Creative Thinking, Bad and Good
I got a shudder when I saw the news report come across my desk last week. “Oh no,” I thought, “It’s déjà vu. And the last time it happened, it ended up costing the glass industry millions and millions of dollars.” Here we go again.
The object of my dismay was a little-noticed news item that ran on our daily DWM e-newsletter concerning a $112 million settlement among hardware manufacturers in Europe for alleged price-fixing. In it, nine hardware manufacturers were fined for allegedly fixing the pricing of window mountings (hardware) for eight years.
I’m not defending price fixing, and, if the European investigators are to be believed, these incidences were well organized and institutionalized. What I am lamenting is the legal feeding frenzy that often follows. Putting a settlement agreement like this out there is the equivalent of parading red meat in front of a bunch of barracudas, even if those barracudas are an ocean away.
Consider what happened when a number of major glass manufacturers settled a similar (though not quite as highly evidenced) case a number of years ago. Gee, the lawyers thought, if this was happening in Europe, it must be happening in the States as well and faster than you could say “we keep one-third” class action suits were filed here in the States.
I’ll never forget the day I got a call from an attorney I had never spoken with before asking me for information about a certain primary manufacturer (which I did not provide of course). ”Did you know,” he asked breathlessly, “that one of the manufacturers based in Europe had to disclose in its annual stock filings that it set aside millions of dollars to settle similar suits should they arise in the U.S.? Millions,” he said wistfully, “and that’s what we are going after. There’s no suit yet but there will be.”
True, certain glass manufacturers in the middle of the century did sign a consent decree around price-fixing, but that doesn’t in mean it is occurring in this day and age. What suits like the one the primaries endured do is make it hard to tell when real crime has occurred. The cost of defending yourself is so much higher than the cost of settling that most people just settle. And what it costs the industry in our inability to work together and share legitimate information for legitimate reasons is also a great loss.
If I were I hardware manufacturer in the States, I wouldn’t tread, I’d swim as fast as I could. Because whether or not you deserve it, the legalcudas are going to be coming for you.
On to Happier News
Since late December, a little item has been sitting on my desk just to the left of me which I have kept hereto remind me that I wanted to tell you about it.
The first is a wonderfully done booklet by James Dunstan of Azon Products. Azon is always known for producing great customer newsletters and this one was no exception. If you ever read the company’s newsletter, you would know that Mr. Dunstan is quite a writer and this document entitled “One Man’s Creativity: The Story of Fridthjov Nilsen and the Invention of Pour and Debridge Thermal Barrier” is no exception.
It sounds like it would be a paper sleeping pill, doesn’t it? It was written to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the invention. Though the title may make your head hurt, Dunstan has crafted a very interesting history made alive by the profiles of the people and technology they created. He really made the story interesting and vital and that’s very hard to do with a topic such as his chosen one. Well done.
A Headline for All Ages
In fact, creative thinking can lead to good and bad as shown above. It’s also the stuff of great headlines so I have to share this one. (I collect great headlines). I am sure you heard about the Jet Blue pilot who uh, behaved, shall we say, inappropriately? Well, that hotbed of headline haiku, the New York Post, had one of the all time best:
It’s Spring, the Nats won their opening road trip (against the Cubs I might add) and I’m heading to San Antonio for Glass TEXpo™. Life starts anew on Mondays.
Have a good week,