By Ralph Nader
Most heads of giant corporations are drunk with their own power. These corporate CEOs push the envelope in ways that harm defenseless people. They believe they can get away with anything, and they do, with few exceptions. The few corporate crime prosecutions keep declining from Obama to Trump to Biden, due to a settlement-obsessed Department of Justice staffed by lawyers readying to join the lucrative major corporate crime defense firms.
Corporate law firms, which deserve far more scrutiny by the media, have over the decades built a wall of immunity and impunity around these giant firms and their self-enriching CEOs. These CEOs now make an average of $14,000 an hour, while employing workers who are lucky to make $20 an hour. Greedy CEOs have surpassed the lords of medieval feudalism in the disparity they impose on workers.
Corporate law firms find Congressional lawmakers receptive to their campaign contributions and services in drafting legislative loopholes. These law firms place business executives and their own law partners in high executive branch positions (See, Servants of the Damned: Giant Law Firms, Donald Trump, and the Corruption of Justice by David Enrich, 2022).
Corporate law firms specialize in creating an edifice of secretive, anonymous corporate registries that attract a majority of big U.S. corporations to charter in Delaware. Companies register hundreds of shell companies (LLCs) for evasive purposes. Delaware law firms write the corporate law of Delaware for the rubber stamp state legislature. Ironically, these corporate capitalists disempower their own shareholders. Wall Street firms, credit card companies and tax escapees love Delaware. (See, What’s the Matter with Delaware?: How the First State Has Favored the Rich, Powerful, and Criminal – and How It Costs Us All by Hal Weitzman, 2022).
New outrages that swell the corporate crime wave are disclosed daily. Most exposés go nowhere, due to a lazy Congress (about ready again to take off most of the summer until after Labor Day) and to patsy regulators and meager, inadequate enforcement budgets funded by the corporate Congress.
One regulator, no longer so patsy, is the tiny Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with an annual budget of $430 million. FTC Chair Lina Khan has just sued giant Amazon (annual sales of $524.89 billion) in the words of New York Times reporter, David McCabe “for illegally inducing consumers to sign up for its Prime services and then hindering them from canceling the subscription…”
The FTC charged that “Amazon tricked and trapped people into recurring subscriptions without their consent’ ‘… duped millions of consumers … [and with] manipulative, coercive or deceptive’ design tactics on its website.” Amazon’s lawyers, of course, deny everything.
On other matters, corporate lawyers are going berserk flexing their obstructive muscles. They sued the state of California for passing a law mildly protecting children from social media-produced harm. Susan Linn in her new book, “Who’s Raising the Kids? Big Tech, Big Business, and the Lives of Children” documents the abuses perpetrated by high-tech predators.
Not to be outdone by their peers, corporate lawyers for the drug industry just filed a frivolous lawsuit against the U.S. Government that was finally authorized by Congress to allow ripped-off Medicare officials to negotiate drug prices with the overcharging Big Pharma. (The VA and the Pentagon already have the power to negotiate with the drug companies.) Presumably, having U.S. taxpayers continue to pay by far the highest drug prices in the world through Medicare—charged by subsidy-coddled U.S. drug companies—suits the “pay or die” Big Pharma CEOs.
Moreover, U.S. drug companies are happy to offshore to China the production of antibiotics. Our country produces virtually no antibiotics – a national security peril I wrote about to President Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, that received no response to date. (See: Letter to President Joe Biden – June 2, 2023).
ProPublica has exposed the giant Cigna health insurance company for rejecting millions of patients’ claims through its hired doctors who instantly deny coverage “on medical grounds” without opening the patient file.” (See, https://www.propublica.org/article/cigna-pxdx-medical-health-insurance-rejection-claims). This report, based on corporate documents and interviews with former Cigna physicians, has not led to any prosecutions either by state or federal officials. This is an egregious example of CEOs pushing the envelope and getting away with it.
A New York Times investigation by Sarah Kliff et al. revealed that a wealthy nonprofit hospital network – Allina Health – in the Midwest has been denying regular health care for patients who have unpaid medical bills. They have cut off patients, “including children and those with chronic illnesses like diabetics and depression.” Canadians, with their universal Medicare system, are stunned when they learn that many hospitals in the U.S. aggressively sue indebted patients, garnish their wages and seize their tax refunds. This is worse than debtors’ prisons where those incarcerated might receive health care.
Anyone who thinks corporate crimes are committed by just a few bad apples in the barrel can read my book Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism: Build It Together to Win (2011). Getting Steamed is an enraging compilation of documented corporate crime and criminogenic behavior – resulting in the loss of life, injuries and money from consumers and workers. One of the best public corporate crime databases is Violation Tracker, a project of Good Jobs First. Violation Tracker has over half a million entries that include civil and criminal actions against corporate wrongdoing. (See, https://violationtracker.goodjobsfirst.org/). In addition, visit the Corporate Crime Reporter website https://www.corporatecrimereporter.com/ to see highlights of crime in the suites each week.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department, which after decades of declining to have a comprehensive public corporate crime database, finally launched a modest database. (See: https://www.justice.gov/corporate-crime/corporate-crime-case-database).
Why don’t the American people rise up and tell their legislators and law enforcers that they will no longer accept the terrible corporate harm inflicted on them daily? This harm includes dangerous products (Opioids), detrimental services (medical negligence leading to 5000 deaths per week, according to a John Hopkins School of Medicine peer-reviewed report), toxic pollution, workplace casualties, endless cheating of consumers ($350 billion in health industry billing fraud a year) and other intolerable abuses. (See Malcolm Sparrow’s website: https://scholar.harvard.edu/msparrow).
Most corporate crooks are above the law. They think that collectively “We the People” are a nation of sheep – unable and unwilling to take our demands, often supported by large majorities, to Congress and get some strong law and order legislation enacted. Polls show huge majorities (left/right) want jail time and restitution from wealthy corporate outlaws.
Public Citizen, which lobbies against corporate crime, wants to hear from you (visit, https://www.citizen.org/). PC’s president Robert Weissman, together with former PC president Joan Claybrook, have a new book coming out next month. It’s called “The Corporate Sabotage of America’s Future: And What We Can Do About It.” Read it and generate a rumble all the way to your congressional senators and representatives who are about to head home as Congress goes into recess for most of the summer.
Citizens mobilized against corporate abuses in the Nineteen Sixties and Seventies. It can happen again now when the corporate overlords in the context of demonstrated crises – climate, pandemics and powerful unregulated technologies – are acting far worse than they have in recent times.
The awakened power of dedicated, informed people cannot be overcome.