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"Hands up Corporate Crooks!" Not Really Unless it's in a Movie.

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Much of corporate wrongdoing such as endless wars, bribery of politicians, tax dodging and the like has been made legal by our three servile branches of government. What's left is illegal corporate wrongdoing, or corporate crime, and it is basically immune to being held accountable.

 

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to explain corporate wrongdoing either the legal or the illegal kind. It always happens when certain personal factors and certain situational factors, or badvantages (temptations and pressures), come together.

 

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First, needless to say, there must be corporate people predisposed to cut ethical and legal corners. Second, there must be badvantages within the corporation. They always exist. Ignoble expectations and upside down rewards are classic examples. Third, there must be badvantages outside the corporation. A hands-off government is a huge badvantage with its lap dogs instead of watch dogs; escape hatches (e.g., legal loopholes); pampering instead of prosecuting and punishing; and deregulation. Without these four laissez-faire policies and practices, corporate crime would shrivel.

 

Because this article was prompted by Rob Kall's November 28 piece, "Big corporations may not pay taxes, but they pay billions in fines for corruption," I am going to single out here for a brief discussion the fourth hands-off policy and practice, the pampering of corporate crooks.

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Stop Pampering, Start Prosecuting and Punishing Corporate Crooks

 

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld California's tough "3 strikes and you're out" law, letting stand two consecutive 25-year terms to life imprisonment with little chance for parole of a man convicted of stealing nine videotapes worth $150 after two earlier offenses. Now that's more like bloody overkill and certainly not a case of pampering or coddling the criminal! Consider, in stark contrast, pampered corporate criminals. If they only stole videotapes I wouldn't be writing this article. But by any stretch of the imagination corporate crime is not petty theft. Yet the paucity of its prosecution and the puniness of its punishment are beyond any stretch of the imagination except that of the corpocracy, the Devil's marriage between powerful corporate interests and all three branches of our government.

 

The best way to get tough on corporate crime is to stop the pampering and to start prosecuting and punishing, really punishing, the corporations and the crooks inside them. The Department of Justice, though, throws up one obstacle after another to meeting its own hypocritically stated goal of prosecuting and punishing corporate criminals. The thrust of any offensive to get tough on corporate crooks and their corporations, therefore, should be aimed at that federal agency, but not without also pressuring Congress for tough anti-crime legislation that neither the executive nor the judicial branch can circumvent. That thrust, of course, will have to wait until we rid America of her corpocracy entirely, but that is another and much broader subject.

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Numerous proposals for meaningful prosecution and punishment of corporate crime and criminals have been made in the literature and on the websites of a few NGOs although not as far as I can tell for preventing each and every one of the following ways the Department of Justice coddles corporate criminals: non-prosecution; "deferred" prosecution; mitigation; double-disclaimers; plea bargaining; non-criminal alternatives; and wrist slapping. And in every one of these ways we can be sure there are stables of corporate lawyers working to ensure their crooked employers go scot-free or nearly so.

 

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http://democracyorcorpocracy.blogspot.com/

Retired organizational psychologist.

Author of The Devil's Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch; America's Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying; and Corporate Reckoning Ahead.

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