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Corporate Crime Pays!

Law professor Mihailis Diamantis joins us for a lively discussion about why corporations get away with murder – or at least manslaughter – and what systemic changes need to be made to bring corporate criminals to justice. Then, Christopher Shaw, author of “First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat” explains how important it is to revive the U.S. Postal Service.

Mihailis Diamantis is Professor of Law at the University of Iowa, and organizer of the “Imagining a World Without Corporate Criminal Law” symposium. His own paper for the symposium, which he co-authored with W. Robert Thomas (of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan) is entitled But We Haven’t Got Corporate Criminal Law!

The fact is that corporate crime pays in the United States… The fact of the matter is that these [fines] which seem astronomical to us individuals are drops in the bucket when we’re talking about these massive corporate behemoths– the ones who are A. most likely to engage in this type of criminal conduct, and B. the most likely to get some of these sweetheart deals from the DOJ.

Mihailis Diamantis, law professor at University of Iowa

 

Boeing– a repeat offender who had entered into a settlement with the FAA just less than three years before its first 737 Max crash, over similar safety issues– got away from the DOJ without any oversight of the reform that it promised to implement… Instead, all that Boeing got away with, with the DOJ, was a promise to reform its compliance systems on its own, and then to submit annual reports to the Department of Justice (drafted by Boeing and their in-house attorneys…) to the DOJ. That’s just a promise to do better in the future. Boeing already violated the trust implicit in its Charter to conduct business in a lawful manner.

Mihailis Diamantis, law professor at University of Iowa

 

Manslaughter charges have been on the books for years. If you drive a car erratically, because you’re inebriated, down a road and you kill a pedestrian, you can be prosecuted and go to jail. Corporations can refuse to recall cars with lethal defects which result in death or injury, and they’re almost never prosecuted. And I don’t understand why some DAs do not use traditional manslaughter law… against these corporations or corporate executives.

Ralph Nader

Even when they do have a grand jury and they do come to a settlement [with large corporations like Boeing], it’s utterly trivial in terms of monetary bite. And also a lot of what Boeing’s paying for these disasters is insurable, deductible, and (under the strange nature of corporate accounting) in some respects depreciable.

Ralph Nader

Christopher Shaw is an author, historian, and former project director at the Center for Study of Responsive Law. His latest book is First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat.

[The US Postal Service has a history of being] an agency that binds the nation together. That history of providing uniform, universal service to everybody on a democratic basis. Which is an affirmation of democratic ideals in this nation.

Christopher Shaw, author of First Class: The US Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat

If we look at democracy, the post office (from the very beginning) the idea is: it’s going to transport communication. So, we’re going to have better educated citizens in this new experiment in republican government.

Christopher Shaw, author of First Class: The US Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat

[The US Postal Service has] had a lot of financial problems. Which has everything to do with this mandate to pre-fund its retirees’ health benefits 75 years into the future, at the tune of $5.5 billion over 10 years, that no other government agency attempts to do, no other private corporation attempts to do. So that’s really responsible for maybe as much as 90% of the Postal Service’s financial losses.

Christopher Shaw, author of First Class: The US Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat

 

The right-wing approach to destabilize and diminish the postal service and try to privatize more of it, or corporatize more of it, was: you cut the service and you raise the postal rates. Which is really not a very good business strategy if your interest is in expanding postal services [and] modernizing it.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 400 Transcript (Right click to download)

12 Comments

  1. Katherine dunford says:

    Great information and teaching,keep up the good work!

  2. JMLang says:

    November 4, 2021
    Heather Cox Richardson
    Nov 5

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    Republican state legislatures are gerrymandering districts to elect members to the House of Representatives. The results are extreme.

    According to voting expert Ari Berman, in Ohio, where former president Trump got 53% of the vote in 2020, the new maps would give Republicans 86% of seats. In North Carolina, where Trump won 49.9% of the vote, Republicans would take 71–78% of seats, which translates to a 10–4 advantage if the voters split the vote evenly. In Wisconsin, where Trump won 49% of the vote, the new maps give Republicans 75% of the seats. In Texas, where Trump got 52% of the vote, Republicans would take 65% of the seats.

    Skewing election results toward Republicans plays to former president Donald Trump, who tried to steal the 2020 election by using the power of the federal government to hamstring his Democratic opponent. Today, news broke that federal prosecutors have uncovered a new angle in the 2019 Ukraine scandal. It appears Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Victoria Toensing, and Joe DiGenova were working with corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko to announce and promote an “investigation” into Hunter Biden in Ukraine to damage his father Joe Biden’s chances of election to the U.S. presidency. To curry favor with the Trump administration, Lutsenko promised hundreds of thousands of dollars to the three lawyers. Volodymyr Zelensky’s election upended the scheme, Trump tried to pressure him to take it up, and the rest of that story is history, but the original plan appears to be deeper than previously proven. Trump’s attack on the 2020 election is getting pushback, too, from Smartmatic, a company that provides election technology. On Wednesday, it sued right-wing media outlets Newsmax and One America News Network for defamation, after the outlets aired stories accusing Smartmatic of rigging the 2020 vote. Today, CNN called attention to videos from Giuliani and Trump lawyer Sidney Powell in a different lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems saying they did not check any of their accusations of voter fraud before putting them in front of the public.

    And yet, as Democrats try to restore a level playing field through the Freedom to Vote Act, Republican senators yesterday blocked even discussion of the measure for the third time. And they are launching objections to the confirmations of nominees to routine appointments, running out the clock on the Senate calendar. Today the Department of Justice used the slim means the Supreme Court has left to it in order to sue the state of Texas for its new voter restriction laws, saying they “disenfranchise eligible Texas citizens who seek to exercise their right to vote, including voters with limited English proficiency, voters with disabilities, elderly voters, members of the military deployed away from home, and American citizens residing outside of the country.”

    Texas governor Greg Abbott tweeted in response: “Bring it. The Texas election integrity law is legal. It INCREASES hours to vote. It does restrict illegal mail ballot voting. Only those who qualify can vote by mail. It also makes ballot harvesting a felony. In Texas it is easier to vote but harder to cheat.”

    This is, of course, the standard Republican defense of the many new laws Republican-dominated state legislatures have passed after the 2020 election, which they falsely claim was marred by voter fraud. Perhaps more to the point was the response of Georgia officials to a similar lawsuit by the Department of Justice, saying that the lawsuit was “not a serious legal challenge but a politically motivated effort to usurp the constitutional authority of Georgia’s elected officials to regulate elections.” Republicans are holding tight to the idea of pre–Civil War Democrats that our system of democracy gives to the states alone the power to determine how people within those states live, and who in those states gets to vote to determine those rules. After that idea led to the Civil War, Republicans overturned it with the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, which give the federal government the power to protect equality within the states.

    Since World War II, the federal government has taken that charge seriously, protecting minority voting in the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the Civil Rights Act of 1960, and, most thoroughly, in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Since the passage of that measure, Congress repeatedly reauthorized it by large, bipartisan majorities, most recently in 2006, when the Senate voted unanimously in favor of it. But then in 2013 the Supreme Court gutted that law, and now, only 8 years later, Republican senators claim federal protection of voting rights is an assault on states’ rights. Today, Delaware Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat, published an op-ed in the USA Today network describing how he happened, as a first-year student at Ohio State University on a Navy ROTC scholarship, to hear arguments in the House Judiciary Committee over the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Those debates inspired him to pursue a career in government. Today, as state legislatures pass laws to curb minority voting, Carper called for Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

    Carper said he hoped Republicans and Democrats could come to an agreement on the voting rights bills, “But,” he said, “I cannot look the other way if total obstruction continues. I do not come to this decision lightly, but it has become clear to me that if the filibuster is standing in the way of protecting our democracy then the filibuster isn’t working for our democracy.”

    Montana Senator Jon Tester, another of the Democrats vocal about protecting the filibuster, agreed with Carper that his patience was not unlimited. Republicans, he said, were “weaponizing the filibuster.” “Right now, I am focused on getting voting rights moving forward,” he told Darrell Ehrlick of the Daily Montanan. But “[a]t a certain point, if we can’t accomplish that, I am going to say, ‘We have to move forward, with or without you.’” Meanwhile, the Biden administration continues to push its agenda.

    The Build Back Better bill got a boost today when a new report from Moody’s Analytics concluded that the current package would strengthen long-term growth, starting to adjust the currently badly skewed economic playing field by helping lower- and middle-income Americans. Answering the concern that the measure would create debt, Moody’s concluded that it would indeed pay for itself. It added, “Concerns that the plan will ignite undesirably high inflation and an overheating economy are overdone.”

    “The bipartisan infrastructure deal provides a modest increase in infrastructure spending and it thus supports only a modestly stronger economy,” the report says, but “[t]he reconciliation package is much larger and thus meaningfully lifts economic growth and jobs and lowers unemployment.” It concludes that together, the two measures will add 1.5 million jobs per year and increase GDP by nearly $3 trillion relative to the baseline in the next decade. “The nation has long underinvested in its infrastructure and social needs and has been slow to respond to the threat posed by climate change, with mounting economic consequences,” the report concluded. “[F]ailing to pass [this] legislation would certainly diminish the economy’s prospects.”

    And that economy is healing in the wake of the pandemic. Jobless claims last week dropped to a low since the start of the pandemic, down 14,000 to reach 269,000 last week. This is about 75% lower than they were when Biden took office. In early January, they were more than 900,000. We are almost back to the level they were before the pandemic, when they were around 220,000 a week. About 2.1 million Americans collected unemployment insurance last week, down from 7.1 million a year ago.

    The strength of these two reports helped to close the S&P 500 Index that tracks the performance of 500 large companies at 4,680.06, an all-time high.

  3. Wendyyona NooN says:

    “Arson, Murder & Slavery & UnProven Experiments”
    Law & Individual(s) in management of Corporation
    Lack of education expertise to conduct investigation(s)
    Collision Strategy & contractual schemes
    Integrity as professional to evade criminal misconduct
    Hiring private law firms to Rx
    Example: insider trading (congress)
    Advice for Complicity in Misconduct
    Executive or corporation is element of crime satisfied
    For catastrophe
    “Let the (LandLord) Master Answer” (diffusion)
    CORPORATIONS Appoint COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    (as Japan has done)
    Mandatory Review & Reform with Trusteeship
    .vs. Revoking of Charter
    USA needs” Corporate Criminal Justice System”
    & yearly “Corporate Monitor”

  4. Jeff Hansen says:

    Ralph, regarding corporate crime, this may seem trivial, but the hit TV series Succession has an opportunity to do something substantive about corporate crime. It seems to be at the heart of the story and may turn out to cause the downfall of the corporation, especially if the plan of Logans brother Ewan bears fruit. Ewan is the only character in the show who has a critical analysis of both capitalism and on corporate corruption and crime. These are topics that are generally not dealt with in any meaningful way by corporate media. What is your analysis of Succession? – Jeff

    • Mihailis Diamantis says:

      “Succession” is one of my favorite shows! I haven’t seen any of season three yet, so I don’t know much about Ewan’s plan. He’s a great character, and understandably decided to disengage from the family business. But if all the good guys leave, people like Logan are left unchecked.

    • Bruce K says:

      JH, Do you really see any direct parallel between TV and politics, aside from pure random “Rorschach” ink blots, unique and different to each individual watching?

      The question of what media is doing to us is another one of those submerged torpedoes aimed at our civilization like plastic, oil, our food, CO2, overpopulation — the injection of unnatural and unreal images and frames of reality into people’s minds that has effects that we do not know anything about, certainly no better than the long term effects of social media, and yet we have let these force run rampant while we watch them get more criminal and violent and fills the brain space of more and more people. Violence and cruelty are modeling in front of most Americans’ eyes all day every day.

      In the last year it might be that most Americans had more synthetic experience and ideation than real. Compared to that I have no idea what is going on on Succession, or Billions, or most of TV.

      Someone just decided to take a high-powered motor and a cultural-blender-chopper blade to American reality in the name of insanity-capitalism, and let it wind up. Soon it is that going to be winding down?

  5. David Faubion says:

    With guests like these Ralph, you don’t need ‘Liz Warren et al Congress stoppers. Besides, they are scared you, afraid you’ll ask the tough questions that Chuck Todd and Jake Tapper won’t. And I reckon, they are faux scared that you’ll make another run for the oval office, which you might as you are even more qualified now.

    Professor Mihailis Diamantis did not say it, nor did you, but the subtext of a government’s condoning, even colluding with corp crimes was almost a given. In my view of the unresolved, and barely treated disease that is the behomath’s crime spree, imperial governments have always been the role model of corruption, crime, and other abnormalities. As above so below. But with the necrotic campaign finance, what entity is on top is questionable. Corps seem to be ruling the roost, and our goose, the people’s bird is cooked.

    The police now install a breathalyzer in the autos of DUI infractors out on parole. Congress ought to use that idea to reign in corporate criminals. Monitor their butts and auto-indict them so that their repeat crimes, thus, means that they are serving time in prison.

    If I were President, I’d imprison Elon Musk, and then seize and nationalize Tesla Motors. An EV in every pot.

    I enjoyed hearing your guest Mihailis Diamantis, law professor, ardently agree with you, Ralph, about revoking corporate charters. Life is good., keep it up too.

    • Mihailis Diamantis says:

      Thank you, David! I like the analogy to breathalyzers for repeat DUI offenders. We have a lot of major corporate recidivists: BP, Pfizer, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan. Recidivists need more restrictions, controls, and oversight, whether that’s in the form of a breathalyzer or a long-term government-paid monitor. We treat corporations as though they’re mysterious, unfathomable giants. And, in some respects they are. But, in others, they’re not all that different from other “people” in the criminal justice system. If we can remember that, a lot of common sense reforms come into view.

    • David Faubion says:

      Hey Dave,

      You are too harsh on certain Congress members in light of the post-January 6th insurrection of paranoia, lies, and hatred Part of why Senator Warren and others are keeping a lower profile might be justified by anxiety over public exposure physical and virtual. Attorney-General Garland likely knows all too well the risk he takes in the toxic milieu imposed upon government public servants, on both aisles. That may explain the AG’s slow pace in prosecuting the Trump extended clan of criminals. In addition, Senators like Warren and Sanders and House members like Cortez are just too busy to take their eye off their wheels, unbuckle, leave their activist vehicles for what would be largely more talk about their well-known agenda and message. In August of this year, Congress did approve funding for increased security, which includes field offices in Florida and California.
      The basic model for crime and corruption is the State’s crime of violence, its theft of land upon which people live, and the lies that the power of the State, as incumbents and as candidates, tells the electorate who allow them to govern based on the ruse. Once in power, tyranny gets to trash the rules and the rule of law.

  6. John Puma says:

    Why is the project of upgrading corporate crime law proposed to be given to law professors as opposed to prosecutors who aren’t busy due to the inadequacy of the current law? Of course, any such complete, comprehensive and human-person-serving law draft would then rely on passage by congress, the vast majority of whose members are ON THE CORPORATE DOLE.

    Why aren’t corporations hammered precisely in terms of the personhood they have been fraudulently given in case law?

    • David Faubion says:

      Your questions, John Puma, are right at the core of the corporate crime issue and are the questions that have to be answered so we can have justice that is truly blind to class, race, and political influence. Corporations get all the unethical perks of having personhood, but little of the accountability and liabilities of being a person in society, We have to keep voicing that plain-to-see perversion of justice.

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