Published on Wednesday, April 26, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
No More Amnesty
by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
No more amnesty.
What's the first issue that came to your mind?
But what about corporate crime?
For years now, major American corporations have committed serious crimes.
And the government has responded with effective amnesty.
It's not called amnesty, of course.
It's called deferred prosecution.
But it is amnesty nonetheless.
The corporation commits the crime.
The corporation admits that it engaged in criminal wrongdoing.
But to avoid the repercussions of a guilty plea, the corporation is allowed to enter into an non-prosecution agreement or a deferred prosecution agreement, whereby the government says -- hey, you're a big corporation, if we convict you of this crime, your company could be driven out of business, innocent shareholders will be hurt, innocent workers will be hurt.
So, we won't convict you of a crime.
Yes, the corporation agrees to pay fines.
Yes, the corporation agrees to change its ways.
But the corporation is allowed to stay in the country, so to speak, after crossing the line.
Do you hear about this corporate amnesty on Lou Dobbs?
No, you do not.
Do you hear Congressman Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado, -- the leader of the no-amnesty-for-dark-skinned-people brigade (the word amnesty appears on his web site maybe 300 times) -- ranting and raving about corporate amnesty?
No, you do not.
Does Bill O'Reilly, corporate shill that he is, rant and rave about corporate amnesty?
He does not.
If respect for law and order is to mean anything, it is to mean respect for law and order across the board.
Not just for dark-skinned people from south of the border.
But blink an eye, and when you open it, a major American corporation will be cutting some kind of amnesty deal with the federal government.
Even before the coffee had a chance to kick in this morning, the Wall Street Journal was reporting that Boeing is about to get a deferred prosecution deal to settle two major federal criminal investigations.
Quoting unnamed sources, the Journal reported that Boeing "would avoid pleading guilty to any specific charges in both cases while admitting wrongdoing under what is known as a deferred prosecution agreement."
According to the report, the settlement agreement would resolve longstanding allegations that Boeing improperly acquired thousands of pages of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s proprietary documents dealing with rocket programs and illegally recruited a senior U.S. Air Force acquisition official while she still had oversight of billions of dollars in other Boeing contracts.
These types of deferred prosecution agreements -- and their cousins, non-prosecution agreements -- have become the settlement vehicle of choice for federal prosecutors facing down powerful U.S. corporations.
If you are representing a Fortune 500 company before the government, and you can't get one of these, you are either facing a prosecutor out of touch with the times, or the president of the company should fire you.
That's how prevalent this amnesty program has become.
In a report released in December 2005, Corporate Crime Reporter documented the rise of these types of agreements.
At that point, the report had tallied 36 such agreements.
Since then, Corporate Crime Reporter has documented an additional eight such agreements. That makes the total 44.
Boeing would make 45.
It just strikes us as a bit hypocritical to rant and rave about people named Garcia, Martinez, Lopez, Hernandez, Gonzales, Perez, Sanchez, Rivera and Ramirez -- when they cross the line.
But then if your name is Boeing, Prudential, Hilfiger, Shell Oil, Solomon Brothers, Aetna, KPMG, Monsanto, Sears or Bristol Myers Squibb -- and you commit a crime -- there is no ranting and raving -- only cheering from Wall Street.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor. Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).
© 2006 Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman