Today has been very weird, I want you to be honest with me now, had you heard of Trafigura before the explosion on Twitter this morning?
I certainly hadn't but thanks to the fuss this morning by Carter-Ruck I have spent a fair amount of time this evening reading up on it and am not overly impressed by what I have discovered.
Trafigura sponsor the British & Irish Lions, the reason I mention this is because on the latest news and our news section that is the last bit of news, from the 31st March 2009 - hardly inspiring when you then go on to see that this is not their prime aim in life, this is what they say about themselves;
"Trafigura is one of the largest independent companies trading commodities today.
We handle every element involved in the sourcing and trading of crude oil, petroleum products, renewable energies, metals, metal ores and concentrates for industrial consumers.
1,900 of our people operate in offices in 42 countries across the globe to give us the local knowledge to anticipate and respond to variations in global supply and demand.
In the oil sector, Trafigura has access to over 30 million barrels of storage facilities through a combination of owned terminals under its PUMA network and long-term lease agreements with third party oil terminals; we also time charter in excess of 60 vessels worldwide.
In the metals and minerals sector, Trafigura currently owns and operates concentrate storage facilities and one mine in Peru. Additionally, Trafigura is a significant stakeholder in a smelter and in various publicly listed mining entities.
Capitalising on resource trading and investment expertise Trafigura has diversified into asset management through the development of offshore hedge funds."
Okay, that is quite obviously the corporate sell, and I certainly wasn't interested in that given what was being tweeted this morning. So I went digging on the internet. Now if Trafigura's website had a search engine I would have entered Ivory Coast and then waited to see what came up - all I could find was that they do have an office there.
There is a great piece by the Independent, titled "The dark secrets of the trillion-dollar oil trade" from September this year but it really does get worse.
The Guardian in May this year had an article titled, "Papers prove Trafigura ship dumped toxic waste in Ivory Coast" which as you will see if you read it, goes onto explain how 30,000 people in the Ivory Coast claimed they were poisoned by the waste dumped by a ship that the company had chartered. It really is a must read article.
So, now we know a little more about this company, but really only thanks to their lawyers and the gagging order they put on The Guardian who were trying to publish a Parliamentary Question, the name of the MP who Tabled it and the Minister it was going to - all available in the public domain! A good use of client's money if ever I saw one - not.
Carter-Ruck eventually gave in, thanks to the power of Twitter and the internet and have lifted the gagging order on The Guardian. However, as the day and evening have gone on it now appears that BBC Newsnight (the link takes you to the original story) is being threatened by Trafigura via Carter-Ruck.
Shortly before the court case was due to be heard, Carter-Ruck announced that it's client no longer opposed reporting of what was said in Parliament about them.
In the House of Commons Evan Harris MP and David Heath MP, for the Liberal Democrats, David Davis MP for the Conservatives and Paul Farrelly MP, the Labour MP who started this all off have all raised this issue passionately today.
Paul Farrelly said; "Absolute privilege in reporting parliament has been established since the Bill of Rights in 1688. It is a fundamental freedom for the press, and it is vital that neither lawyers nor the courts seek to attack this time-honoured right."
The power of the internet won today, but more importantly people power won the day and stood up to a corporation and lawyer who felt they knew best. Long may it continue.
We can be 'listened at' but not 'listened to'...Mathew Hulbert writes for The Guardian! - By Mathew Hulbert I feel very privileged this week to have written for The Guardian's 'Comment Is Free' section. I was the Liberal Democrat in a feature as...