

Francis, meanwhile left for a four-day pilgrimage to Mongolia on Aug. 31 to visit the country’s 1,500 Catholics.

Mongolia has close economic ties with Russia.

Stay away from the ‘Silk Road.’ Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and China’s culture & tourism minister Hu Heping have announced plans to hold a conference in China next year to help revive travel between the two countries.

That comes as Muslim civil rights groups and Uyghur advocacy organizations call for travel companies to stop selling trips to China’s Xinjiang region, where China’s central government is waging a campaign of genocide against minority groups.

A report by the Uyghur Human Rights Project released Aug. 30 said western tourism to the region risked supporting the normalization of Chinese government policies that were intended to destroy the Uyghur identity.

The trips are marketed as “Silk Road” tours and feature stops in the cities of Turpan, Kashgar and Urumqi.

“Travel companies have no business in running tours to sites of ongoing atrocities. Nobody would have dreamed of taking tourists into Rwanda, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, or Darfur in the midst of the horrors in these places,” said UHRP executive director, Omer Kanat.

Raimondo set a good example for future American tourists to China. She visited Shanghai Disneyland during her August swing through China.