Shades of Salem as hysteria does the trick

In Arthur Miller's classic play The Crucible, about the Salem witch trials in early North America, protagonist John Proctor willingly walks to the gallows rather than sign his name to a crime he knew he did not commit, implicating others and ruining his good name.

In Arthur Miller's classic play The Crucible, about the Salem witch trials in early North America, protagonist John Proctor willingly walks to the gallows rather than sign his name to a crime he knew he did not commit, implicating others and ruining his good name.

Miller was, of course, using the hysteria about imagined witchcraft in Massachusetts in the late 17th century as an allegory to comment on the McCarthy trials of the 1950s. Either way, the lessons were the same.

CSL has chosen a different path to that of John Proctor, and although it is not facing a similar fate at the end of the hangman's noose, it has decided to give $US64 million ($68 million) to a handful of hospitals that, instead of witches, saw a grand conspiracy by the company to defraud its customers through price fixing.

After four years of fighting CSL has given in, and given up any chance to clear its name and prove its innocence in the full public gaze of the US court system.

John Proctor never had shareholders, customers and a multibillion-dollar global plasma business to run; that CSL does seems to have finally won over the company's management and board to pay off the plaintiffs - no matter how distasteful it might be.

CSL lawyers believed a trial would have cost $20 million, although this is pretty small beer compared with annual revenue of more than $5 billion. It seems CSL did not fancy its chances in a jury trial. But if juries can sit on cases as complex as Enron, why not on a case about cartels? We will never know now.

The plaintiffs lined up against CSL never found a "smoking gun" that would have proved their case. However, sometimes a little bit of hysteria can go a long way. Just look at the graves in Salem.

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