We broke the story earlier today. Agriprocessors hired Bernard S. Feldman, one of its attorneys to be its new CEO.
Feldman represented Agriprocessors during the Allou Healthcare fraud investigation and therefore has preexisting attorney-client privilege, which could easily become an issue due to…
…ongoing state and federal investigations.
Yet this does not trouble the OU one bit, as the Des Moines Register reports:
…The company had said for months that it would hire a new chief executive officer, a position that had not existed there before. Its announcement today said Feldman specializes in corporate law, including the reorganization of companies.
“Mr. Feldman’s first task will be to restore production at the plant to the level of pre-May 12,” it said, quoting company owner Aaron Rubashkin.
It added that Feldman would concentrate on making sure the company complies with government agencies that ensure food safety and ethical treatment of workers and livestock.
Rabbi Menachem Genack, the Orthodox Union’s chief executive officer, said today that he is satisfied with the choice of Feldman. He said he met the new chief executive officer this week, and was impressed with his intelligence and knowledge of how to fix troubled corporations.
He said Feldman has done legal work for the Rubahskin family, but he added that he was not bothered by that fact. “You have to bring in somebody who’s independent but who the owner has confidence in,” Genack said.
He said he was not sure what role would be played by Sholom Rubashkin, Aaron Rubashkin’s son. Sholom Rubashkin ran the plant for years, and he has continued to work there since the company announced in May that it would hire a new chief executive officer.
The statement quoted Feldman as saying he “looked forward to putting the company back on its feet and guiding it in the appropriate direction."
Before the raid, the company was the nation’s largest producer of kosher meat. The announcement quoted Feldman as saying he would work closely with governmental agencies monitoring food safety, and the treatment of workers and animals. “In short, I have every intention of making Agriprocessors a model of kosher production,” he said.
A Minnesota rabbi who has criticized Agriprocessors in the past said he was unsure what to make of today’s news. Morris Allen, who is a rabbi in the Conservative branch of Judaism, said Feldman will need the freedom to make dramatic changes in the company’s operations. “I don’t believe it can be simply a matter of rearranging chairs on the deck of a sinking ship,” he said.
Allen said he hopes Agriprocessors will participate in an effort he is leading to ensure that kosher food is produced in ways that treat workers ethically.
The Rev. Paul Ouderkirk, a Postville priest who has spoken out on behalf of the plant’s workers, said he had mixed emotions about word of a new chief executive officer. He said Agriprocessors needs a change of leadership, but he wishes the new CEO was from outside the company. “As long as this man has connections to the family before he came here, my optimism is fairly low,” Ouderkirk said.
Postville Mayor Robert Penrod, who has pushed to keep the plant open as the town’s major employer, said he was heartened to hear today’s news. He said he didn’t know Feldman, but he believes the company’s willingness to hire a new leader is a good sign. “I think it’s a move in the right direction.”
[Hat Tips: Archie and The Other DK.]