“The Arrogance of Inco” was originally published as the cover story in the May, 1979 issue of Canadian Business. Reporter Val Ross, who died in 2008, spent two and a half months researching and writing this lengthy expose of the then Inco Limited. It has become a “classic must read” for anyone wishing to understand the often bitter history between Sudbury and the company that defined the Canadian mining industry.
4-Troubles in the Province of Ontario
Nineteen hundred and fifteen was a rather wet year in the Sudbury district. The sulphur dioxide fumes from the open-air roasting heaps hung in sickening mists and low clouds over the region. In increasing numbers the local farmers brought damage suits against the nickel producers, Mond and International Nickel. In desperation the nickel companies turned to the Ontario Ministry of Lands, Forests and Mines for protection. They begged the government to remember nickel’s contribution to the defence of the Empire (this was the year before the Deutschland’s two trips to pick up nickel supplies for Germany).
Charging opportunism, they protested, “Lands are being taken up and a pretence of farming made…in the hope and the expectation that the same may be damaged or appear to be damaged so that a claim against the company may be made.”
The Ontario government agreed with the nickel men’s interpretation of events and dealt with the “smoke farmers,” as Inco dubbed the victims, accordingly. Whole townships near Copper Cliff and Sudbury were withdrawn from sale to settlers. When the remaining lots changed hands, “smoke easement clauses” were written in which denied the buyers the right to sue mining companies. These clauses, reviewed in 1942 during another spate of farmers’ and residents’ complaints, have been retained. To this day, no owner of Sudbury real estate has the right to sue mining companies for property damage.
There were, and remain, variants on the sulphur dioxide pollution problems in the Sudbury area. When the sulphur dioxide from the smelters’ smokestacks mixes with moisture in the air, it rains sulphuric acid. Before the coming of Superstack, the 1,250-foot monster that disperses the smoke over a wider area and therefore in lower concentrations, cars used to rust quickly in Sudbury; barbed wire fences had a life expectancy of about a year and a half. The life expectancy of local lakes looked bad too. In 1972 the Science Council of Canada reported, “Severe tree damage has been detected up to 30 miles from the emission sources; vegetation has been stunted within a 720-square mile area…there are now no fish of any kind in at least 32 lakes and soon they will be gone from at least 38 more.”
You couldn’t win if you lived in the Sudbury district. If there was no rain, if it was dry and the wind blew the noxious smoke away, the wind also carried a fine grit, or tailings dust, into your house, your food, your eyes and nose. The sun was sometimes obscured in a brown sky; people in Copper Cliff kept their storm windows on all year. In 1958 the company’s agricultural department developed a multimillion-dollar solution to the problem of grit – strains of grasses that would take root on the tailings haps and hold the dust in place. The company calls it “rye on the rocks.”
Control of tailings dust is a victory in the company’s battle to control pollution. But it is a solitary victory, and the company has been riding on it for the past 20 years. Sulphur dioxide, in all its forms and places of manifestation, remains a acid ulcer in the corporate body.
The problem will get bigger if a Sudbury man name John Gagnon succeeds in his appeals to the Workman’s Compensation Board. They call Gagnon the “two-and-a-half-million-dollar man.” That is the estimated cost of WCB payments to the widows and orphans of cancer victims among Inco’s sintering plan employees. Gagnon believes that there are about 200 lung and sinus cancer deaths for which compensation claims can be made. Workers in the old Inco sintering plant were exposed to sulphur dioxide, burned off the ore at temperatures approaching 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. The air at the plant was also full of nickel dust, arsenic and other toxic substances. The company closed the plant in 1963. It’s taken the Ontario Workmen’s Compensation Board15 years longer to deal with Gagnon’s cases.
Government’s impotence with respect to Sudbury’s safety and pollution problems has always been puzzling. One reason, suggested provincial NDP House Leader Elie Martel (Sudbury East), is that “many of the staff of Ontario’s Department of Mines were ex-Inco men.” Another problem was the persistent discrepancy of the evidence. Whenever the union complained about high carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide reading in the plants, the Department of Mines reported that its readings showed much lower concentrations of the gases. The union retorted that men were being carried out of the smelting and sintering plants unconscious; the government said its inspectors were satisfied by the safety and atmospheric conditions in the plants.
In February, 1968, Elie Martel, just elected for the first time, asked Allan Lawrence, Minister of Mines, about the results of the government’s investigation of an explosion in Inco’s Copper Cliff coal plant. Lawrence told Martel he’d get back to him. A week later Lawrence reported that a government inspection on December 18, 1967, had given the plant a clean safety report.
Suddenly Martel was on his feet and brandishing before the House a telegram from the United Steelworkers Local 6500. The telegram was dated December 17, and it reported that the men were working overtime to clean the plant. They surmised that they must be about to have an inspection.
The mystery of the discrepancy between government inspectors’ reports and union complaints was laid bare: the government had been in the practice of notifying Inco whenever a safety and pollution inspection was imminent.
Inco’s safety statistics and records were also puzzling people. For much of Inco’s history, company police – or local police who also moonlighted as guards for the company – investigated accidents. One might suspect a bias in what they reported. From time to time there were even allegations that the company’s investigators were altering the sites of fatalities. But the government cited figures from its Department of Mines inspection branch which showed that Inco, although the province’s largest employer in the mining industry, had a lower-than-average fatalities rate and a minuscule record of man-hours lost to accidents.
Martel and the NDP charges that Inco’s safety record was distorted. Martel told the House that injured workers were being cabbed into work, broken legs, ankles and all, to keep the company’s lost-hours rates low. He produced affidavits from miners and workers who, although injured, had recuperated not at home but on Inco property, occasionally doing paperwork, more often just reading comic books, in a special room reserved for them which the workers dubbed “Hernando’s Hideaway.”
In 1974 the long-complacent Ontario government finally established a Royal Commission on the Health and Safety of Workers in Mines. Dr. James Ham (now president of the University of Toronto), who headed the study, found that of the big metals producers- Algoma Steel Corp. Ltd., Noranda Mines Ltd., Texasgulf Canada Ltd., Falconbridge Nickel Mines Ltd., Rio Algom Mines Ltd., and Dome Mines Ltd. – Inco in fact, led the pact with a rate of 85.3 nonfatal accidents per million man-hours.
One university study showed that Sudbury’s death rates for men over 55 were 50% higher than the national average, but whether conditions in the Copper Cliff sintering plants, iron recovery plants and smelters were partly responsible continued to be a matter of dispute. In spite of Elie Martels’ proof that the government had been notifying the company of imminent inspections, the Ontario government insisted that the company was maintaining a safe five parts per million sulphur dioxide level in the air at its plants.
The Toronto Star decided to find out what was going on. (The Sudbury Star, not noted for crusading journalism, was scarcely inclined to do the job; locals call it “The Inco Star.”) In 1968 a McGill University student, Mark Starowicz, was hired by the Toronto paper to go into the company’s Copper Cliff operations and investigate. But after he’d written his story, the Star sat on it until a desk man leaked a carbon copy to the NDP and it was read aloud in the legislature by MPP Morton Shulman.
“The plant is heavily guarded by security men,” Starowicz reported. “ For two days I asked various workers to sketch for me sections of the plant they knew and to draw me every walkway, passage and entrance…. Wednesday night, dressed in clothes given me by the workers, and equipped with the required safety goggles and gas mask, I began to cross the slag heap… Guards intermittently played powerful lights onto the slag range and that made my progress slow.”
After an hour Starowicz, with his camera and Draeger meter (which takes readings of atmospheric conditions) was inside the plant. “The heat grew in intensity…. Trying to walk toward these stoves of hell was like walking against some big soft hand that was pushing you back…. At the east side of the M floor, a 20-foot walkway around the to9p of the furnaces, the air was immersed in as shiny blue pall.”
As Starowicz moved closer to the furnaces, the heat (at time 150 degrees Fahrenheit) and the air got to him. An acrid smell permeated his gas mask. Eyes stinging, tearing, gasping and retching, he collapsed in a 45-second dizzy spell. Workers dragged him to clearer air. Before Starowicz left the plant he took a reading. The air must have contained more than 200 parts per million of sulphur dioxide; the readings were off the Draeger meter’s scale.
The next day Mark Starowicz, Toronto Star reporter, was given an official tour of the same plant. The air was clean enough to be inhaled without a gas mask. His guide told Starowicz reassuringly, “We take tourists through here every day.” After the official tour, Starowicz dropped by the union office. “There’s a warrant out for you,” he was told. “The company found out what you did.” Starowicz left on the next plane with his story.
Starowicz’ story is interesting not only because it reveals conditions in the plant, but also because it demonstrates the reality behind company’s benign denial of its problems, and the media’s reluctance to take Inco to task.
Ten years have passed since Starowicz’ misadventures in the Inco smelter complex. Keith Rothney, chairman of the union’s safety, health and environment committee, has told Canadian Business that before the strike last September, the smelter complex still had sulphur dioxide readings of 30 parts per million – six times the provincial government’s safe limit.
The union has reported 86 deaths at Inco in the past decade, eight in the past year, and about 7,000 accidents annually. Some of these casualties are no doubt caused by inattention, a few by drunkenness on the job. And, of course, it’s in the union’s interest to go into bargaining sessions armed with puffed-up grievance and accident statistics. That’s how company, government and even some non-union Sudbury people explain Inco’s rather high casualty figures. But the figures won’t go away. They’re like Superstack in the respect. Or rather, they’re a problem much like the sulphur dioxide problem that Superstack has failed to solve.
Superstack was one way the company saw to get around its sulphur dioxide problem. “Yes, I was highly suspicious of the thing,” said Mines Minister Allan Lawrence back in 1969, when the 1,250-foot stack which would diffuse those troublesome emissions was already under construction. “It seemed idiotic to me. But I have since been convinced this is a temporary measure…” Ten years have passed since Lawrence’s reassurances, and Superstack is still the only measure the company has taken to cut down on sulphur dioxide damage to the Sudbury area. It hasn’t been for want of trying; Inco has spent between $30 million and $40 million on pollution research in the past decade in its attempt to meet the Ontario government’s order to cut back sulphur dioxide emissions from 6,000 to 750 tons a day. But the company’s handling of the problem has been a PR debacle. Inco privately informed the provincial government several years ago that the lower emission standard probably wouldn’t be met, but has continued to refer to Superstack in public and in the press as an “interim measure.”
Finally, last year, Inco delivered its by now familiar bombshell. Any attempt to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions below 3,600 tons a day (or 60 boxcars) would either brake the company, or ender Sudbury’s nickel uneconomical to produce. Take it or leave it.
The Ontario government took it. On August 24, 1978, it reaffirmed 3,600 tons a day as the pollution control limit.
That will not end the public complaints. There are an increasing number of reports of high acidity in lakes and complaints about acid rain from throughout Ontario cottage country – including Georgian Bay and Lake Rosseau, where some of the country’s most powerful corporate and political leaders go to relax at their expensive summer homes. Their complaints have clout.
Does the company have any alternative?
In the 1960s Falconbridge was also under pressure form the Ontario government to reduce its sulphur dioxide emissions. Simultaneously forced to improve its working conditions, it cast around for new smelting processes. Since Falconbridge’s operation were too close to the Sudbury airport for it to build a Superstack, it decided to use a smelting technique similar to one that Inco had adopted at Thompson. Falconbridge built a roaster with an electric furnace. During roasting, sulphur dioxide was given off in sufficiently strong concentrations to produce acid. Falconbridge was not only able to recoup its costs (“Our acid sales came pretty close to covering the cost of the process,” says James Finlay, vice-president of planning for the Canadian nickel division of Falconbridge), but was also able to conform to the Ontario government’s standards.
In Inco’s defence it should be pointed out that Falconbridge is operating below capacity. And that if the much larger Inco followed the same smelting procedure that Falconbridge had, the bottom would probably fall out of the acid market. Elie Martel and other company critics observe tartly that the $234 million the company spent on ESB could have gone a long way toward building a new, clean smelter.
Since September 15, 1978, when Inco’s Sudbury operations were shut down by the strike, the problem has, of course, become academic. No sulphur dioxide smoke has come out of Superstack since the strike was called.
Have the wages of the company’s sins, the price of its misjudgements and its arrogance, really been paid in full? The company, at least according to some of the people who sell its stock, is a reborn creature. There are new faces at the top and, behind them, a new corporate structure.
“Since the new regime at Inco,” says Toronto analyst Gordon Ball, “the company’s come around. I give them great credit. They’ve played their cards beautifully, including the strike, and I’m recommending that people buy their stock.”
“In 1971, when I came into marketing,” says Johannes Schade, now a senior vice-president of Inco Metals, “the structure of the company was very different. Then we put together Inco Metals, where, for the first time, research, technology and production were all integrated into one location.”
Though its’ only 10a.m. when we meet, the youthful Schade, 47, is already leaning back comfortably in his chair, enjoying a good cigar with his midmorning coffee. Whether he’s talking about his background in thermodynamic metallurgy, his private passion for singing (he’s a church choir tenor), or his years as marketing director for Union Carbide Europe SA, Schade’s conversation is studded with chuckles. His solid, charming style communicates confidence – and it’s the confidence of recovery as probably only a hard-working West German is equipped to show.
The changes in the company to which Schade is referring occurred in 1976. Most visibly, the International Nickel Company of Canada Limited was renamed Inco Limited, with “nickel” conspicuously absent from its new name. This was taken to signal a diversification into formed products and other metals. “Of Canada” was also gone. J. Edwin Carter, the CEO from Georgia, felt that the phrase smacked of branch plant-ism. After all, 65% of the company’s shareholders are Canadian residents of record, and more and more Canadians are turning up in the top echelons of management.
John McCreedy, a Canadian and ex-hockey star no less, was made chairman of Inco Metals, the marketing arm of the company. From the beginning his pronouncements were in harmony with the company’s new tune. “At Inco Metals,” McCreedy told the Toronto Globe and Mail, “We’ve become more competitive; some would say, uncharacteristically aggressive,”
McCreedy and Johnanes Schade face a changed market. No one any longer takes for granted a 6.5% annual increase in demand. Japan outstripped the US in stainless steel production at the beginning of the decade, and stainless steel production now accounts for more than half of the world demand for nickel. But the Japanese market – 23% as compared with the US’s 30% share – has fallen off since its postwar reconstruction boom ended, and the effect of oil shortages and its current balance of payments problems make it an inscrutable market to predict. Europe, which consumes 40% of the world’s nickel, has become larger market than the US. Schade, with his native experience, his mastery of German, French, English, and some Spanish, Italian and Swedish, can help the company compete in this most competitive of markets. But in Europe a great deal of nickel goes into the production of consumer goods, and the market for kitchen sinks and washing machines is becoming saturated.
New markets must be courted. Already Inco and Falconbridge have sold significant tonnages of nickel to the Chinese (in 1973-74); rumours of an upcoming sale of Inco copper to China are flickering up and down Bay Street right now.
In penetrating Far East markets, the Canadian nickel companies face a special type of competition. David Lewis would do a double-take if he heard them say it, but the Canadian multi-nationals are actually crying “Corporate welfare – unfair!” about their foreign-government-backed competition, Marinduque (backed by the Philippine government) and Societe Le Nickel (whose control the Rothschilds now share with Elf-Aquitaine, an arm of the French government). The presence of these state-backed competitors changes the operation of the nickel markets. Production may vary from demand, but these new producers can’t be driven out of business. Indeed, though soft nickel markets caused a few Japanese ferro-nickel operations to shut down permanently, the others continue operating even at a loss.
Nevertheless, the mood is picking up among the marketing men in the company’s skyscraper planning offices. Those soft markets, and the price wars, have caused a 40% drop in world nickel production since 1976. Now a tight supply picture is beginning to prevail, and it’s only a matter of time before the price of nickel picks up. “For the first time in years,” says metals analyst Patrick Mars of Alfred Bunting, “there’s money for exploration. That’s always a positive sign.” Just before Sudbury was struck last September, world nickel demand again outstripped would nickel production. Customer inventories are depleted, and Inco’s huge backlog of unsold nickel, unreplenished, is shrinking rapidly.
With a lot of nickel producers on the scene, a company’s ability to take advantage of the rising demand will be decided on the basis of product innovations, and to an even greater extent on price. In 1977 Inco came out with a new series of products, “which,” says Johannes Schade confidently, “have enhanced our penetration of the low-grade market.”
Schade reiterates, “Pricing is the most critical point of all.” And because of Sudbury’s rich and metallically diverse ore, Inco’s nickel is the cheapest to produce. The company never took advantage of its ability to set low prices before the hard times of the mid-1970s. “It was a psychological blind,” he says. “We had a sense of responsibility to our customers and establishing an industry-wide umbrella was part of that. But good manners disintegrate in tough time.” In 1977, Inco Metals moved to take the posed price umbrella away from the competitors. “The gloves were off in ’77,” says Schade cheerfully. Competitors refer to the price war that followed as “cutthroat.” “It’s been war,” said L.G. Bonar, vice-president of Amax Nickel Limited, a subsidiary of the American molybdenum giant Amax. “It was tough for us in that period,” says Michael Pearce, President of Falconbridge Canada; low nickel prices forced Falconbridge to cut back the work force at its Dominican operations by 25%.
Insiders say Inco’s real target was its former ally, Societe Le Nickel, which had reportedly blocked an Inco move into New Caledonia and was thinking about expanding further into the American market. While Inco’s Indonesian project depends on relatively cheap hydroelectricity, and Sudbury nickel has the lowest production costs in the world, the cost of SLN’s oil-intensive South Pacific projects are rising sharply. It looks as if SLN, in spite of French government backing, is hurting from Inco’s competition.
Then on February 5, 1979, Inco started positing its price again. Why? Analyst Gordon Ball believes it’s because the company has proved that it is still the biggest and the strongest. Patrick Mars believes it’s that old hubris surfacing again – “an exaggerated belief in their own importance.” The company says it started posting the price of nickel because it wants to bring stability to the scene of so much savage undercutting and fluctuation; because its customers prefer it; and, says treasurer Robert de Gavre, because it wants “to chase the price of nickel back up.” Naturally, with the price posted, competitors are breathing easier than they have in a while. “Responsible move,” cheers Mike Pearce of Falconbridge.
There may be another reason behind Inco’s “responsible” move. The London Metals Exchange (LME) wants to trade nickel and has struck a committee to look into the matter. This means that a free market would determine the price, as it does for copper and aluminum. When the LME posted the price of aluminum, Alcan threw all the obstacles it could in the way; now Inco leads the battle to retain producer pricing in nickel, and no doubt want a supportive and united nickel industry behind it.
Inco will surely loose the battle t set the price of nickel, and, with it, another vestige of its former dominance. But that battle is probably less important than the company thinks. Free market pricing will bring greater fluctuations in nickel’s price, but Inco men have ridden changing steel prices for generations. They can learn to stay in the saddle with a busking nickel price too.
It’s been the tradition-bound company’s curse to waste energy opposing the inevitable (such as unionization of its work force), but a new flexibility seems to be the style of the new crop of Inco men like John McCreedy, Robert de Gavre and Johannes Schade. Analyst Gordon Ball credits Inco president Charles Baird and guiding the company’s rejuvenated fighting spirit. “It’s Baird’s navy background,” says Ball, unintentionally calling up the navel ghost of founder R.M. Thompson. “I see, in the moves Baird’s orchestrated for the company recently, a military mind at work.”
The consensus of the onlookers is that Inco has found its fighting spirit again. That doesn’t mean the future is rosy. Two old problems linger on: labour and pollution.
On balance< Inco had been hurt by the strike of 1978-79. It’s true that the day the Sudbury workers went out on strike the debt-heavy company’s stock went up. It’s true the at the strike has cleaned out those costly nickel inventories. But the company has also lost the opportunity to sell Sudbury’s “gravy” products – copper platinum and cobalt. In 1977, for example, Inco produced 1.7 million pounds of cobalt; 1978 production was cut in half by the strike. Meanwhile cobalt became unexpectedly scarce because of political conditions in Zaire, its major source, and cobalt’s price shot up to $25 a pound from $6. The company lost millions in cobalt sales, millions more in other metals.
Robert de Gavre says, “Sure, the strike’s been beneficial – from the narrowest financial viewpoint of improving our cash position. But what price is lost market share? What price better labour relations?”
The 11,700 Sudbury workers know that their survival on strike pay of $25 a week has helped the company’s cash position. Having sat it out for a lean, cold winter watching their employer’s credit rating get stronger, they are hardly in the mood to congratulate the company on its improving fortunes. To Dave Patterson, the union’s president, the laid-off workers and the strikers are victims of the company’s poor market forecasting in 1975-76; its greedy development of two overseas projects simultaneously; in short, of its hunger for power. “The company’s got no feeling for its roots,” he says, “for guaranteeing the viability of Sudbury, the foundation of its wealth.” The cost of improving labour relations is going t be, as Robert de Gavre predicts, high.
The company spent about $3 million to improve employee relations via a “functional modular training program,” safety courses for the men and even Transactional Analysis for their supervisors. One brand-new two inch thick binder offers tips for supervisors on how to be more understanding toward their men: “Atmosphere affects alertness. Light smoke or fog may occasionally exist….Men do not think clearly under these conditions…repetition of simple tasks may result in temporary lapses of mental alertness….Men’s minds have a tendency to be less alert n darkness….” It sounds more like an indictment than a job description. A company spokesman says that this material, labelled Supervisory Instruction Program, is just one in a series and “explains our new Big Brother concept in mine safety.”
Will Big Brother and Transactional Analysis really improve interpersonal relationships in the foggy darkness a mile underground? And will the union settle for improved interpersonal relationships in place of the money settlement Inco says it can’t afford?
Inco says it cannot solve its other problem, pollution, quickly. “In a sense,” remarks a Toronto financial journalist, “Inco’s pollution problems are a cap on its profits. Once the company starts getting healthy again everyone will say, ‘Now you can afford to do something about the sulphur dioxide,’” But the cost of building a new smelting complex that would meet the Ontario government’s emission standard of 750 tons a day is estimated at between $500 million and $1.5 billion. That allows quite a lot of room for profits before Inco reaches its credibility limit.
But when the strike ends and work resumes at Copper Cliff, when the company once again begins to rain sulphur dioxide on Georgian Bay’s wealthy cottagers, the old question will arise: Can Canada afford Inco’s terms – strikes, pollution, take it or leave it?
Inco seems to feel that Canada, perhaps more than other countries in which it operates, will continue to accept the terms. Walter Curlook, a senior vice-president of the company’s Ontario division, was reported to have told the Toronto Star in 1977, “I don’t think there’s any doubt in our minds that third world countries like Indonesia and Guatemala are much more likely to act quickly against Inco if we took measures that would seriously affect their social and economic development programs.”
Translation: in the event of local cutbacks and layoffs, Indonesia and Guatemala would be far quicker to nationalize the company than Canada ever would. Curlook denies having made so candid a statement.
The truth is, the company needs Canada more than Canada needs the company. Sudbury, with 20 years of proven nickel reserves – and in fact with about half its treasure trove untouched – provides some of the richest, cheapest ore in the world. All of the company’s costs are written off against the production cost of nickel alone. The rest – the copper, cobalt, platinum – is gravy. Sudbury gives the company its competitive advantage in price and in variety of metal products. Labour and pollution battles notwithstanding, Inco will be in Sudbury for many years to come, for Sudbury is the source of the King’s power.
But no matter how arrogant, short-sighted and insensitive the company may have been and may yet be, Canada needs – thinks it needs – the King. It’s a psychological blindness we have. Inco is now just a titular king, weakened in decision-making powers. But the company created by Sam Ritchie, R.M. Thompson and J.P. Morgan is, like the constitutional monarchy, too much a part of Canadian life to go. The voices of economic nationalists, environmentalists, trade unionists, are downed in the roar of drills, the belch of furnaces, the clang of cash registers and the clatter of stainless steel.
I asked a powerful man in the mining world about Inco’s future in Canada. He stared out his King Street window to the skyscraper where Inco’s offices glinted in the sun. “It’s in the guts of this country,” he said. He meant, it’s in the banks, in the communities, in the air and in the ground.
About the Author – Val Ross
In the two and a half months that writer Val Ross spent researching and writing the Inco story, she talked with scores of people – Inco management striking Sudbury workers and their families, nurse, politicians, union leaders, environmentalists, metals analysts and Inco competitors. She also waded through hundreds of thousands of works of material on Inco’s past in books, newspapers, magazines and Inco’s own substantial archives. In Sudbury last winter, she was only the third journalist able to talk her way through union pickle lines to company headquarters.
Ross has appeared in these pages before, writing on the business strategies of three pulp andpaper giants (September, 1978), and on Toronto corporate power John Aird (October, 1978). Even so, she considers herself a generalist rather than strictly a business journalist – and that she says, can be a major asset in writing a story as complex, as wide-ranging, as the present one. “People were perhaps more willing to explain things from scratch,” she says, “and in the process were more candid than they might otherwise have been.”