Toy Story

And now, with the Christmas holidays nearly upon us, here’s a heart-warming tale of corporate negligence and stinginess. According to this Pacific Business News report, the State of Hawaii will get a whopping $200,000 from the mighty Mattel Corporation. The money is our cut of a $12 million settlement package between Mattel and 39 states over last year’s debacle in which millions of Chinese-made toys bearing the toy giant’s logo were found to contain excessive and toxic amounts of lead paint.

Now $200,000 for an entire state (the PBN story says officials will use the dough to “find [I think they mean ‘fund’] consumer education and enforcement of consumer protections laws”) is pretty miserly, but the whole $12 million is pathetic, too. According to this Reuters story from October, Mattel made a net Third Quarter profit of $238.1 million. That means the settlement represents a mere five percent of what Mattel pulled in during just three months of this year.
Oh, did I mention that back in August Mattel Corp. won a far more substantial $100 million settlement from fellow toy-maker MGA Entertainment over “copyright infringement”? In this country, that’s apparently more important than attempting to sell millions of toys containing toxic quantities of lead. Though somehow I don’t think MGA’s CEO will follow the example of the co-owner of the Chinese factory that made many of the tainted toys.
But don’t get the idea that Mattel doesn’t take the toy recall scandal seriously. This cool chart from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that while Mattel used to spend just $120,000 a year on lobbyists, after the toy recalls began the company suddenly upped the figure to more than half a million a year.

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