Animal activists may have hindered company float
17 September 2005
THE New York stock exchange appears to be the latest institution to bow to pressure from animal rights groups. Last week it was due to float Life Sciences Research, the US-based parent company of Huntingdon Life Sciences in Cambridgeshire, UK, but it postponed the flotation just 45 minutes before trading began.
Ray Pellicchia, a spokesman on corporate issues for the NYSE, declined to comment on reports that the decision was due to pressure from animal rights groups. He also says he has no idea when LSR will be floated.
But Richard Michaelson, chief financial officer for LSR, says that when company executives were told of the postponement the cause was clear. "We got the impression that the concern for them [the NYSE] is the animal rights issue," he told New Scientist.
Staff at Huntingdon Life Sciences know only too well what animal rights extremists can do: in 2002 they moved much of their lab work to East Millstone, New Jersey, after years of harassment. But this is the first time anyone can remember the NYSE being cowed by activism.
James Inhofe, the Republican senator for Oklahoma, wrote to the NYSE and expressed his disbelief. "I trust the NYSE will duly consider the potentially disastrous precedent of a decision not to list LSR," he wrote.
Halted listing pulls NYSE into eco-terror inquiry
The New York Stock Exchange has been drawn into a United States Government inquiry into eco-terrorism, after the market postponed listing shares in Huntingdon Life Sciences, the research company, which is under attack from extremists because of its links to animal experimentation.
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has launched an investigation into Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), the activist organisation that has waged several animal rights campaigns in Britain, including a high-profile crusade against Huntingdon.
The committee will hold its first hearing on the group next month, which is expected to focus on the recent decision by the NYSE to delay a listing of Huntingdon’s shares.
John Thain, the NYSE chief executive, and Catherine Kinney, its president, are expected to be asked to testify before the committee and to explain their reasons for not going ahead with the Huntingdon listing as scheduled.
"We will hold a hearing next month on SHAC and its tactics against Huntingdon Life Sciences," Bill Holbrook, a spokesman for the committee, said.
The committee launched a wider investigation into eco- terror in May by examining the activities of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). The hearing in October will mark the first time that the committee has investigated the activities of SHAC — which aims to stop all companies from doing business with Huntingdon or trading in its shares in an attempt to force the drug-testing group out of business.
The NYSE has failed to explain why it pulled out of the listing at the last minute — a move that angered Huntingdon directors, who had gathered at the NYSE for a celebratory breakfast when the decision to stop their listing was announced by Ms Kinney.
Senator James Inhofe, of Oklahoma, chairman of the committee on the environment, wrote to Mr Thain and Ms Kinney two weeks ago to demand an explanation for the postponement. "It seems to me unimaginable that this country’s worldwide symbol of the integrity of the capital markets, the NYSE, would capitulate to threats, or even the mere threat of threats, from a single issue extremist group," he wrote. He added that the NYSE’s decision set a dangerous precedent.