Series of podcasts from Vice Media shine unflattering light on Drummond's past and present, as company faces uncertain future at home and unrest abroad


 

Vice Media has produced a series of podcasts, focusing on unsavory episodes from Drummond Company's past and present. The podcasts, called "The Crisis," come as Drummond already is operating on shaky ground -- with a possible sale in its future and violent protests rocking its operations in South America. From a post at banbalch.com, under the headline "Podcasts on Colombia Murders and North Birmingham Knocks Wind Out of Drummond Company":

While the heirs of Drummond Company hope to [diversify] their holdings and possibly sell their enormous coal operation in Colombia, Vice Media has stirred international intrigue in a multi-episode podcast series called, “The Crisis.”

The podcasts have come at the worst time for Drummond Company.

The podcasts come just weeks after the 20th anniversary of the murders of two Colombian labor leaders who worked for Drummond Company, one of whom was shot dead in front of his Drummond colleagues. 

In addition, now, today [5/25], Colombia is being rocked by daily and violent protests. As Reuters reported hours ago:

The Andean country has seen nearly a month of demonstrations and thousands of road blockades. Though protest leaders reached pre-agreements for talks with the government late on Monday, they have promised marches against inequality and police abuse, among other issues, will continue.

The protests and instability have caused Colombia coal exports to drop 65 percent in a single week this month according to news reports.

As for the podcasts, they do not paint a pretty picture. From a journalism standpoint, Ban Balch reports, they are "smoking hot"" They also are a mix of history and up-to-the-minute reporting. Here is a summary of several episodes:

  • Episode 1 “The Union” focuses on Drummond’s Coal Mine in Columbia, the links to paramilitary death squads, and the murder of two Colombian labor leaders at Drummond’s Colombia mine. 
  • Episode 2 “Witnesses” focuses on the development of a civil jury lawsuit against Drummond on behalf of the murdered labor leaders. 
  • Episode 3 “The Fish Dies by Opening its Mouth” focuses on the civil jury trial in Birmingham by family members of the murdered Colombia victims that Drummond Company won, other failed trials, and an eye-popping interview with Jim Adkins, an ex-CIA official who had at one time headed Drummond’s Security in Colombia. 
  • Episode 4 “Hung Out to Dry” focuses on the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal and includes interviews with ex-State Representative Oliver Robinson and ex-Drummond executive David Roberson and his wife, Anna Roberson. The podcast focuses on Balch & Bingham’s abhorrent scheme to suppress poor African-Americans from having their property tested by the EPA. 
  • Episode 5 “Confessions” focuses on testimony by ex-paramilitaries and those allegedly involved in the murders of Drummond labor leaders, including Drummond food services subcontractor, Jaime Blanco, who was sentenced to 38 years to prison for the murders
  • Epilogue “20 Years Later” focuses on the audit of food service provider Jaime Blanco, who was allegedly overpaid so that he could funnel money to paramilitary death squads, and the aftermath for the families of the murdered labor leaders.

At the heart of the reporting is this question: Can Drummond, in its current form, be trusted to operate with integrity -- in Alabama, South America, or anywhere else? From Ban Balch

As we wrote in March, “Drummond appears to have lied in court filings with manipulated Balch invoices, authorities in Colombia may no longer believe corporate officials or value Drummond’s integrity.”

And now, unfair or not, the podcasts link the unsavory and criminal behavior of the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal with the atrocities in Colombia from over two-decades ago.

Will Drummond’s top executives and “confused” General Counsel [Blake Andrews] continue to goose-step with Balch & Bingham or break the chains that has hurt the company, the brand, the Garry Drummond legacy?