On November 29, 2010, Greenpeace filed a lawsuit against two major chemical companies, their PR firms and several individuals for activities that amount to corporate espionage. Chemical companies Dow Chemical and Sasol (formerly CONDEA Vista), through the PR firms Dezenhall Resources (Nichols Dezenhall at the time) and Ketchum, hired private investigators from the firm Beckett Brown International (BBI) to spy on Greenpeace from 1998 to 2000.
Go here for a PDF of the complaint
The suit charges the defendants stole thousands of documents, intercepted phone call detail records (CDRs), trespassed and conducted unlawful surveillance and theft of confidential information related to Greenpeace’s public interest work.
The complaint charges that the chemical companies, PR firms and individuals “conspired to and did surveil, infiltrate and steal confidential information with the intention of preempting, blunting or thwarting” Greenpeace’s environmental campaigns.
At the time, Greenpeace was working with communities threatened by dioxin and other chemical pollutants, including Lake Charles, Louisiana. In that community, a local citizens' group was infiltrated by an operative of BBI, a firm composed of former secret service agents and police officers.
BBI and the public relations firms expanded their espionage to Greenpeace’s office in Washington, DC where, for two years, they stole thousands of confidential documents and pursued other methods of intrusion and surveillance. Greenpeace launched an investigation into these activities after being contacted by a journalist in 2008.
Since 2008, Greenpeace has uncovered additional documents showing the nature of the espionage and the identities of many of participants, including work orders, billing worksheets, checks, and invoices.