Corporate crime? I’m not sure that there is such a thing. If we want to reduce the crimes that are given that label, we need to quit handing out large punitive fines to corporations. The idea isn’t as radical as it sounds.
First of all, when I say that there isn’t such a thing as corporate crime, I simply mean that it is always individual people who commit crimes. With that in mind, you can imagine what might be the better way to reduce this crime is: Go after the criminals!
Who Pays For Corporate Crime?
Exactly who pays when a large corporation is fined for breaking the law? To begin with, the stockholders pay. Many of these are innocent retirees who have money invested with the company and had no idea they were breaking the law. Then the employees pay with the loss of jobs, if the financial situation of the company is damaged by the fines. Who doesn’t pay? Just the criminals – the individuals who chose to break the law.
All crimes are committed by PEOPLE, not companies. When a company dumps poisons into the environment, a PERSON made the decision to do that (or several people). When a company steals from a pension fund or violates workers rights, INDIVIDUALS made those decisions. People commit corporate crime, not corporations!
If you want to stop corporate crime, start putting the individuals who are involved in the crime in PRISON. Our current system often has company officers making cost/benefit calculations as to whether the profits from certain crimes are greater than what the occasional fines add up to. Even though laws are broken, they stand little chance of being held personally responsible. Why not hold them responsible?
To fine companies for the actual costs imposed on others by a crime is appropriate. We have to clean up toxic messes, and in other cases compensate those who suffer damages. This also means that shareholders have a reason to be careful in who they elect to the board of directors. However, “punitive” fines are ridiculous unless they are levied against the individual criminals. Make the person who committed the crime pay the fine.
Is this such a radical idea? I don’t think so! By the way, which do you think is more likely to deter a corporate officer from committing a crime, a fine that is paid by the company, and doesn’t even affect his salary, or ten years in jail? The answer to that gives us the answer to corporate crime.