A few weeks ago I wrote this blog post about issues of corporate responsibility using the examples of the Chevrolet Corvair, dodgy insurance companies, and heartless big Pharma companies. Today I tweeted this article, entitled “Hunting Corporate Criminals”, with the subtitle “Greater accountability for individuals, not just firms, would help to reduce catastrophes”. I could not agree more with the sentiment expressed in the subtitle and the more I thought about it the more I felt I needed to reiterate some of this guys points and some of the ones I made a few weeks ago.
The parallels to the specific instance of the Chevrolet Corvair are unbelievable: both Mitsubishi and Ford were found to have suppressed information that had potential to harm their customers, all in order to fill the impossible large void of the insatiable greed of a few individuals. The writer of the article states “corporations don’t make decisions, people do”– citizens united isn’t the only way in which the status of corporations as people is problematic. The current framework of our country ignores the fact that there are many people who knowingly make decisions which hurt people and then are able to hide behind the facade of whichever corporation (and corporacracy as a whole).
The people within these corrupt organizations have an extremely skewed idea of what “success” is; everything revolves around maximizing profit margin at all cost. There is no reward for integrity or going above and beyond to make sure that customers are safe- in fact in many cases whistleblowers are demonized. As the author of the economist article puts it, “even in those worst cases, it is typically shareholders who are punished rather than individual wrongdoers. This is not merely unjust, it provides little incentive for better behavior.” So not only are they punished rather than rewarded for taking any steps which deviate from the goal of padding the profit margin, there is absolutely no reason that they should stop these behaviors because they will never bear the brunt of the awful tragedies which they cause.
It is for legal discrepancies like this that we have banks which are too big to fail, CEO’s who continue to make morally starved decisions because they know that they will always be insulated by a bloated, fire-breating, village plundering, dragon of a corporation. This lack of “incentive” for ceo’s and high level decision makers to take care of consumers is an easy fix. Try “staying out of a federal prison” as the carrot at the end of the pole, and I’d be willing to bet that these jackasses will march forward without hesitation. It is terrible that as of now the worst punishment they recieve is bad publicity and gasp LESS MONEY. Let’s give them something real to lose: their right to be a free citizen in this country.
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