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Corporate History Timeline

A.1 1886 - The U.S. Supreme Court rules that a corporation has the legal standing of a person, giving it many of the protections guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.

B.1 July 1944 - Modern economic globalization is born at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Economists, politicians, bankers and corporate leaders meet to decide what to do following the devastation of World War II. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are established.

C.1 1946 - Television is launched.

1947 - AT & T scientists invent the transistor.

D.1 1949 - U.S. President Harry Truman, announcing a program for foreign technical assistance, states that self-sustaining peoples are "underdeveloped."

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund begin operations. They extend money to poor and newly decolonized countries to foster economic growth on the model of industrialized nations.

A.2 1953 - In Tokyo, a struggling research company housed in a shack buys an AT & T license to make transistors. The company is called Sony.

B.2 1971 - Sony expands operations beyond national borders, and opens the first Japanese electronics plant in the U.S.

C.2 1972 - The U.S. ends the gold standard. Banks and corporations can now move money to and from worldwide operations with a phone call.

D.2 1972 – Poor countries are unable to repay loans. The World Bank imposes austerity programs that eliminate health and welfare. Local currencies are devalued to facilitate investment by transnational corporations.

A.3 1973 - Biologists discover that a dividing cell injected with genes from another cell reproduces endless copies of the foreign genetic material.

B.3 1974 - Diners Club invents the credit card.

C.3 1980 - Corporate ownership of the genetic maps of living organisms becomes possible, as the U.S. Supreme Court gives General Electric patent rights for bacteria.

D.3 1982 – Mexico, deeply in debt, agrees to World Bank austerity programs. Factories along its U.S. border increase four-fold to take advantage of weak environmental laws and wages that are 1/10 of those in the United States.

A.4 1986 - The Uruguay round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade begins in secret meetings of bankers, executives and government leaders.

B.4 1988 - McDonald's sets up franchises in Moscow.

C. 4 The Mexican government breaks up its traditional cooperatively owned farms and signs all rights to corn production to U.S. corporations.

D.4 Du Pont wins a patent for its "Harvard Mouse." It becomes legal to own and engineer the genetic map of an animal.

A.5 1989 - Forty-seven of the top 100 economies of the world are not nations, but transnational corporations.

B.5 - In Mexico, 75% of the people now live in poverty. 40% of all beans are now imported. Children in the streets of Mexico City beg so they can buy Frito-Lay corn chips.

C.5 1991 – In Europe, 37,000 family-run shops will be replaced by 300 corporate supermarkets.

D.5 1992 - Wal-Mart opens a new store every 3 days. Its yearly revenues are greater than all of Indonesia.

A.6 1992 – Villagers in India can now be arrested for using the twigs and leaves of the sacred Neem tree. 500,000 farmers and their families protest the corporate patenting of their ancestral plants.

B.6 1994 - The North American Free Trade Agreement goes into effect.

C.6 1995 - The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade becomes the economic law of the world. The World Trade Organization begins operating. Transnational corporations now have the right to override environmental protection, worker-safety regulation, human-rights laws, or government subsidies if they are judged as barriers to trade.

D.6 1995 - Indonesian workers get 15 cents per hour to assemble athletic shoes that Nike sells for $135.

A.7 1996 - Because of a WTO ruling, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is forced to re-write its standards to allow dirtier gasoline to be imported and sold.

B.7 1997-1998 – Southeast Asian economies collapse. Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia go bankrupt, causing world financial markets to plunge.

C.7 1998 – The WTO rules that U.S. laws created to protect endangered sea turtles violate WTO regulations.

D.7 1999 - U.S. chief executive officers are paid an average of 419 times more than line workers.

A.8 1999 – The top 200 corporations control 70% of world trade, but employ only one-half of one percent of the global work force.

B.8 2000 - Workers in Taiwanese-owned factories in Nicaragua earn about 20 cents for making blue jeans that sell in Wal-Mart stores for around 30 dollars.

C.8 2000 - The World Health Organization projects that by 2020 depression will be the second most debilitating disease in the industrialized world.

D.8 August 2001 - The U.S. government grants a patent for "Texmati" rice to a U.S. corporation which includes the right to claim that it is superior to Basmati rice, grown in India for generations.

A.9 September 11, 2001 – the World Trade Center is destroyed.

B.9 November 2001 - The UN Human Development Report estimates that the 650 billion dollars spent on the military worldwide is 14 times greater than the amount needed to eradicate global poverty.

C.9 December 2001 – Enron Corporation and its affiliates file for the largest corporate bankruptcy in history.

D.9 2002 – K-Mart declares bankruptcy. Wal-Mart becomes the largest retail corporation in the world.

A.10 February 2003 – Weeks before the U.S. invades Iraq, contracts for rebuilding the country are secretly awarded to corporations close to the Bush administration. Congress is not consulted.

B.10 The contract awarded to Halliburton gives it control of Iraq’s oil.

C. 10 The contract awarded to Bechtel gives it control of Iraq’s water.

D.10 May 2003 – An executive order by the U.S. president grants complete legal immunity to transnational oil companies operating in Iraq.

A.11 2003 – In South Africa privatization of water deprives ten million people of affordable access to water.

B.11 2003 – In Mexico, four out of every ten pesos spent on food go to Wal Mart.

C.11 2003– U.S. children view 20,000 TV commercials per year. Children can develop loyalty to corporate brands or labels by the age of two.

D.11 2004 – Before leaving Iraq, U.S. administrator Paul Bremer signs a law making it illegal for farmers to save seed.

A.12 2004 – The U.S. and the UK collect 70 million dollars in so-called reparation payments from Iraq. Nearly 80% goes to multinationals, including Halliburton, Bechtel, Shell, Nestlé, Philip Morris, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Toys R Us.

B.12 November 2004 – early 2005: Pennsylvania and 13 other U.S. states pass laws that make it illegal to regulate genetically engineered seed at the local level.

C.12 January 1, 2005 – China enters the WTO. Global quotas on the amount of textiles and apparel individual countries can ship to Europe and the United States expire, and Chinese firms are free to export as much as they like.

D.12 January 2005 – The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund join the UN and relief agencies to coordinate relief efforts in countries devastated by the December 26 tsunami.

Total external debts of countries hit by the tsunami is nearly $1 trillion.

A.13 2005 - The food industry works with U.S. politicians to rewrite laws in order to shield themselves from lawsuits based on obesity and related health problems.

B.13 August 2005 – Monsanto files a patent application with the World Intellectual Property Organization that would give the company patent rights to the pig in more than 160 countries.

C.13 October 2005 - Thousands of low-wage Asian laborers travel to Iraq to work for U.S. military contractors in the hope of sending money home to their families. Trapped and exploited under inhuman conditions, many of them are now fleeing the country to save their lives.

D.13 November 2005 - Sytex, a subsidiary of Lockheed, the world's largest military contractor, has become one of the biggest recruiters of private interrogators U.S.-run prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A. 14 December 2005 - Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian who grew up in childhood poverty, won the Bolivian presidential elections. He is part of a wave of leftists taking power in Latin America and challenging multinational corporations.

B.14 February 2006 - A Kuwait-based construction firm is now building a new 592 million dollar U.S. embassy in Baghdad - the largest, most fortified U.S. embassy in the world. The company is accused of exploiting employees and coercing low-paid laborers to work in war-torn Iraq against their will.

C.14 March 2006 - Vietnamese workers earn less than $2 a day making stuffed animals and Happy Meal toys for U.S. consumers. An ongoing series of wildcat strikes this winter has forced the government to raise wages to prevent factories from moving to other countries.

D.14 May 2006 - The Tata Group, one of India's biggest and oldest multinational corporations, has taken over tribal land to build an enormous steel plant in Orissa.

A. 15 July 2006 - The Pentagon cancelled the contract for Halliburton's military logistics in Iraq and put it up for open bid. U.S. taxpayers have paid Halliburton 20 billion dollars for work in support of the U.S. "war on terrorism.”


B. 15 July 2006 - In Geneva, the Doha Round of trade negotiations sponsored by the World Trade Organization collapsed. This is the third time trade talks have failed: Seattle in 1999, Cancún in 2003, and now Doha.

C. 15 - In Uruguay, Friends of the Earth stated that success in these negotiations "would have meant greatly increased trade in forestry, fishing and mining products, with devastating environmental impacts."

D. 15 - Some observers predict that this is the beginning of the end of the WTO.

Inspired by and adapted from Off the Map, Chellis Glendinning,
Shambhala Publications 1999; New Society Publishers, 2002