Revoke their charters, and other legal tools to hold corporations accountable to our laws.
The last few years have seen a series of corporate catastrophes, for which the perpetrator companies have escaped any meaningful accountability. Big banks and giant Wall Street firms tricked and ripped off homeowners and investors, and crashed the national and global economy. BP’s reckless operations poisoned the Gulf of Mexico in one of the worst oil disasters in history. Massey Energy’s cost-cutting led to the Upper Big Branch coal mine collapse that killed 29 workers.
There have been virtually no criminal prosecutions for Wall Street wrongdoing related to the crash, and precious few civil actions. Criminal charges are likely to be filed against BP, but the company already has been granted new permits to drill for oil in the Gulf. Massey Energy—now owned by Alpha Natural Resources—was forced to pay $200 million in penalties but avoided any criminal prosecution.
This history notwithstanding, We the People, and our government representatives, do have the power to hold companies accountable for the wrongs they commit. The challenge is to mobilize sufficient political pressure to demand that available tools be used and new mechanisms of accountability be created.
One powerful way to hold companies accountable is through debarment—denying corporate wrongdoers the right to obtain government contracts. Almost every major company does significant business with the government, so debarment is a penalty with teeth. Similarly, federal, state, and local governments should deny other government benefits to corporate criminals and wrongdoers. Denying BP the right to drill in the Gulf is a penalty that would sting. Drug companies that can’t sell to Medicare, Medicaid, and the Department of Veterans Affairs are deprived of more than a third of their market. The Federal Communications Commission has the authority to deny broadcast licenses to media corporations that do not exhibit “good character.” Federal and state governments do frequently debar companies, but typically only smaller firms that engage in massive fraud or operate as criminal enterprises.
A second tool to discipline corporate wrongdoers is charter revocation. Establishing a new corporation requires that a state government grant a charter to operate. (This is typically a perfunctory requirement, as evidenced by the state of Virginia’s grant of a charter to Licensed to Kill, Inc., a company whose articles of incorporation state that it will engage in “manufactur[ing] and marketing of tobacco products in a way that each year kills over 400,000 Americans and 4.5 million other persons worldwide.”) State governments have the right to revoke charters from companies that do not serve the public interest. Free Speech for People has petitioned Delaware to revoke the charter of Massey Energy. Charter revocation effectively constitutes the death penalty for a corporation. Even occasional use against large corporations would be a major deterrent to corporate wrongdoing.
A third form of control on corporate wrongdoing is civil litigation. Lawsuits against corporate wrongdoers not only afford victims an opportunity to receive some compensation for the harms they have suffered, they work to strip corporations of ill-gotten gains. The civil justice system is a vital deterrent to corporate misconduct, because it means corporations will at least sometimes be forced to pay for the harms they cause. And lawsuits provide direct justice to victims of corporate wrongdoing, without the need to persuade government officials to act. In many ways, the U.S. civil justice system is the most important form of corporate accountability we have.
It’s for exactly these reasons that corporations have worked for decades to undermine the functioning of the civil justice system, making it harder to file cases, interfering with the ability of victims to join together in class actions, making it harder for victims to obtain evidence, capping the damages that victims may recover, limiting punitive damages, and forcing victims out of the civil justice system (real courts) and into arbitration tribunals biased to favor giant corporations.
In recent years, organizations like EarthRights International and the Center for Constitutional Rights have innovated new ways to hold corporations accountable in U.S. courts for harms perpetrated overseas, relying especially on a law passed in 1789 called the Alien Tort Claims Act. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has responded with a campaign to foreclose such litigation.
In addition to using these and other corporate accountability tools already at our disposal, we need more. Among other things, we need to significantly strengthen the penalties for corporate endangerment of people’s lives and well-being. In many instances, there is no criminal penalty applicable for recklessly putting consumers’ or workers’ lives at risk by knowingly selling dangerous pharmaceuticals or defective cars or by exposing workers to deadly toxic chemicals or other hazards. A law that would make it a felony to recklessly endanger consumers or workers, with stiff fines and sanctions for companies and jail time for responsible corporate management, would make our world safer and restrain corporate misconduct.
We live in a time of massive disparity between penalties for street criminals and corporate wrongdoers. Corporations, which claim all the rights of “persons,” are subjected to much weaker punishments than real people. It doesn’t have to be.
Link to original article from YES! Magazine
End Corporate Rule -
Over the telephone, in jail and online, a new digital bounty is being harvested: the human voice.
Businesses and governments around the world increasingly are turning to voice biometrics, or voiceprints, to pay pensions, collect taxes, track criminals and replace passwords.
“We sometimes call it the invisible biometric,” said Mike Goldgof, an executive at Madrid-based AGNITiO, one of about 10 leading companies in the field.
Those companies have helped enter more than 65m voiceprints into corporate and government databases, according to Associated Press interviews with dozens of industry representatives and records requests in...
The Guardian 20 Oct 2014 Hits:418 ECR Articles
Florida State University’s Board of Trustees recently selected a new president, Raw Story reported, going the controversial, political route by choosing Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign chairman, despite protests by angry students.
John Thrasher, 70, a die-hard conservative and former Florida Republican party leader, has no background in education whatsoever. On record, he will be the only public university president in Florida without a doctorate. He was chosen over three other highly qualified finalists, all of whom would have lead FSU by experience rather than with radical political interests.
Thrasher, like Gov. Scott, refuses...
Alex Chastain | Ring of Fire 20 Oct 2014 Hits:258 ECR Articles
Even by the anything-goes ethical code of the corporate jungle, Amazon.com's alpha male, Jeff Bezos, is considered a ruthless predator by businesses that deal with him. As overlord of Amazon, by far the largest online marketer in the world (with more sales than the next nine US online retailers combined), Bezos has the monopoly power to stalk, weaken, and even kill off retail competitors--including going after such giants as Barnes & Noble and Walmart, as well as draining the lifeblood from hundreds of small Main Street shops. He also goes...
Jim Hightower | Hightower Lowdown 05 Oct 2014 Hits:495 ECR Articles
The Justice Department has launched criminal fraud investigations of individuals at Wall Street firms, with the hopes of filing formal charges in the coming months, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday.
“We are making good progress in these cases, which involve conduct that has undermined the integrity of our markets,” Holder said at New York University Law School.
The nation’s top prosecutor did not go into detail about the inquiries, but people familiar with the cases say the probes involve the possible manipulation of the $5.3 trillion global foreign-exchange markets.
At least seven...
Danielle Douglas | The Washington Post 21 Sep 2014 Hits:1263 ECR Articles
WASHINGTON — Today the Senate roundly defeated a Republican filibuster that had been preventing the Senate from moving to consideration of the Democracy For All Amendment. The Senate is expected to take up the Amendment following the expiration of post-cloture debate time. People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:
“Achieving a full Senate debate on the amendment is a historic step forward in the movement to take back our democracy from powerful corporations and billionaires.
“The American people are angry that their voices are being...
Marge Baker | People for the American Way Vice President 08 Sep 2014 Hits:633 ECR Articles
This Monday marks a momentous day: the U.S. Senate will vote on a constitutional amendment to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court's disastrous decisions in cases like Citizens United and McCutcheon.
"Billionaires buying elections is not what American democracy is about and it is not what our Constitution stands for," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), writing in the July/August edition of The Progressive.
This vote is a victory for many in the movement that started calling for amending the Constitution four years ago, after the 2010 Citizens United decision opened the floodgates to...
The Progressive, Inc. 05 Sep 2014 Hits:698 ECR Articles
Andrew Sabin gave Republicans so much money in 2012 that he accidentally went over a limit on how much individuals could donate to federal candidates and party committees.
So Sabin, who owns a New York-based precious-metals refining business, was delighted when the Supreme Court did away with the limit in April. Since then, he has been doling out contributions to congressional candidates across the country — in Colorado, Texas, Iowa and “even Alaska,” he said.
Top Republicans have taken notice: Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have paid him...
04 Sep 2014 Hits:435 ECR Articles
It would be a shock to most Americans when eventually 300million people realize that they have been and are being fooled and manipulated. If anyone were to say “the US Government is run by Wall Street, mega corporations, their lobbyists and the super-rich” they are certainly not far from the truth. The knowledge of this should drive home why countries are being invaded and companies end up gaining the contracts while placing their own American soldiers in harms way. It should also make people begin to realize why freedom of...
Shenali D Waduge | SinhalaNet 24 Aug 2014 Hits:934 ECR Articles
A Pentagon contract announced this week sheds new light on the controversy over corporate inversions, and how tough the federal government really will be on all those companies skedaddling to Europe to avoid paying income taxes.
Pentagon purchasing agents awarded Abbott Laboratories of North Chicago a $19.5 million contract for technology that diagnoses brain injuries, even though the medical products company recently cut a deal that will poke a hole in Uncle Sam's coffers. Inversions enable companies to escape relatively high U.S. corporate tax rates by reincorporating overseas through an acquisition.
Joe Cahill | Crain's Chicago Business 22 Aug 2014 Hits:506 ECR Articles
A Colorado lawmaker wants to end a long-running practice that fuels mistrust of the federal government.
After retiring from office or losing re-election, many congressional lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats alike — launch lucrative careers as lobbyists at law firms, lobbying shops, business and trade organizations, and other well-heeled interest groups, many of which are located on the infamous K Street.
Sen. Michael Bennet introduced a bill this month to ban that. The bill, which he introduced along with Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., would prevent former members from lobbying Congress permanently.
Raju Chebium | Coloradoan 03 Aug 2014 Hits:861 ECR Articles
With the recent rulings of this right-wing dominated Supreme Court, it was hard to celebrate our nation's 238th birthday this past July 4th. Indeed, the Hobby Lobby decision delivered a hard blow not just to women in the workplace, but to the basic rights of all Americans. Essentially, the five Roberts Radicals gave corporations the right to refuse to deliver coverage provided in the Affordable Care Act to female employees for contraception and access to reproductive healthcare if it conflicted with the religious beliefs of their employers. One might wonder...
Pearl Korn | Huffington Post 15 Jul 2014 Hits:537 ECR Articles
Constitutional amendments are often proposed but rarely advanced to the stage of serious debate. What moves any meaningful amendment from mere paperwork to serious consideration is the popular will of the great mass of Americans. And the popular will of the great mass of Americans have been abundantly clear since the United States Supreme Court struck down barriers to corporate control of democracy with its 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.
Sixteen American states and roughly 600 communities have formally told Congress that the Constitution must be amended to...
John Nichols | The Nation 11 Jul 2014 Hits:377 ECR Articles
The US government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country's citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities has concluded.
The report, entitled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, used extensive policy data collected from between the years of 1981 and 2002 to empirically determine the state of the US political system.
After sifting through nearly 1,800 US policies enacted in that period and comparing them to the expressed preferences of...
Zachary Davies Boren | The Telegraph 17 Apr 2014 Hits:1145 ECR Articles
Companies do not have a right to lie to their shareholders, a German judge ruled this week. But sometimes, she added, lies are necessary.
And with that Carola Wittig, a judge in the state court in Stuttgart, dismissed a suit filed by a group of hedge funds that lost a lot of money when Porsche Holding, the owner of the Porsche automaker at the time, lied about its intentions regarding Volkswagen.
“It was hardly possible to react to public speculation about a takeover of VW except with a denial,” the court explained...
Floyd Norris | New York Times 23 Mar 2014 Hits:616 ECR Articles
Think of Dixie, and your mind probably conjures something like "Duck Dynasty" — bearded men bouncing along dirt roads in pickup trucks, raucously waving rebel flags.
You probably wouldn’t think of black-tied bankers cavorting in the plush ballroom of Manhattan's St. Regis hotel. But were you to peek inside the recent gathering of a secret Wall Street society, you’d have witnessed investment banking tycoon Warren Stephens taking the stage in a Confederate flag hat, performing an ode to finance to the tune of “Dixie." "In Wall Street land we’ll take our...
Lynn Stuart Parramore | AlterNet 27 Feb 2014 Hits:728 ECR Articles
Talk about revenge of the C students! The nation’s biggest telecom company, Comcast, which took over NBCUniversal a year ago, wants to buy the second biggest company, Time-Warner Cable, to create an empire of 30-million subscribers. That’s a third of all American homes with cable for its TV, internet service and telephones.
The merger has to be approved by federal regulators as being in the public interest and not a monopoly. How Comcast, the world’s largest media company and one of America’s most reviled companies threads that needle will be a...
Steven Rosenfeld | AlterNet 14 Feb 2014 Hits:1027 ECR Articles
Sen. Al Franken launched a petition on Tuesday calling for the overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United, the 2010 ruling that has been widely held responsible for allowing an unprecedented influx of anonymous corporate money into local and national politics.
By Friday, the site-based petition had received nearly 229,000 individually verified signatures on MoveOn.org, including a lengthy list of outraged and pleading comments.
“In Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that corporations are guaranteed the same free speech rights as real people to...
Carey L. Biron | Mint Press News 20 Jan 2014 Hits:1755 ECR Articles
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
A toxic spill in West Virginia's Elk River has left 300,000 local residents without water for the past week. The leak came from a storage facility for chemicals used to process coal, and it's left many wondering if industry regulations are too lax, especially for the company responsible for the leak, Freedom Industries.
Let's take a look at what the president of the company had to say after being pressed by a local reporter about mapping out a...
Jessica Desvarieux | The Real News Network 20 Jan 2014 Hits:749 ECR Articles
Hobby Lobby, a chain of crafts stores, closes on Sundays, costing its owners millions but honoring their Christian faith.
The stores play religious music. Employees get free spiritual counseling. But they do not get free insurance coverage for some contraceptives, even though President Obama’s health care law requires it.
Hobby Lobby, a corporation, says that forcing it to provide the coverage would violate its religious beliefs. A federal appeals court agreed, and the Supreme Court is set to decide on Tuesday whether it will hear the Obama administration’s appeal from that decision...
Adam Liptak | The New York Times 25 Nov 2013 Hits:967 ECR Articles
The European Union said it plans to close a loophole in the corporate tax code that allows some companies to pay little or no tax by routing profits abroad, amid a mounting furor over the tax practices of major corporations such as Apple Inc. and Google Inc.
The proposal by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, aims to boost tax revenue for national budgets at a time of biting austerity and ensure that companies pay a fair amount of tax.
“We can no longer afford freeloaders who reap huge profits in...
Tom Fairless | The Wall Street Journal 25 Nov 2013 Hits:840 ECR Articles
The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council is wading back into election issues, as it considers supporting a bill that would increase the role of state legislatures in the election of U.S. senators, chipping away at the powers vested directly in the people under the 17th Amendment.
ALEC circulates model legislation to state legislators, and its bills have resulted in states passing laws related to voter ID, so-called Stand Your Ground issues and the elimination or reduction of state income taxes.
In early December, a group of ALEC members are scheduled to consider...
Amanda Terkel The Huffington Post 15 Nov 2013 Hits:767 ECR Articles
The American people created the post office. The American people can still save the post office. But we need to do something right now.
In July 2011 the United States Postal Service (USPS) management announced it would rapidly close 3600 local post offices and eventually as many as 15,000. And shutter half the nation’s mail processing centers.
A frenzy of grassroots activity erupted as citizens in hundreds of towns mobilized to save a treasured institution that plays a key and sometimes a defining role in their communities. Only when Congress appeared ready...
David Morris | On the Commons 05 Nov 2013 Hits:762 ECR Articles
Way under the radar screen of Big Media, which is too busy wallowing around in every flaw of the early glitches of healthcare.gov to notice anything else going on no matter how important, is a hugely consequential Senate confirmation fight happening this week. This fight may well have a bigger impact on our economy than any other confirmation this fight. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has not had an official chief for years now, but after too long a delay President Obama nominated a solid, well-respected North Carolina congressman...
Mike Lux | Huffington Post 30 Oct 2013 Hits:698 ECR Articles
In its landmark 1976 decision Buckley v.Valeo, the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of laws aimed at “the prevention of corruption and the appearance of corruption spawned by the real or imagined coercive influence of large financial contributions on candidates’ positions and on their actions if elected to office.”
In that light, let’s take a look at the record of campaign contributions to Spencer Bachus, a Republican congressman from Alabama and a prime example of the interaction between special interest campaign contributions and the legislative process.
For all intents and purposes, Bachus,...
Thomas B Edsall | The New York Times 18 Oct 2013 Hits:826 ECR Articles
As the federal government shutdown continues, Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Asia for secret talks on a sweeping new trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is often referred to by critics as "NAFTA on steroids," and would establish a free trade zone that would stretch from Vietnam to Chile, encompassing 800 million people — about a third of world trade and nearly 40 percent of the global economy. While the text of the treaty has been largely negotiated behind closed doors and, until June, kept secret from...
Amy Goodman | Democracy NOW! 18 Oct 2013 Hits:1055 ECR Articles
The latest wrecking ball flailing around in the rubble of America’s election and campaign finance laws, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, will be argued in the Supreme Court on October 8. Once again we can expect counsel and some members of the Court to be on the lookout for deviant, “forbidden” thinking about money and democracy.
As in Citizens United in 2010, the Arizona public funding case in 2011 (American Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett), and the Montana challenge to Citizens United in 2012 (American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock),...
Jeff Clements | ACS 08 Oct 2013 Hits:959 ECR Articles
Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating. Nominate our next Truthdigger here.
The extreme want of coverage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in even the independent, alternative press is a testament to the near-complete domination of politics and the news media by transnational corporate interests....
06 Oct 2013 Hits:864 ECR Articles
That's over and above our payments to the big companies for energy and food and housing and health care and all our tech devices. It's $6,000 that no family would have to pay if we truly lived in a competitive but well-regulated free-market economy.
The $6,000 figure is an average, which means that low-income families are paying less. But it also means that families (households) making over $72,000 are paying more than $6,000 to the corporations.
1. $870 for Direct Subsidies and Grants to Companies
The Cato Institute estimates that the U.S. federal...
Paul Buchheit | Common Dreams 30 Sep 2013 Hits:1134 ECR Articles
To quote famed short seller David Einhorn: “No matter how bad you think it is, it’s worse.” On the “corruption among what passes for our elites” front, this story about self-dealing in the privatization of the Postal Service gives an indication of how bad things really are.
By way of backstory: the Postal Service is being plundered through the device of a completely fabricated financial crisis. The mail provider has been widely declared to be broke, but that’s utter hogwash. Congress has created the appearance of financial ill health via a...
Yves Smith | Naked Capitalism 26 Sep 2013 Hits:1061 ECR Articles
An amendment dubbed the "Monsanto Protection Act," which currently allows large agriculture and biotech corporations to ignore court orders involving the safety of genetically modified seeds, has been stripped from Senate's spending bill that could be voted on as early as Wednesday afternoon.
Following an organized campaign against the provision in recent months, its removal was being cheered by food safety and environmental activists as a victory.
The Monsanto Protection Act, otherwise known as the Farmer Assurance Provision rider, was wedged into a stop-gap budget bill that passed earlier this year and signed into law...
Jacob Chamberlain | Common Dreams 25 Sep 2013 Hits:789 ECR Articles
Today, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of the award-winning ALECexposed.org, launched OutsourcingAmericaExposed.org, a web resource devoted to helping taxpayers identify the corporations seeking to privatize public assets and services in their communities: including their schools, roads, prisons, drinking water, court systems, and more.
Once a week for the next several weeks, CMD will unveil corporate profiles of America’s most notorious corporations that are quietly working with state and local lawmakers to take over public services with little accountability, along with in-depth examinations of the CEOs personally profiting from...
Center for Media and Democracy's PRWatch 24 Sep 2013 Hits:848 ECR Articles
Discussions about removing government management of the U.S. air-traffic control system are the most serious in two decades, prompted by budget cuts and uncertain funding for converting to satellite navigation.
Leaders of the U.S. air-traffic controllers’ union and a private-pilot lobbying group, once fierce opponents of taking control of the system away from the Federal Aviation Administration, have endorsed talks on other ways to manage and pay for aviation safety.
“There are conversations taking place among the stakeholders,” Gerald Dillingham, civil aviation director of the U.S. Government Accountability Office, said in an...
Alan Levin | Bloomberg 24 Sep 2013 Hits:841 ECR Articles
In a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke dated June 27, 2013, US Representative Alan Grayson and three co-signers expressed concern about the expansion of large banks into what have traditionally been non-financial commercial spheres. Specifically:
[W]e are concerned about how large banks have recently expanded their businesses into such fields as electric power production, oil refining and distribution, owning and operating of public assets such as ports and airports, and even uranium mining.
After listing some disturbing examples, they observed:
According to legal scholar Saule Omarova, over the past five years, there has...
Ellen Brown | Common Dreams 31 Aug 2013 Hits:1034 ECR Articles
The Center for Media and Democracy filed a letter with the Texas Attorney General on Thursday refuting efforts by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to declare itself immune from…
Congressman Darrell Issa really is determined to end the United States Postal Service as Americans know it—indeed, as Americans have known it for more than 200 years.
Issa, the powerful chairman…
As part of our ongoing focus on the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, we checked in with health insurance executive turned industry whistleblower Wendell Potter to learn about ALEC’s efforts to influence…
For two weeks, protesters have been living in a tent city outside a post office in Berkeley, California. The participants are staging the sleep-in to save the post office from…
Student after student on Wednesday took to the podium at a public board meeting of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to deliver a unified message against efforts by Mayor Rahm…
When I learned last winter that I would have a seat on the Senate Banking Committee, I was very happy because I knew it would give me the opportunity to…
For Republicans who want to cut the number of food stamp recipients, here’s a helpful suggestion: Support the ordinance passed last week by the D.C. Council, which required big-box stores…
The global day of protest against the giant corporation Monsanto was a major success, as two million people showed up in cities around the world.
The global day of protest against…
A fundamental struggle for democracy is going on behind the scenes in statehouses around the country, as a handful of wealthy individuals and foundations pour money into efforts to privatize…
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