Biomedical Research Firm's NYSE Listing Held
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The business news starts with stocks and animal rights. Some market watchers are calling the story unprecedented. The New York Stock Exchange has postponed its planned listing of Life Sciences Research, a company that tests experimental drugs on animals. The company says its finances are in order, but that animal rights groups are pressuring the exchange. NPR's Luke Burbank reports.
LUKE BURBANK reporting:
The Life Sciences Research lab in East Millstone, New Jersey, lies just an hour or so from New York City. But once you're there, you'd never know it. Fields of corn and tall grass surround the low-slung brick complex, which looks just like a suburban community college.
(Soundbite of chimes)
Unidentified Woman: Hello, may I help you?
(Soundbite of door opening)
BURBANK: As you arrive, a secretary buzzes you in through double-locked doors and a network of security cameras monitors your every move. But once inside, the place feels pretty much like any other office building. Mike Caulfield, Life Sciences' general manager in charge of US operations, sits at a table in his sunny second-floor office.
Mr. MIKE CAULFIELD (General Manager, Life Sciences Research): Make sure it comes out, actually.
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Mr. CAULFIELD: Jeez.
(Soundbite of medallion hitting the table)
BURBANK: He's admiring a memento from his recent trip to the New York Stock Exchange.
Mr. CAULFIELD: It's a large bronze medallion that says on the front, `Life Sciences Research Incorporated, LSR, original listing, September 7th, 2005.'
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BURBANK: Executives from LSR, which also goes by the name Huntingdon Life Sciences, had gathered on Wall Street that September morning for a fancy breakfast the exchange was throwing to celebrate the listing. But the mood changed when the NYSE's president, Catherine Kinney, walked in.
Mr. CAULFIELD: Well, the look on her face suggested that something was amiss, and she said very, very briefly that, `There's no way to sugarcoat this. The New York Stock Exchange will not be listing Life Sciences Research this morning.'
BURBANK: And weeks later, the listing is still in limbo. NYSE spokesperson Mirtha Medina would only confirm that the listing has, in fact, been delayed. Beyond that, the exchange has declined comment to both the media and Life Sciences Research. LSR's Mike Caulfield says the company passed its financial tests, and for him, that means there could only be one reason for the postponement: fear by the NYSE that it could become the target of animal rights activists.
Mr. CAULFIELD: The group or groups that have targeted our business have shown a great inclination to break the law if it suit their ends.
Ms. CAMILLE HANKINS (Win Animal Rights): If it takes illegal means to stop the killing and stop the terrorizing of animals at Huntingdon Life Sciences, as long as there's no harm to human or animal life, I have no problem with it.
BURBANK: Camille Hankins runs Win Animal Rights, based in New York. She says her group operates legally, or above ground, as it's known, but some other underground groups are awaiting trial on charges they intimidated lab employees in New Jersey. Hankins was reached by phone in Louisiana, where she was rescuing animals after the hurricanes. She says it was a videotape of alleged animal abuse at LSR's lab that convinced her to quit her corporate consulting job and dedicate her life to opposing the company.
Ms. HANKINS: Those images in East Millstone, New Jersey, changed my life. I knew that I could not sit by and allow that kind of egregious cruelty to go on.
BURBANK: On the eve of the listing, Hankins sent out an action letter to thousands of supporters titled Puppy Killers Invade the NYSE(ph). She counts the postponement as a major victory for animal rights groups, as does LSR's Mike Caulfield, but to him that's not exactly a good thing.
Mr. CAULFIELD: The New York Stock Exchange needs to carefully consider the extent to which this constitutes the tip of the iceberg.
BURBANK: The stock exchange reserves the right to decide who it will and won't list, but generally its concern is a company's bottom line, not whether or not it's popular with protesters.
Professor CHARLES JONES (Columbia Business School): This seems unprecedented.
BURBANK: Charles Jones is a finance professor at Columbia Business School. If the NYSE is acting out of fear of protests, Jones wonders about the implications.
Prof. JONES: If that's the real reason behind this, then that does take a step down a path that it's going to be very hard to decide where to stop on that path.
BURBANK: Back in East Millstone, LSR's Mike Caulfield holds his bronze medallion, the one celebrating a listing that still hasn't happened. He says at this point, he's just hoping to avoid becoming a historical footnote.
Mr. CAULFIELD: We don't want to be on one of those cards in Trivial Pursuits. We'd just like to be a quiet New York Stock Exchange-listed company going forward.
BURBANK: A listed company, maybe. The NYSE has yet to render a final decision. But quiet? Not likely. At least not as long as the many animal rights groups opposing LSR have a say in the matter. Luke Burbank, NPR News, New York.