Nestlé found liable over spying on NGO

Story highlights

  • Nestlé found liable in civil case over secret infiltration of anti-globalization NGO, Attac
  • Swiss court ordered Nestlé and security company Securitas AG to pay SFr3,000 per claimant
  • Attac filed criminal, civil cases against companies after Swiss TV made allegations of infiltration

Nestlé, whose clashes with activists over sales of baby milk formula in Africa led to widespread boycotts in the 1980s, has been found liable in a civil case over the secret infiltration of a non-governmental organisation.

A Swiss court last week ordered Nestlé and the Swiss security company Securitas AG to pay compensation following revelations that an infiltrator had attended "workgroup" meetings of Attac, an anti-globalisation group. Some of those meetings took place at members' homes.

The world's biggest food company has been at pains to repair relations with NGOs since the milk formula debacle, which led to new health regulations on its marketing.

The rise of social media and rapid dissemination of any wrongdoings -- and a new generation of more socially conscious consumers -- has further encouraged the maker of KitKats and its peers to address issues ranging from child labour on cocoa farms to saving water. Such initiatives are often carried out in partnership with NGOs.

But even though Nestlé has been fostering closer ties with its one-time foes, it has now been found to have been involved in the monitoring of activist activities.

The long-running legal saga began in 2008 when Attac filed criminal and civil allegations against Nestlé and Securitas after Swiss TV alleged that an Attac workgroup in the canton of Vaud had been infiltrated by a Securitas employee on behalf of Nestlé in 2003.

The criminal case was dropped in 2009, but the civil case continued, and Jean-Luc Genillard, president of the civil court in Lausanne, has now ordered Nestlé and Securitas to pay compensation of SFr3,000 per claimant.

A spokesman for Nestlé said the company would like "to reiterate that incitement to infiltration is against Nestlé's corporate business principles", adding that it noted the judge's decision "with disappointment".

However, he said it was too early to say what, if any actions, Nestlé would take next. "We are unable to make any specific comments before the judge's reasoning is released. If it turns out that a Nestlé employee has acted negligently, we will take appropriate action," he said.

Securitas said it had stopped this sort of activity eight years ago and that the judge's ruling had no impact on its current operations. The group said it was now waiting for the judge's written reasoning.

Attac said it was "very satisfied" that the civil court had condemned Nestlé's and Securitas's actions. "Nevertheless, we'd like to point out that we are continuing to critically observe the worldwide activities of multinational corporations."

        CNN Business

      • An Iraqi worker adjusts a control valve at the Daura oil refinery on November 5, 2009 in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq and a grouping of U.S and European oil companies Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell PLC signed a $50 billion contract today to develop the West Qurna oilfield, two days after the Iraqi South Oil Company signed a technical service contract with Britain's BP and China's CNPC to develop the Rumaila oilfield. The Iraqi government is trying to attract foreign investment, especially in the oil sector, in hopes of reviving its war-torn economy. Iraq has the third largest oil reserve in the world but it is producing way below its potential. (Photo by Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty Images)

        Why are Iraq oil markets stable?

        Airstrikes, rebels seizing control of oil fields, plus a severe refugee crisis are a recipe for market panic. So why are Iraq oil prices stable?
      • A view of gloves and boots used by medical staff, drying in the sun, at a center for victims of the Ebola virus in Guekedou, on April 1, 2014. The viral haemorrhagic fever epidemic raging in Guinea is caused by several viruses which have similar symptoms -- the deadliest and most feared of which is Ebola. AFP PHOTO / SEYLLOU (Photo credit should read SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)

        Ebola's economic 'scare factor'

        The biggest Ebola outbreak in history is taking its toll in Western Africa, hitting some of West Africa's most vulnerable economies.
      • People enter a casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 18, 2009. Las Vegas is the most populus city in the US state of Nevada and internationally renowned major resort city for gambling, shopping, fine dining and entertainment. Las Vegas which bills itself as the �Entertainment Capital of the World� is famous for the number of casino resorts and associated entertainment. AFP PHOTO/Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

        Casinos beat the banker

        Macau has overtaken Switzerland in the wealth stakes, being named the world's fourth richest territory by the World Bank.
      • spc marketplace middle east ata atmar a_00010015.jpg

        Bateel's new bakery venture

        Saudi Arabian Bateel brand is best known for its delectable dates but it now has more than a dozen cafes and a new bakery in the works.
      • Vantablack designed by Surrey NanoSystems absorbs 99.96% of all light. It however will not be the solution to the creating the world's ultimate slimming black dress! A dress made out of this material would render the curves and contours of the human body invisible and would leave the wearer looking like 'two dimensional cardboard cut-out.'

        Is this the real new black?

        A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material. It is so dark the human eye can't discern its shape and form.
      • Move over Siri, here comes Jibo

        Jibo robot is designed to be an organizer, educator and assist family members. CNN's Maggie Lake met him and says she was impressed with his skills.
      • A picture taken on March 15, 2014 shows children playing at the sprawling desert Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan near the border with Syria which provides shelter to around 100,000 Syrian refugees. Syrian refugees in the seven-square-kilometre (2.8-square-mile) Zaatari camp in Jordan fear that President Bashar al-Assad's likely re-election this year will leave their dream of a return home as distant as ever. The brutal war in Syria between the regime and its foes shows no sign of abating and has killed at least 146,000 people since it erupted in mid-March 2011. And 2.5 million Syrians have fled abroad and another 6.5 million have been internally displaced. Jordan is home to more than 500,000 of the refugees.

        Jordan: Seeking calm in chaos

        Sandwiched in between Iraq and Syria, Jordan's destiny seems to be one of a constant struggle for survival. John Defterios explains.
      • SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 18: Queen Elizabeth II wears 3 D glasses to watch a display and pilot a JCB digger, during a visit to the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research centre, on November 18, 2010 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by John Giles - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

        Forget 3D, it's 4K now

        At the last football World Cup, it was all about 3D. This time around, it's nothing less than 4K.
      • An Iraqi worker adjusts a control valve at the Daura oil refinery on November 5, 2009 in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq and a grouping of U.S and European oil companies Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell PLC signed a $50 billion contract today to develop the West Qurna oilfield, two days after the Iraqi South Oil Company signed a technical service contract with Britain's BP and China's CNPC to develop the Rumaila oilfield. The Iraqi government is trying to attract foreign investment, especially in the oil sector, in hopes of reviving its war-torn economy. Iraq has the third largest oil reserve in the world but it is producing way below its potential. (Photo by Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty Images)

        Where is Iraq's oil?

        Iraq produces 3.3 million barrels per day and has the world's fourth-largest oil reserves. But the current crisis is putting all this in danger.
      • Valves of gas pipe-line are seen in the gas station not far from Kiev on March 4, 2014. The European Union will help Ukraine pay the $2.0 billion it owes to Russian gas giant Gazprom, a top official said Tuesday, as part of an aid package reportedly worth more than one billion euros. AFP PHOTO/ ANDREY SINITSIN (Photo credit should read ANDREY SINITSIN/AFP/Getty Images)

        Why Europe needs Russian gas

        The gas standoff between Russia and Ukraine could have a knock-on effect on Europe. Explore this map to find out why is the EU nervous.