People Question International Paper’s ‘Most Ethical’ Ranking

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(Memphis) Memphis-based International Paper was named one of the world's most ethical companies.

It’s the seventh year in a row the company has been added to the list put out by The Ethisphere Institute.

Some aren't sure the company deserves the honor this year, because International Paper threatened to pull out of Memphis if it didn't get huge tax breaks it wanted.

It’s the section on 'social responsibility' where some people are calling the ranking into question. It all started after International Paper requested a pilot program or they'd have to leave.

“It amounts to economic bribery,” said Memphis Watchdog, Joe Saino. He says the Payments in Lieu of Taxes programed saved International Paper $60 million over 15 years. He says the city and county need the corporate giant for their economy.

International Paper employs more than 2,000 people many with six-figure salaries and how the company maneuvered for more tax breaks from the city, many say, was not unethical, but just the nature of business.

“They're not reaching into our pockets and stealing from us or anything, they're just betting that we're going to cave,” said Saino.

Last month, the company claimed it was growing and couldn't expand its operations and build a new building while paying city and county taxes.

“It was very important that we could find the right balance between what’s good for the city and what's good for the company,” Tom Kalien told News Channel 3 last month.

Saino says there's an easy fix, “There ought to be a federal law prohibiting cities, counties, states and everything from offering, for bidding against each other. I don't blame International Paper or any of the others because they know they can get it.”