A short while ago, I wrote Slap on wrist" for GM's crimes" raises questions of unequal application of justice in U.S., reviewing Peer Drier outstanding article General Motors: Another Slap on the Wrist for a Crime in the Suites." I was so taken with his thesis on the uneven application of social justice in America and in such a rush to get to some articles on some corporate environmental crimes, while also trying to take care of an ill friend, that I missed a more important bigger picture point.
In 1895, Eugene V. Debs -- the patriotic labor leader, socialist, and five-time presidential candidate -- observed: "There is something wrong in this country; the judicial nets are so adjusted as to catch the minnows and let the whales slip through.
If the Supreme Court and Congress is telling us that corporations are going to have many of the same rights as people, shouldn't they also have the same responsibilities, and requirements to live by, and abide by the same laws, and have similar punishments for breaking these laws?
When criminal behavior by the leadership of a corporation goes beyond that of a single bad apple, and can be proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, to be part of an ongoing criminal conspiracy involving numerous executives setting corporate strategy, policy, and operating on behalf of maximizing corporate profits, for an ongoing period of time, and the board of directors and other officer responsible for corporate governance and oversight fail to correct such criminal behavior, should not this corporation be sentenced to "death," or at least he equivalent of "life in prison?"
Or, in this case, after just going to such heroic efforts to keep GM alive for the benefit of workers, dependent supply chain companies, and our economy, the remedy should be to "wipe out existing stockholders" by auctioning of the assets for funds to be held by a public trust used for victims of corporate malfeasance.
What about GM who killed 13 people by purposefully deciding to follow a lethal policy in order to "play he odds" an save money? If GM were a person, would you want such a dangerous psychopathic serial killer, virtually certain to use his same logic to kill again, tot walk the streets? Let's ask ourselves the same question with the examples of Duke Energy, the BP Gull oil spill, the TEPCO Fukushima nuclear incident, the Bophal disaster.
Drier informs us that congress has capped the maximum find our regulatory agencies can charge corporations for transgressions, no matter how egregious they are. Corporations put these fines in their business models as part of their cost/benefit models and chose to intentionally violate these regulations and even laws. Recently, I posted an article describing how Duke Energy worked worked to have the environmental laws of North Carolina changed to allow it to knowingly dump poisons into local streams. Writers here have written hundreds of articles describing how ALEC is gutting environmental and other regulatory restrictions corporations find inconvient.
Corporations calculate the odds of being caught for violating the law and, if caught, the likelihood and size of the penalties. For example, companies routinely fire employees who express pro-union sympathies during union organizing drives. ... GM documents reveal that the company knew about the problem with its ignition switches as far back as 2001. On several of its brands -- including the Chevrolet Cobalt and HHR and the Saturn Ion -- the ignition switches would slip out of its "run" position and shut off the engine while the car was still in motion. Without the engine power, drivers couldn't control the steering or the brakes, and the airbags wouldn't function in case of a crash.
The company says it is aware of 31 crashes, 12 deaths in the United States, and one death in Canada linked to the ignition switch problem. Apparently, GM engineers redesigned the switch in 2006, but the company failed to assign it a new part number, so neither dealers nor mechanics knew about the need to replace the old version.
GM waited until February and March of this year to issue a recall of 2.5 million small cars manufactured between 2003 and 2011. Congress called GM CEO Barra to answer questions on April 1 about what the company knew, when the knew it, and what they did about it. She told Congress she was "deeply sorry" and that under her leadership a "new GM" will do things differently. "We will learn from this, and we will make changes and we will hold people accountable," she said. But she failed to explain how or why GM failed to deal with the problem for more than a decade. Nor did she identify the GM employees who failed to fix the fatal flaw that led to the deaths and injuries.
Instead, GM is being fined $7,000/day, for only submitting one third of the documents NHTSA has requested. How long will it take before working with ALEC GM has the words "compliance optional" inserted into these regulations"
Peter Drier puts his finger on it when he closes his excellent essay saying that until some of these top GM executives go to jail and have to pay fines out of their personal wealth, we are going to continue to be victimized by criminal corporate behavior.
We make efforts to put human psychopaths on trail and even televise their trails on cable TV channels like HLN, (Remember Jody Arias, 24/7?) Why do we let corporate psychopaths and serial killers rampage freely across our country? Until we start putting some away we will continue to be victimized by their criminality. If you read only one article I recommend this month, please make it this one by Peter Dreir
2:55 PM PT: Some might think it is too harsh to "put corporations" to death" by seizing all of their shareholder assets and putting them in a special trust fund for victims, or holding them to the same standards that we hold "human people", but please consider if this were done even once, can you imagine how quickly the theme of shareholder board meetings would shift to concentrate on finding CEO reknowned for their ethical behavior.
The independent corporate auditors will not be looking for missed tax loopholes but possible criminal behavior by their executives.
Also, if executive know that criminal behavior on their part tis not going to be over looked or even rewarded by corporations, but they will have to pay fines and legal fees from their personal assets they may be less willing, or eager to seek or go along with such "opportutnities" for illicit profit.