Animals In Print
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28 July 2011 Issue

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Breaking News:
Fortress Drops HLS (Huntingdon Life Sciences)

July 2011

Fortress have been in talks with SHAC volunteers [Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty] over their stopping of their loan agreement to HLS. This has been a rather protracted affair lasting many months, with Fortress' attorneys being slow to give us the proof we needed. (Remember, Fortress had lied in the past to the campaign). So we not only requested a statement, but we also wanted to see the legal documents showing the end of the loan between Fortress and HLS.

With both Fortress and HLS using many different shell companies, some of which are registered in remote island tax havens with little or no paper trail as well as a leading Fortress director being investigated, as well as a former security firm Fortress used to get advice against campaigners; Fortress have been slow to give us the proof we needed.

In January 2011, Fortress confirmed it had stopped all financial support to HLS – for real this time, they said. So desperate to relieve themselves of HLS and the animal rights movement, they have writing off the ensuing loan interest that they expected to make over the next couple of years and a very small amount of the loan itself resulting in a $6-$8 million loss for Fortress while HLS have had to pay back most of the outstanding loan to them. They say they are not, in any way shape or form, transferring the loan to anybody else – this will be HLS’ problem. The reason Fortress say is that they don’t want the blame for passing on all the problems that come in tow when you deal HLS. So, HLS no longer have any financing from Fortress.

This process has been slowed by Fortress' reluctance to show all their cards, especially with the present on-going investigations into Hedge Fund insider dealings, one of their directors being investigated and other legal problems. But, eventually, Fortress have come up with the following:

1 - A signed statement regarding Fortress no longer being involved with HLS/Lion Holdings
2 - A signed payoff instrument (legal document) regarding the closure of Fortress' involvement via shell companies: XI Capital and River Partners
3 - A mention in their annual report 10k filing (page 25, 3rd para , 2nd bullet point) with the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) in the USA; Our fund investments are subject to numerous additional risks - "In recent months, Fortress has been subjected to intermittent protests by groups affiliated with an animal rights movement related to a historical investment. Although no Fortress Fund continues to hold the investment targeted by such protestors, the protest activity may nevertheless have a negative effect on our reputation."
And because we still didn't believe Fortress a 100% because of all their past lies, Fortress have this week removed themselves from the protection of their UK injunction, as we stated that logically if Fortress no longer deal with HLS and are then no longer a target of campaigners, they have no need of the injunction anymore.

4 - Fortress have now also varied their UK injunction, effectively moving themselves off it's protection
5 - They have also filed in the High Court application (para 10) the reason why they have done this, ie they no longer deal with HLS
We would like to thank all those who took part in the global campaign against Fortress and ask that no more demonstrations are carried out against them or any associated companies (such as Nomura, or Fortress shareholders and subsidiaries).

HLS Financials: Past, present and future

HLS was once a company with a market value of £500m and a dominant player in the CRO market. They exchanged shares on the London Stock Exchange and later on the NYSE and were seen as a credible investment. HLS’ shareholders and customers were some of the biggest companies in the world; Barclays, AXA, JP Morgan, Roche, Novartis.

After the raids of May 2007, HLS’ MD, Brian Cass and the global media announced that all was over – companies such as HLS could continue operating without any opposition. Wrong. Vast police operations pumped by unlimited resources and funding reaching into the millions, excessively harsh prison sentences and the creation of specific new laws have all failed to stop SHAC. Even with the government offering support to prop up HLS, activists have once again dealt another major blow to this multinational testing hellhole with the loss of Fortress and their loan facilities. The future is increasingly bleak for those who torture animals to death, and will only get bleaker in the months to come.

Fortress is the largest financial lender in the United States. In 2008, SHAC uncovered them as the previously described ‘anonymous foreign lender’ to HLS/Lion Holdings. This loan saved HLS from closure in 2006 after Stephens Inc. had pulled out of their loan agreement with HLS and when they became overwhelmed by their increasingly staggering debts and campaign pressure. In effect, this company threw HLS a vital lifeline and then later announced they would extend this loan further in 2011. After Fortress were announced as a new top financial target, they first denied dealing with HLS at all, then later issued a false statement claiming they’d cut their ties, and even set up yet another false shell company to sell the loan onto. Naturally, we saw though this poor facade and continued campaigning against Fortress and all associated subsidiary companies.

Let's not forget HLS’ abysmal financial situation. In 2009, they had to sell the company just to stop closing down. However, nobody wanted to buy them out, and so Andrew Baker, HLS’ own CEO, added $100million to their debt and bought them. During this time, the Plymouth Report detailed the true damage the SHAC campaign has done to HLS’ financials. No company would touch them with a bargepole, largely for concern of being targeted by SHAC and animal rights activists. Even back in March 2009, Brian Cass was in the British press calling for a UK bank to give him a loan or bank account – but nobody would go anywhere near them. Now with Fortress dropping them like a hot potato, future financing looks extremely shaky; one of the largest financial corporations in the US won’t deal with them in any way - this will have serious repercussions for HLS’ reputation and desirability.

What's next for HLS?

Fortress has stated several times that HLS will have difficulty finding any financing options. Fortress is seen as a last resort in terms of a loan company. Looking at the Plymouth Report only confirms this further; the report clearly shows that not only was there little to no interest from financial institutions or fellow CRO’s, but that HLS remains totally unstable as a company. They continue to function on debt, in 2009 were at risk of closure and failed to find any financing options other than a desperate bid by their own CEO.

Never forget that HLS is a multinational corporation, propped up by some of the biggest and most wealthy companies in the world, not to mention the corrupt British government. Yet here we are; a relatively small, grass-roots campaign that has succeeded in effecting HLS' financial position again and has huge, multimillion dollar corporations running scared of dealing with HLS. The true achievements that can be made when compassionate people come together against evil should never, ever be underestimated and this is an excellent example of this.

Time will only tell if, or how, HLS repair the damage of losing this financer, but one thing is for certain: together, we can and WILL close HLS – and we have just taken one step closer to the day when those gates will close - for good. While we wait to see HLS’ next move, don’t forget that their customers are still vital - and even more so now that they are in serious financial trouble. We are continuing to look into HLS' financials and other companies that have come to light while investigating Fortress.

We would like to thank all those who took part in the global campaign against Fortress and ask that no more demonstrations are carried out against them or any associated companies (such as Nomura, or Fortress shareholders and subsidiaries). Currently, the new situation means that top customers are now the priority targets – as the loss of another of these will result in even more financial instability for HLS and make the chances of closure ever more likely.

We call on a renewed focus on the pharma and bio-tech industry that pay for the experiments to happen inside HLS; without these companies' money there would be no experiments and no HLS. AstraZeneca and Pfizer are losing some of their patents on their best selling drugs over the next couple of years and we will continue to add pressure on these companies until they too drop HLS.

Until all are free~

Source: Gina Maltese

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