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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.

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.

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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A. Corportions don't kill. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pvasileff, HoundDog

    B. People with corporations kill.
    C. Thus, beneath all the mountains of paperwork, organization charts, underlings and stock certificates...

    ...lies a thug.

    Get.  The.  Thug.

    Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

    by dov12348 on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 02:52:19 PM PDT

  •  this is important (7+ / 0-)

    the idea that money equal speech means that speech equal influence, and that's just silly.  We have the freedom to say mean things about our leaders, and we can express ourselves on anything, but we can't yell fire in a theater, because that speech is influence, it would cause others to run and lead to injury and death.

    If corporations are people, then they can locked up for life, or even die for their crimes.  But, corporations can declare bankruptcy and cancel their previous debts, or just change names and be a new entity.  

    There is no way for a human body to do that.  

    Roberts is cracked.

    (someone had to say it)

    •  Because corporations are artificial bodies, (6+ / 0-)

      like the federal government and all the states, its duties and obligations and operations are supposed to be clearly specified in their charter ahead of time. Then, when the organization is found to be in non-compliance, it can be terminated. What has been lacking is the will to enforce, largely because the officers in our governmental corporations like having the other corporations at their beck and call and to do their dirty work (keeping them in power) for them. Also, there's the problem of the claim to privacy and proprietary information and patent rights which enable corporations to hide what they are up to. If there are no inspections and no complaints, then law enforcement has nothing to go on. Dodd-Frank addressed that somewhat in regards to the banks, which are now obligated to file regular reports. Previously, it was difficult for regulators to get a look at their books unless some individual was caught in flagrante delictu. It is, no doubt, hoped that the Consumer Protection Bureau will serve as a platform for receiving complaints about abuses. But, again, the system is not automatic. Citizens have to file complaints. Just writing a letter to the editor is not enough.

      by hannah on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 03:49:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  An oversight then? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Just because they didn't put "Don't Kill People" in their corporate charter, there's nothing to be done?

        Do they really have to write that in? I would have thought it was a given...

        Reality has a well-known liberal bias -- Stephen Colbert

        by ItsaMathJoke on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 05:36:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Actually, the law as it affects individuals (0+ / 0-)

          presumes that the majority of behaviors or actions are good. So, it enumerates the small percentage that are bad and issues prohibitions, which do not, by the way, prevent the bad but merely set the predicate for punishment or restraint after the fact.
          Corporate bodies are governed by a different regimen. They are, supposedly, limited by a discreet set of duties and obligations they are tasked with carrying out. It's a positive regimen -- do this and that and nothing more. The amendments to the Constitution, IMHO, upset that basic pattern by appending prohibitions, which then led to the argument that whatever isn't prohibited is permitted. And that's what we are suffering under now. That and the theory that the intent to protect overrides all other limits.  That is, since the President and his associates are not above the law under ordinary circumstances, in the interest of protecting the nation (providing for national security) they are. That's why the AUMF hasn't been repealed. That's the ticket to dictatorship. In the name of securing the nation (an amorphous entity that can't be secured) all individual rights can be ignored. That's the theory and they're going to stick to it because in a hierarchy, which is what the Cons insist on having, someone's authority has to be absolute. The Commander in Chief is important because he's got lots of chiefs under him.

          If a person is committed to absolute rule, the U.S. Constitution is an onerous document because it sets positive limits. Prohibitions, in general, are much less restrictive than obligations and duties. Prohibitions are easy to evade by simply changing the verbiage. Just consider all the permutations of "thou shalt not kill" that can be achieved by the reclassification to homicide, aggravated assault, execution, capital punishment, manslaughter, intentional or accidental murder, etc.

          by hannah on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 11:53:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  And if a killed corporation is later found (4+ / 0-)

    Innocent, nobody dies for that mistake, just the innocents who started the investigation.

  •  Of Course Not Silly. Corporations ALSO Have the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, happymisanthropy

    same rights as people.

    One little word makes all the difference.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 03:12:51 PM PDT

  •  It's ridiculous how they want it both ways... (8+ / 0-)

    Corporations want to be 'people' until it comes down to responsibility and accountability.

    If a corporation kills someone due to blatant negligence or willful misconduct or malfeasance... they deserve the corporate death penalty -- or at least -- be made to provide a full, lifetime compensation to that person's family.

    "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." - 17th-century French clergyman and statesman Cardinal Richelieu.

    by markthshark on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 03:13:52 PM PDT

    •  But the do........... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Corporations are merely a tool authorized by the State to shield investors/management from excess business risk.  That way people will be more willing to form businesses, create jobs and earn profits which generate tax dollars.

      If a Corporation is found liable for a death, it will be held civilly liable for the same amount of dollars as if the death were caused by an individual.

      As for criminal activity, the people who are responsible for criminal acts while acting through a corporation are NOT shielded from criminal liability.  For example, Dennis Kozlowski or Bernie Madoff who are enjoying their time at Club Fed.

  •  aristocrats weren't bound by the "common law" (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, JohnB47, houyhnhnm, HoundDog

    Thus commoners had no legal rights vis-a-vis the aristocracy.

    Ironically, this was the entire reason behind the formation of the Star Chamber court: institutionalize the King's inherent power as the "fount of justice" to make consequences for the rich and powerful who were beyond the reach of the common law courts or able to corrupt them.

    Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

    by Visceral on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 03:25:55 PM PDT

  •  Corporations are easy to terminate by the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JohnB47, HoundDog

    states that authorize their charters. All that's necessary is for the charter to be rescinded. That can happen if they don't pay their annual registration fee, but often doesn't because the state prefers to collect the dollars.

    Because the Congress is stingy with dollars, the states have to scramble for every one they collect. So, the irresponsibility of Congress echoes all down the line. State and local governments have to borrow at interest from the banks to fund capital improvements. Which is another boon Congress extends to their friends in the bank, bond and insurance industries. It's just like a Mafia protection racket, except the local governments don't get protected.

    by hannah on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 03:39:07 PM PDT

  •  There's a whole litany of things (4+ / 0-)

    that people do that corporations are not required to do.  On the other hand, there are things that corporations can do that individuals cannot.

    To say that they are the same for one thing (speech) and then not require the other things be equal can be demonstrated to be absurd.

    For example: People get drafted into the armed services.  Can a corporation be drafted?

    How about putting Exxon-Mobil on jury duty.  Not one person - no sir.  Everyone!  ALL Exxon-Mobil employees have to show up for jury-duty to server as ONE person on a 12 person jury.

    A person is not a corporation and a corporation is NOT a person.  It's total fiction for the sake of the oligarchs that run this country.

    Roberts is an absolute idiot.

    Ted Cruz: The second coming of Christ, but not Reagan (yet).

    by nuketeacher on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 03:53:33 PM PDT

  •  Corporations cannot be 'people', because ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    houyhnhnm, HoundDog

    they cannot meet the standards of the the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment which requires all persons be born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, and be citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

    I forget your question, but that's my answer.

    by glb3 on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 03:58:56 PM PDT

  •  You are suggesting that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gchaucer2, HoundDog

    a Company that employs hundreds of thousands of people be obliterated. That seems like overkill. I don't even like the death penalty for individuals anyway. The remedy in the past has been that juries massively punish Corporations for malfeasance and governments fine them plenty. That seems reasonable as long as the fines and damages are proportionate. In the case of criminal activity by executives, they should be prosecuted under criminal statutes and I think that's where the problem lies currently. We just don't criminally prosecute enough of the SOB's.

    Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

    by Anne Elk on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 03:59:29 PM PDT

    •  In my post, GM is offered as an example of this (0+ / 0-)

      issue in the forth paragraph. After we went to all the trouble to save it for jobs and the ripple impact on our economy, so as I say there, the punishment there should be to zero out shareholder equity, and replacing the very top management, keeping the jobs, and auctioning the stock to new owners, putting the precedes in a national  trust fund for victims of corporate malfeasance, as not all can pay for their damages.  

      "Seriously, Folks, WTH?" - ("What the Heck? "h/t Joan McCarter, Seriously, Florida. WTF?)

      by HoundDog on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 06:38:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not nearly enough (0+ / 0-)

      they need to be punished severely enough to deter further crimes of the same nature in the future, which rarely happens.  

      "killing" a corporation would not put it out of business, most could easily be reopened under new ownership and new management.

  •  To answer your question (6+ / 0-)

    Yes, yes they should.

    Once upon a time we did.  Just ask Ma Bell  and Standard Oil.  

    Long ago and far away ...

    "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

    by Steven D on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 04:21:05 PM PDT

  •  I think we need to take the idea of corporate (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    personhood to the next level. Emancipate them.

    After all, a person can no longer be owned in this country, so why do we allow a corporate person to be owned? They should be freed immediately from the bonds of ownership. Let them all become non-profits.

    (This isn't my original idea; I read it elsewhere here on DK but don't remember who to credit. But I like it so much that I felt it should be raised agin in this context.)

  •  This kind of coherent reasoning (0+ / 0-)

    is bound to get you in hot water with any number of Republicans who are very big on the preeminence of invisible entities.

  •  I'm SO on board with this (0+ / 0-)

    First, let me say that I oppose the death penalty for humans.  Murder by the state is still murder.  

    However I'm going contrarian on this one.  Corporations are not people and don't have the same rights.  Corporate policies certainly kill people.  Toyota killed something like 800 by not fessing up and fixing the sudden speed up issue.  Ford and the famous exploding Pinto is the poster child.  And how about BP to name just three?

    Although I don't believe in the human death penalty I do believe that civilization has the right to protect it'self from certain dangerous individuals, mad-dogs and people alike.  You can safely remove dangerous people from society for the rest of their lives.  However you can't lock up corporations.  There is no MAX for the Toyota's and Fords and BP's of the world.  You can put them out of business but to do that you would have to seize their assets or else they could just reconstitute under a different name.  

    Of course seizing the assets is harsh.  Execution by any means is harsh punishment.  It is the ultimate punishment.  It's supposed to be harsh to deter the temptation to make the calculation that it is cheaper to ignore or buy off the problem than to fix it.  

    What would the average person support if a human serial killer were proved to have killed 800?  

    Death, death I say to corporate mad-dogs.  

    A bad idea isn't responsible for those who believe it. ---Stephen Cannell

    by YellerDog on Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 11:30:03 PM PDT

  •  Corporations (0+ / 0-)

    have contracts. Those contracts (at least the ones I had to read) generally said that the corporation would have "all of the rights and none of the responsibilities" relating to the contracted item/service.

    Sounds like they've taken that to heart, and broadly applied it.

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