(Full column available online here)
Last month, I had a nice “exchange” with Ms. Edith de Leon, head of corporate affairs of Nestle Philippines Inc. over a column I wrote about predatory pricing charges leveled against the food and beverage giant. I mentioned some of the reasons why Nestle is now regarded as the poster boy of corporate bullying in the Philippines. Ms. De Leon reacted by writing an official letter to this paper denying everything.
Without going through the exact nuances of the issue again (I wrote a detailed rejoinder to her reply in my column last March 23) I have to say that the way Nestle has replied to the issue of predatory pricing, clearly a violation of the law, has left me somewhat bewildered.
For the sake of brevity and uniformity, Nestle’s letter to the Manila Standard Today was practically the same one it sent to other newspapers that wrote about the pending cases. That’s perfectly understandable until you consider that the company’s official reply was wrought with inaccuracies and misleading statements. I tackled these one by one in my March 23 column, and Nestle has been silent since.
Silent, that is, until a reliable source called me about the articles I had written. Obviously, he spoke on the condition of anonymity, and emphasized that no one from Nestle (apart from Ms. De Leon) was authorized to comment on the issue.
What he told me, however, made my senior citizen skin crawl. My gulay, talk about a snake pit of corporate intrigue and conspiracy allegedly happening at Nestle!
It seems that NPI is fully aware that it is standing on weak ground on the pricing and ethics controversies filed against it. This is compounded by the fact that several of its bankrupt distributors have gone to the Department of Trade and Industry to file their complaints. Moreover, a number of the company’s top executives – John Miller, Shahab Bachani and D. Nandkishore - are facing perjury charges in both Quezon City and Makati courts.
Nestle has reportedly realized that the facts are simply too glaring to be argued away or reasonably disputed. In other words, the company has dug itself a hole that it can’t seem to climb out of. There’s also jurisprudence working against Nestle since the Supreme Court ruled against the company five years ago (Nestle Philippines Inc. vs. FY Sons Inc., G. R. No. 150780), for exactly the same things it is now being accused of.
The problem lies in the company’s annual stockholders meeting this coming April 14. If someone should bring up the situation in the Philippines, how would that be addressed? And here’s the jaw-dropping fact: Nandkishore—the very same person facing perjury charges in local courts—now sits on Nestle’s Executive Board occupying a very sensitive position as head of Nutrition.
Allegedly, Nestle’s solution is not to find a way out of the mess. What it is doing now is finding a best possible scapegoat, and Nandkishore has purportedly been singled out. Santa Banana, it seems that his own company is about to throw poor Nandu under the bus!
My source claims that Nandkishore fits the bill perfectly, since the monumental chaos in the Philippines happened under his watch (he used to be the CEO of NPI until he got promoted). Moreover, there are many executives who supposedly questioned his being named to such a senior post within the Executive Committee. Surely, Nandu’s fall from grace only means good things for their job prospects.
Watch your back, Nandu, or you may find yourself crying over spilled milk."