The massive corporate wave of crime, fraud and abuse rolls on, is
undeterred by regular exposes in the business media itself. My favorite
corporate crime journal (aka the Wall Street Journal) is a daily
newspaper that never runs out of material.
Daily Journal headlines recently alerted readers to: (1) “Lucent Faces
Bribery Allegations,” (2) “Companies Sue Union Retirees to Cut Promised
Health Benefits,” (3) “How Drug’s Rebirth as Treatment for Cancer Fueled
Price Rises,” reporting one capsule for $29 compared to a price of seven
cents in Brazil, (4) “A Retired Maid’s Questions About her ATM Card Led
Lawyer to Georgia Scandal,” (5) “At Cigna, Some Patients Found Conflict
of Interest in System,” (6) “As Corporate Fines Grow, SEC Debates How
Much Good They do.” (7) From the Associated Press – “Calif. Insurance
Chief Sues Four Insurance Giants in Kickback Probe.”
Also in the headlines are the pharmaceutical companies led by Merck’s
deadly fiasco with Vioxx.
In the midst of the daily revelations – most of which produce no
corrective behavior – the Congress and state legislatures are paid to
sleep through it all. Aside from a modest new law called Sarbanes/Oxley
designed to deter some of the big accounting firm scandals, there is no
corporate reform drive on Capitol Hill, and no demands for larger
prosecution budgets for the Justice Department. During the recent
political campaigns by the two major parties, there was no focus on a
continuing pattern of corporate outlaws damaging the health and safety
of the people and draining trillions of dollars from investors, worker
pensions and 401Ks.
There is, however, activity among business lobbies, like the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce, to water down law enforcement, weaken the Sarbanes
law, block the Securities and Exchange Commission’s efforts to protect
investors, and make it harder for the defrauded to have their full day
The political and legal systems are not just crumbling before these
business lobbies; they are even failing to articulate a comprehensive
‘law and order’ philosophy toward large multinational corporations
playing one national jurisdiction off of another one across the globe. To demonstrate the untapped potential for prosecution, note that New
York state attorney general Eliot Spitzer is accomplishing his moves
against Wall Street with fewer than 85 attorneys in his corporate crime
division. There are corporate law firms defending these culprits that
each have over 1000 attorneys in their offices.
Inside the government’s law enforcement agencies are officials and
commissioners who can barely serve out their few years before accepting
lucrative offers to join the other side. Even in office they concoct
excuses for voting against significant corporate fines on the grounds
that such penalties would punish shareholders and diminish the value of
corporate shares. (SEC Commissioners Paul Atkins and Cynthia Glassman
tried this absurdity recently).
All this, along with the corporate domination of our government, argues
for a more comprehensive approach to “controlling corporations and
restoring democracy.” These words comprise the subtitle of a new book
called The People’s Business – the report of the Citizen Works Corporate
Having founded Citizen Works, I am pleased to trumpet this endeavor
written by Lee Drutman and Charlie Cray as a long overdue, timely and
fundamental challenge to the judicial usurpation of our Constitution
which have given these companies – that are artificial entities and not
human beings or voters – almost all the rights possessed by real people.
There can be no equal justice under the law between you and Pfizer or
General Motors under such equivalence.
The steady and accelerating erosion of democracy by the corporate
supremacists was not envisioned by the framers of our constitution.
There is no mention of the “Corporation” in that founding document
ratified well before the emergence of the modern corporation in the 19th
century. The framers were far more worried about too much governmental
power and could not foresee the many uses of that very power by
corporations against the interests of “we the people.”
Even the owners of the large corporation – the shareholders – do not
control their company. It is a highly autocratic structure controlled by
the officers and their rubber stamp boards of directors. Making
corporations into the servants of people, not their masters, is the
challenge of The People’s Business (Berrett-Koehler Publishers
The many-splendored ways that this work meets this challenge can open up
a major public debate. An exciting public inquiry is needed by the
workers, consumers, small taxpayers, voters and various communities of
citizens who are now being driven backwards despite the overall
conventional economic growth that has enriched the few against the well
being of these people.