Thursday, September 8, 2016

Seventeen Solutions – corporate crime

Continuing my overview of Ralph Nader's book, The Seventeen Solutions. Click here to get the rest of the series.

6. Crack Down on Corporate Crime

How many people have gone to jail as a result of causing the 2008-9 Great Recession by selling bogus mortgages, looting savings and pension funds, and otherwise crashing the economy and sending millions out of work and out of their homes, and then rigging a bailout that left us taxpayers with the bill?


In 2007 homeless Roy Brown went into a bank and asked for money. Though the clerk put lots of bills in front of him, Brown took only $100. He later voluntarily surrendered to the police and plead guilty. His sentence:

Fifteen years, costing taxpayers at least a half million.
Crime in the suites has always been punished much more lightly than crime in the streets. Yet corporate crime extracts a far greater toll. While politicians cry out about cracking down on street crime, they collect campaign money from politically powerful corporate crooks who are eager to see that enforcement budgets, prosecutorial will, and even data collection about their fraud, violence, and systemic abuse are to minimum. These corporate supremacists have achieved such control over the system that they're able to ensure what criminal laws are drafted to exclude their kind of crimes or to divert responsibility away from corporate bosses towards underlings or hollow company subsidiaries. They have managed to drive federal and state cops off the corporate crime beat to protect business as usual.
To consider only one category, medical billing fraud and abuse costs patients and taxpayers at least $250 billion a year. In the early 1990s the Savings and Loan mess cost taxpayers at least $300 billion.
We think of street crime as more dangerous than corporate crime – because street crime involves immediate physical danger, often takes place at nighttime, and is viscerally upsetting. But each year far more people die, become injured or sick, and lose their money, homes, and other property because of corporate crime than they do because of street crime. The scale of devastation is not even close. Year in and year out, roughly 60,000 Americans die from workplace-related disasters and trauma, 70,000 from air pollution, 100,000 from hospital negligence, and another 100,000 from hospital-induced infection. … And the list of preventable, silent violence goes on. If one of your kin or close friends was a victim of such corporate violence, would it be any consolidation to hear that at least the loss of your loved one didn't occur at the hands of terrorists or a crazed killer on the street?

Here are reasons why corporate crimes go undetected:

* Corporate power has made sure there is no database on corporate crime.

* There is no public outcry against corporate crime because news media doesn't report it (and much of media is corporate).

* There is little scholarship or training in corporate crime. Lawyers are unprepared to prosecute it.

* Corporate crime is usually invisible. Such crimes as pollution don't sicken or kill quickly.

* Taxpayers are affected indirectly. When military contractors, for example, defrauds the gov't a bill isn't sent to taxpayers. They only see it in future taxes or in the gov't debt, which is meaningless to them.

* Criminal penalties have been scrubbed from the law.

* Corporations are in business with their watchdogs – through advertising dollars given to media, through donations to candidates, through dismantling laws that allow victims to sue (called "tort reform").

* Crimes can take years and decades to wreak their damage.

An example: Back in 1949 General Motors, Phillips Petroleum, Standard Oil of California, and Firestone Tire violated anti-trust laws through a conspiracy to buy up and dismantle 100 electric trolley systems across America, forcing us to use cars (sold by GM) and buses, which created today's daily traffic jams, which wastes the time of millions of people and causes huge amounts of pollution. Recreating what was ripped out would cost maybe $300 billion. The companies were convicted. GM's fine: $5000.
When business theorists insist that corporations exist to make profits, and that so-called social responsibility is not their business, they tend to ignore the fact that obeying the law – and not corrupting its enforcers – should also be corporate business.
Russell Mokhiber, editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter, said:
Corporate criminals are the only criminal class in the United States that have the power to define the laws under which they live.
We have an advantage, though it is little used. Though corporations have money (lots of it), they can't vote. We can. In every Congressional district there are people damaged by corporate rampages. Start with a small core and allies will join. Confront your representative with the need for an overhaul of federal corporate criminal laws. Force a few highly visible hearings. Make sure the laws include jail time. Ban convicted corporations from receiving gov't contracts.
One way to understand the extent of the corporate crime problem in America is to imagine it as a raging street crime epidemic in New York City – with only one hundred police on duty to enforce the law and with all the police superiors taking contributions from the gangs.

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