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Waste Management, Inc. (known as Waste Management or WM) is a publicly-traded (NYSE:WM) for-profit waste management company headquartered in Houston, Texas. It is the largest waste collection corporation in North America. It is in the business of waste collection and transfer, recycling and resource recovery, and waste disposal for residential, commercial, industrial and municipal customers in North America. In the United States, waste management services have traditionally been provided by municipalities and public employees, but the privatization of this sector has accelerated. According to a 2007 survey of local governments, some 50 percent of solid waste management is now provided by major for-profit firms like Waste Management. WM has been a driving force in the privatization of these services. WM workers are paid significantly less than their public sector counterparts. The number of deaths in this dangerous industry was higher among workers at for-profit companies than among public sector workers from 2003 to 2009.
WM owns and/or operates 269 landfill sites (as of its 2012 annual report), which the company says is the largest network of landfills in its industry. In general, landfills and incinerators are major producers of greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals that pollute the air and groundwater. Landfills produced 17.5 percent of total anthropogenic methane emissions in the United States in 2011, the third largest contribution in the country, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), although they were the largest contributor, producing 34 percent of total methane emissions, from 1990 to 2003. According to the EPA, "Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 [methane] on climate change is over 20 times greater than CO2 [carbon dioxide] over a 100-year period."
Although WM has touted "green" campaigns in its PR (in addition to its green and yellow logo), the company lists climate change legislation as a potential threat to its operations and cash flow in its annual report, and it has lobbyists working on these issues at the federal level (see below for more). Some WM operated or owned landfills have been designated Superfund sites for hazardous waste that needs to be mitigated, and WM has participated in various efforts to alter or cap landfills.
In its 2012 fiscal year, WM took in $13.65 billion in total revenues, with net profits of $1.3 billion before taxes and $860 million after taxes. As of December 2012, WM employs approximately 43,500 people.
PROFITS : In its 2012 fiscal year, WM took in $13.65 billion in total revenues -- up from $13.38 billion in 2011 -- with net profits of $1.3 billion before taxes and $860 million after taxes.
BUSINESS MODEL: WM is a holding company, and all of its operations are conducted through subsidiaries. The company owns and/or operates 269 landfill sites, as of its 2012 annual report, which the company says is the largest network of landfills in its industry. It manages 297 transfer stations that consolidate, compact, and transport waste to the landfills. Through its subsidiary, Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc., WM also operates 22 waste combustion plants that recover gas from decomposing waste in landfills and use it in generators to make electricity. WM is also involved in the recycling industry in North America, "handling materials that include paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, metal, and electronics," according to the company's 2012 annual report.
FOUNDING: WM was founded in Chicago in 1968 and went public in 1971. In 1998, it was acquired by USA Waste Services, Inc., which then changed its name to Waste Management, Inc. USA Waste Services "was incorporated in Oklahoma in 1987 under the name 'USA Waste Services, Inc.' and was reincorporated as a Delaware company in 1995,” according to WM’s 2012 annual report. However, when it was purchased by USA Waste Services in 1998, WM already had a reputation as “the least law abiding waste hauler in America” (according to a study of the waste hauling industry in 1986 by the Council on Economic Priorities) and a “record of environmental violations unparalleled among waste haulers” (according to Rachel's Hazardous Waste News in 1989). Greenpeace launched a campaign against the company in 1991 for what the Los Angeles Times summarized as alleged “price fixing, antitrust violations, intimidation, violation of federal and state pollution laws resulting in millions of dollars in fines, and the deliberate siting of landfills and incinerators in poor communities without the wherewithal to fight back.”
In 2010, Waste Management, Inc. purchased a controlling share in Garick LLC, a company that produces, packages, and transports compost, soils, and mulches, and provides consulting on the composting industry.
Waste Management Sued by SEC, Which Alleged "One of the Most Egregious Accounting Frauds We Have Seen"
In 2002, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought a lawsuit against the founder and five other former top officers of Waste Management Inc., charging them with "perpetrating a massive financial fraud lasting more than five years," according to an SEC press release regarding the litigation.
The complaint charged that the defendants -- Dean L. Buntrock, founder, chairman and former CEO; Phillip B. Rooney, president, director, COO and former CEO; James E. Koenig, executive vice president and CFO; Thomas C. Hau, corporate controller and chief accounting officer; Herbert Getz, general counsel and secretary; and Bruce D. Tobecksen, vice president of finance -- allegedly "engaged in a systematic scheme to falsify and misrepresent Waste Management's financial results between 1992 and 1997." The SEC alleged in the complaint that defendants "fraudulently manipulated the company's financial results to meet predetermined earnings targets . . . in violation of anti-fraud, reporting, and record-keeping provisions of the federal securities laws." The defendants allegedly inflated profits by $1.7 billion, reaping nearly $29 million in "ill-gotten gains" from annual bonuses and insider trading, while "defrauded investors" lost more than $6 billion, according to the press release.
Then-associate director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement, Thomas C. Newkirk, called it "one of the most egregious accounting frauds we have seen," stating, "For years, these defendants cooked the books, enriched themselves, preserved their jobs, and duped unsuspecting shareholders."
The defendants were allegedly aided in their fraud by the company's long-time auditor, the accounting firm Arthur Andersen LLP, which repeatedly issued unqualified audit reports on the company's materially false and misleading annual financial statements, according to the SEC allegations. In 2001, the SEC fined Arthur Andersen $7 million for its role in the audits, prior to the complaint against WM's top officials, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In 2005, the U.S. District Court in Chicago entered final judgments in the case, permanently barring Buntrock, Rooney, Hau, and Getz from acting as an officer or director of a public company and requiring them to pay $30.8 million in "disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and civil penalties," according to a 2005 SEC press release.
Accounting Scandal and Failed Merger Leads to Class Action Suit
Based in part on the above accounting scandal described above as well as a failed merger, shareholders filed more than 30 lawsuits against WM that were consolidated into a class-action suit in July 1999. The lawsuits stemmed from accounting fraud perpetrated between 1992 and 1999. Around the same time, between 1996 and 1999, WM went through five CEOs, and its stock lost more than $25 billion in value. According to CNN Money, "The turmoil allowed a smaller company, USA Waste Services, to take over the crippled giant in a merger that later failed miserably and resulted in more than $1.2 billion in charges."
In the end, Waste Management agreed to pay $457 million to settle the allegations that it had violated federal securities laws in connection with its 1998 merger with USA Waste Services and its statements about financial performance in the first three quarters of 1999. In the summer of 2000, the company and its auditing firm, Arthur Andersen, also "agreed to pay $229 million to settle another class-action suit about questionable accounting practices," according to CNN Money.
WM Division Releases Ash into Brook and Wetlands in MA: In May 2011, Waste Management's Wheelabrator division agreed to pay $7.5 million, the "highest ever for a state case arising out of environmental violations," in a settlement with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for "a host of environmental violations," according to the Eagle-Tribune. The company admitted no wrongdoing in settling the case with the state. Included in the settlement was $2 million in civil penalties for multiple environmental violations. State investigators at the Department of Environmental Protection found that Wheelabrator committed multiple violations of the Hazardous Waste Management Act and the Clean Water Act at its trash incineration plants in North Andover, Saugus, and Millbury. The violation at Wheelabrator Millbury involved the release of 15,000 gallons of ash water and 450 cubic yards of ash into a brook and wetlands adjacent to a Shrewsbury landfill, as well as into the air (due to a hole in the roof and side wall of the plant's ash house). Incinerator fly ash often contains high concentrations of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, copper and zinc as well as small amounts of dioxins and furans.
Waste Management Overcharges Florida City by $176,000 (2008-2009): In January 2010, city officials in Delray, Florida ordered an audit of the city's billing system and contract with Waste Management after Ken MacNamee, a Delray resident, found that Waste Management had "apparently underpaid the city by $52,989 in commercial franchise fees," according to the Sun Sentinel. He also found that there was a difference in the number of residential customers that Waste Management serviced and the number of residents the city was billing. As a result, MacNamee estimated that the city had overpaid Waste Management by at least $176,000 for the years from 2008 to 2009.
Other Health and Safety Issues
Solid waste collection is by its nature a dirty, dangerous industry. A search of the United States Department of Labor Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) database shows more than 300 safety violations at Waste Management, Inc., and subsidiary locations. Dozens of the nearly two hundred inspections during a ten year period (from August 2003 to August 2013) stemmed from accidents and complaints.
According to the National Institute for Occupations Safety and Health (NIOSH):
- "The private and public solid waste industry recorded 599 fatal traumatic occupational injuries between 2003 and 2009 -- an average of 85 fatalities each year . . . Over 85% of these fatalities were attributed to the private sector[,] which experienced a substantial drop in the number of fatalities in 2009. The number of fatalities in the public sector has remained relatively unchanged during this period.
- "Transportation incidents, such as collisions and rollovers[,] were the leading events for occupational fatalities in all 3 industry groups. Collection workers have been struck and killed by other motorists. Contact with objects and equipment was the second leading cause of fatalities in each of the industry groups. This category includes being struck by, struck against[,] or caught in objects and equipment."
Dirty Industry Contributes to Climate Change; WM Views Limits on Greenhouse Gases as a Threat
The waste industry is destructive, exploitative, and expensive, according to a 2013 study that does not name or focus on WM but looks at the industry as a whole. For-profit companies invest in the most common methods of disposal -- landfills and incinerators -- which are profitable, but contribute heavily to pollution and climate change. Not only do landfills produce 34 percent of methane emissions in the U.S., by some reports, but they generate dioxins and other substances designated as "known human carcinogens." WM owns and operates 269 landfills in the United States, out of approximately 1,900 municipal solid waste landfills in the country, all of which contribute to global warming.
WM tells investors that its profits would be affected by any new regulations geared toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the state or federal level, as reflected in the company's 2012 SEC filings. WM calls "stringent government regulations" that "govern environmental protection, health, safety, land use, zoning, transportation and related matters" a threat to its bottom line, as well as any potential climate change legislation which might have a "material adverse effect on our results of operations and cash flow". It lobbies on these issues at the federal level, as shown by lobbying reports filed with the U.S. Congress.
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
WM was a "private sector" leader of ALEC in the mid-1990s as ALEC was peddling "Enabling Legislation for Public-Private Infrastructure Partnerships," which specifically promoted outsourcing the management of solid waste facilities and related infrastructure to for-profit firms, according to ALEC’s 1996 Sourcebook of American State Legislation. See ALEC Corporations for more.
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
WM has spent more than $5.2 million on lobbying at the federal level since 2008 ($670,000 in January through August 2013, $1,060,000 in 2012, $780,000 in 2011, $880,000 in 2010, $980,000 in 2009, and $840,000 in 2008), and over $10 million since 1998, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Among the lobbying firms hired by WM is New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s former firm, Bracewell & Giuliani LLP. The company has lobbied on issues pertaining to hazardous and solid waste, taxes, environment and Superfund toxic waste legislation, transportation, trucking and shipping, energy and nuclear power, and government issues (specifically, sustainability requirements in federal contracts).
WM also lobbied the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about "climate change for landfills and WTE" (waste to energy) in 2013, according to a lobbying report filed with the U.S. Congress.
In addition, WM's political action committee spent $536,543 in the 2012 election cycle, with 59 percent of contributions going toward Republican candidates and 41 percent to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
At the state level, WM and its employees have spent a total of over $5.8 million from 2003 to 2012 in contributions toward candidates, party committees, and ballot measures, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. It has hired 267 lobbyists in 34 states from 2003 to 2012, according to the same source.
According to Subsidy Tracker, a project of Good Jobs First, WM and some of its state-based subsidiaries received more than $21 million in corporate subsidies in Arizona, California, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin from 2004 to 2013. This includes grants, low-cost loans, tax credits and rebates, property tax abatement, and training reimbursement. WM has also received millions in "enterprise zone" tax breaks in Arizona, California, and Maryland.
Fine Print Follies
"Risk Factors" in SEC Filings
In its SEC filings, Waste Management, Inc. cites government regulation and other aspects of the waste management sector as “risk factors” that may affect its business and future prospects. These risk factors often show the incentives the company has to influence public policy and the direction its advocacy could take, because congressional lobby disclosure rules do not require sufficient detail for the public to determine what particular issues within proposed legislation a company like WM is pushing for. Among other issues, Waste Management cites environmental regulation, changing preferences that affect its profitability (e.g. alternatives to landfill disposal), and labor unions as threats to its business.
WM states that "stringent government regulations" that "govern environmental protection, health, safety, land use, zoning, transportation and related matters" as well as any potential adoption of climate change legislation threaten its future performance:
- "Our operations are subject to environmental, health and safety laws and regulations . . . that may result in significant liabilities. There is risk of incurring significant environmental liabilities in the use, treatment, storage, transfer and disposal of waste materials. Under applicable environmental laws and regulations, we could be liable if our operations cause environmental damage to our properties or to the property of other landowners, particularly as a result of the contamination of air, drinking water or soil. . . . Additionally, we could be liable if we arrange for the transportation, disposal or treatment of hazardous substances that cause environmental contamination. . . ."
- "The adoption of climate change legislation or regulations restricting emissions of 'greenhouse gases' could increase our costs to operate. Our landfill operations emit methane, identified as GHG. Efforts to curtail the emission of GHGs to ameliorate the effect of climate change could advance on the federal, regional or state level, and should comprehensive climate change legislation be enacted, we expect it to impose costs on our operations."
The company also mentions changing preferences and technology (i.e., a propensity to recycle more) as a hindrance to its business:
- "Increasing customer preference for alternatives to landfill disposal and waste-to-energy facilities could reduce our ability to operate at full capacity and cause our revenues and operating results to decline."
- "Developments in technology could trigger a fundamental change in the waste management industry, as waste streams are increasingly viewed as a resource, which may adversely impact volumes at our landfills and waste-to-energy facilities and our profitability."
Lastly, WM highlights unions as a major threat:
- "Our operating expenses could increase as a result of labor unions organizing or changes in regulations related to labor unions. Labor unions continually attempt to organize our employees, and these efforts will likely continue in the future. Certain groups of our employees are currently represented by unions, and we have negotiated collective bargaining agreements with these unions. Additional groups of employees may seek union representation in the future, and, if successful, the negotiation of collective bargaining agreements could divert management attention and result in increased operating expenses and lower net income. If we are unable to negotiate acceptable collective bargaining agreements, our operating expenses could increase significantly as a result of work stoppages, including strikes. Any of these matters could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows."
David Steiner has been WM CEO since 2004 and a director since 2009. He joined the company in November 2000 as vice president and deputy general counsel, and he was appointed senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary in July 2001.
Steiner's base salary for the fiscal year 2012 was $1,127,500. He also received $5,266,497 in stock awards, $1,039,685 in option awards, and $228,456 in other compensation, for a total compensation of $7,662,138.
Between 2008 and 2012, Steiner made $33,740,371 in total compensation.
WM's key executives made a total of $70,304,024 from 2008 to 2012.
Board of Directors
As of August 2013:
- W. Robert Reum - Non-Executive Chairman, WM; Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Amsted Industries Inc.
- David P. Steiner - President & CEO, WM
- Bradbury H. Anderson - Former Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Best Buy Company, Inc.
- Frank M. Clark, Jr. - Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ComEd
- Patrick W. Gross - Chairman, The Lovell Group
- Victoria Holt - President and Chief Executive Officer of Spartech Corporation
- John C. Pope - Chairman, PFI Group
- Thomas H. Weidemeyer - Former Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, United Parcel Service, Inc. and President of UPS Airlines
As of August 2013:
- David P. Steiner - President and Chief Executive Officer
- James E. Trevathan - Chief Operating Officer
- James C. Fish, Jr. - Chief Financial Officer
- David A. Aardsma - Chief Sales and Marketing Officer
- Puneet Bhasin - Chief Information Officer
- Barry H. Caldwell - Chief Communications Officer
- Rick L Wittenbraker - General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer
1001 Fannin, Suite 4000
Houston, Texas 77002
Phone: (713) 512-6200
Resources and Articles
Related SourceWatch Articles
- Charles J. McDermott
- Patrick Gross
- Gary M. Petersen
- ALEC Corporations
Related PRWatch Articles
- Sara Jerving, New Toxic Sludge PR and Lobbying Effort Gets Underway, PRWatch, March 16, 2012.
- Sheldon Rampton, Green Garbage Trucks, PRWatch, February 14, 2008.
- Diane Farsetta, Greenwashing, or "Positioning Environmentalism", PRWatch, May 15, 2007.
- Claudia H. Deutsch, A Garbage Hauler Tidies Up Its Image, New York Times, February 7, 2008.
- Environmental Research Foundation, Waste Management, Rachel's Hazardous Waste News, Issue #15, February 7, 1989. Calls Waste Management "the nation's largest polluter."
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 Waste Management, Annual Report/Form 10-K, SEC filing, February 14, 2013.
- ↑ Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, U.S. Supreme Court, Majority Opinion in re: UNITED HAULERS ASSOCIATION, INC., ET AL. v. ONEIDA-HERKIMER SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY ET AL., decision, April 30, 2007, p. 1.
- ↑ International City/County Management Association, Profile of Local Government Service Delivery Choices, survey, 2007.
- ↑ Kristen Mack, Emanuel's 'managed competition' push goes into full swing on recycling pickups, Chicago Tribune, September 30, 2011.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Solid Waste Industry, U.S. federal government agency fact sheet, March 2012. See also U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries: Fatal occupational injuries to private sector wage and salary workers, government workers, and self-employed workers by industry, All U.S., 2012 - table, federal government agency report table, August 22, 2013.
- ↑ U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Waste Management Founder and Three Other Former Top Officers Settle SEC Fraud Action for $30.8 Million, press release, March 26, 2002.
- ↑ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, INVENTORY OF U.S. GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS AND SINKS 1990-2011, Chapter 8: Waste, federal government agency report, April 12, 2013, p. 8-1.
- ↑ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, INVENTORY OF U.S. GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS AND SINKS: 1990 – 2003, federal government agency report, April 15, 2005, p. 261.
- ↑ Veronica K. Figueroa, Kevin R. Mackie, Nick Guarriello, and C. David Cooper, [A Robust Method for Estimating Landﬁll Methane Emissions], Journal of Air & Waste Management Association, August 2009, Volume 59, pp. 925–935.
- ↑ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Overview of Greenhouse Gases: Methane Emissions, federal government agency website, accessed October 2013.
- ↑ Bracewell & Giuliani, LLP, Lobbying Report for client Waste Management, federal lobbying report, January 1 - March 31, 2013.
- ↑ See, e.g., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Superfund Site Progress Profile: RIVER ROAD LANDFILL (WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC.), federal government website, updated October 24, 2013.
- ↑ Company Overview of Waste Management Inc., prior to acquisition by USA Waste Services Inc., Bloomberg BusinessWeek, October 28, 2013.
- ↑ Funding for Environmentalists, Rachel’s Hazardous Waste News #115, February 7, 1989.
- ↑ Bob Secter, Greenpeace Assails Record of Waste Management Inc., Los Angeles Times, May 10, 1991.
- ↑ John Funk, Waste Management Inc. buys majority interest in Garick LLC, maker of organic lawn and garden products, Cleveland.com, September 1, 2010, accessed April 30, 2011.
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Waste Management Founder, Five Other Former Top Officers Sued for Massive Fraud, press release, March 26, 2002.
- ↑ SEC Fines Arthur Andersen $7 Million In Relation to Waste Management Audits (sub. req'd., text available here, Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2001.
- ↑ U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Waste Management Founder and Three Other Former Top Officers Settle SEC Fraud Action for $30.8 Million, press release, August 29, 2005.
- ↑ Julie Creswell, Scandal Hits -- Now What? Before Enron there was Waste Management. Here's how it came back from the brink, CNNMoney, July 7, 2003.
- ↑ Waste Management settles, CNNMoney, November 7, 2001.
- ↑ Brian Messenger, Wheelabrator agrees to pay $7.5 million for violations, Eagle-Tribune, May 3, 2011.
- ↑ Chan, Chris Chi-Yet (1997). "Behaviour of metals in MSW fly ash during roasting with chlorinating agents" (PDF). Chemical Engineering Department, University of Toronto.
- ↑ Maria Herrera, Delray To Study Garbage Contract, Sun Sentinel, January 28, 2010.
- ↑ Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Waste Management, OSHA establishment data, accessed August 2013. (Note: Some of the results are public waste management authorities and are not counted in the total.)
- ↑ Partnership for Working Families, Transforming Trash in Urban America, organizational report, July 2013.
- ↑ National Solid Waste Management Association, Municipal Solid Waste Landfill Facts, trade association publication, October 2011.
- ↑ Bracewell & Giuliani, LLP, Lobbying Report for client Waste Management, federal lobbying report, January 1 - March 31, 2013.
- ↑ American Legislative Exchange Council, 1992 Annual Report, organizational document, July 1993.
- ↑ American Legislative Exchange Council, 1998 ALEC Annual Meeting brochure, organizational document, August 18-22, 1998.
- ↑ American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC MODEL LEGISLATION, organizational website, archived by the WayBack Machine February 9, 1998, accessed October 2013.
- ↑ Center for Responsive Politics, ORGANIZATION PROFILES: Waste Management Inc.: All Cycles, OpenSecrets federal political influence database, accessed September 2013.
- ↑ Center for Responsive Politics, Lobbying: Waste Management Inc (Issues), OpenSecrets federal lobbying database, accessed August 2013.
- ↑ Bracewell & Giuliani, LLP, Lobbying Report for client Waste Management, federal lobbying report, January 1 - March 31, 2013.
- ↑ Bracewell & Giuliani LLP, Lobbying Report for client Waste Management, federal lobbying report, April 1 - June 30, 2013.
- ↑ Center for Responsive Politics, PACs: Waste Management Inc Summary, OpenSecrets federal election contribution database, accessed August 2013.
- ↑ National Institute on Money in State Politics, Noteworthy Contributor Summary: Waste Management, Follow the Money state lobbying database, accessed August 2013.
- ↑ National Institute on Money in State Politics, Client Summary: Waste Management, Follow The Money state political influence database, accessed September 2013.
- ↑ Good Jobs First, Waste Management (total calculated by Center for Media and Democracy from downloaded CSV file), Subsidy Tracker database, accessed August 2013.
- ↑ David Steiner, Forbes profile, accessed October 2013.
- ↑ Waste Management, David P. Steiner, corporate biography, accessed August 2013.
- ↑ Waste Management, Board of Directors, corporate website, accessed August 2013.
- ↑ Waste Management, Leadership, corporate website, accessed August 2013.