Mattel CEO Robert Eckert reversed the toy-making giant's fortunes in the seven years he has lead the company, pleasing shareholders with a better return on investment. The company made $592 million in profits last year alone. But what was good for business, it seems, was not good for the health of American children.
To what extent relying on cheap Chinese manufacturers who substituted toxic lead paint for benign alternatives played a role in the company's fortunes is unclear -- but it will no doubt be on the minds of the Senators who will question Eckert Wednesday.
Some 80% of U.S. toys are made in China or Mexico, where government oversight isn't as thorough as it was when manufacturers were operating in the U.S. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration have proved unable to meet the challenge of inspecting imports to ensure they are safe and comply with U.S. law.
For Mattel, the reliance on cheap at the expense of safe -- if that's what this story proves to be about -- may not be good for business either. Mattel's stock is falling fast. Its reputation is falling faster.
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