You’ve probably never heard of Blackstreet Capital Partners, a private-equity fund in Maryland that buys underperforming companies and attempts to make them profitable. And you’ve almost certainly never heard of a company they own, SFCA Inc. But perhaps you’ve heard about infants dying after being strangled in bassinets made by a company once known as Simplicity. And guess who bought Simplicity recently?
The recall of these defective bassinets was hampered by the fact that Blackstreet refused to cooperate with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They claim they aren’t responsible for the bassinets sold by Simplicity before they bought the company. Never mind that other infants are at risk. Never mind that cooperation would make for a smoother, faster recall. Blackstreet isn’t in business for infants, after all, but for its owners.
I’m sympathetic to the argument that a firm can end up spending a lot of money cleaning up messes created by the companies it buys. That’s why we have something called due diligence. And Blackstreet knew full well what kind of company they were buying, because Simplicity had to recall a million cribs last year after children died from that product. And yet look at this excerpt from Blackstreet’s self-congratulatory press release on the purchase of Simplicity:
“The Simplicity brand is well known for its exceptional value, innovative design and unparalleled focus on safety.”
Perhaps they should have included an addendum that reads: “So we’re glad to get the investment bump from consumer goodwill toward this company, but if its products kill more kids, don’t come crying to us, because we’re not responsible.”
And legally, it looks like they’re on solid ground. Legally, however, we are allowed to contact them and tell them what we think of their selfish disregard for the safety of children. And what’s nice is, they’ve provided the email addresses of their executives right there on their website. So if you’ve got time today, drop a few Blackstreet execs a line and let them know what you think of their legally defensible but morally repugnant business ethics.
Update: For some really rich reading, look at the bio of Blackstreet’s Chairman, Robert Pincus. He “has been recognized for his commitment to the community,” and sponsors a class of schoolchildren in D.C. I suppose we should be thankful none of these children used his company’s products as infants.