Corporate law firms have taught their wayward corporate clients how to use accretions of privileges and immunities to ward off or wait out the most devastating books, documentaries and media exposés. Corporate P.R. firms know that the media doesn’t follow the efforts of civic advocacy groups as a regular beat. Feature exposés are prime candidates for big journalistic awards like the Pulitzer Prizes. Reporters usually do not get awards for covering ongoing reform efforts, which require consistent media coverage to put heat on hesitant lawmakers or prosecutors – say on the push to make Congress increase corporate accountability.
Rishi Sunak has confirmed that a fossil fuel-funded think tank helped to draft his government’s laws targeting climate protests. Speaking at Policy Exchange’s summer party on Wednesday (28 June), the prime minister boasted that the think tank’s work “helped us draft” the government’s crackdown on protests, according to Politico. OpenDemocracy reported last year that Policy Exchange’s US wing, American Friends of Policy Exchange, which provides funds to the UK branch, received $30,000 (roughly £23,700) from oil and gas giant ExxonMobil in 2017. Two years later, Policy Exchange published a report entitled “Extremism Rebellion”, in reference to the environmental protest group, calling for the police and the government to clamp down on eco protests.
Earlier this month, a group of North Dakota farmers filed a class action lawsuit claiming that John Deere is illegally monopolizing agricultural equipment repair. The lawsuit alleges that Deere’s implementation of computerized engine control units and refusal to provide farmers and independent mechanics with needed software repair tools have forced farmers to pay millions more for service than they would have in a competitive market. A report from the US Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) titled Deere in the Headlights demonstrated how these software tools are necessary to fix modern tractors. The lawsuit against Deere reflects a burgeoning Right to Repair movement.
That’s the conclusion of two rising young stars in the corporate crime academic world – Iowa Law School Professor Mihailis Diamantis and Michigan Ross School of Business Professor Will Thomas in a new article titled – But We Haven’t Got Corporate Criminal Law! “For more than a century, pearl-clutching abolitionists have decried the conceptual puzzles and supposed injustices of corporate criminal liability,” Diamantis and Thomas write. “Meanwhile, enthusiastic proponents of corporate criminal law have celebrated a system that they believe can deliver justice for victims and effective punishment to corporate malefactors.” “The abolitionists won long ago, through craftiness rather than force of reason. By arguing that the United States should get rid of corporate criminal law, abolitionists have staged a debate that presumes corporate criminal law in fact exists.
Despite constant exposés in the mainstream media – still only reporting the tip of the iceberg – neither members of Congress nor presidents from the Republican and Democratic parties have raised the banner of tough “law and order” to counter rampaging corporate crime. Proposals to bring the laws up to date in their penalties and coverage to deter corporate lawbreaking are never a priority for Congress. When was the last time you heard a politician demand “corporate reform”?
In a win for free speech, a federal court in North Dakota recently dismissed a baseless $900 million lawsuit brought by the Dakota Access Pipeline company against Greenpeace and a number of individual protesters. The company should have learned its lesson. Instead, it refiled the case in state court. These meritless cases are textbook examples of “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation,” or SLAPPs. This tactic is increasingly used by corporations to silence critics with expensive legal actions. Protesters and advocacy groups have the right to freely and vigorously criticize their opponents, even when their speech threatens to subvert corporate interests.
In the “tough on crime” story President Donald Trump likes to tell about himself, he’s a “law and order” tough guy fighting to save “the forgotten men and women” from the scourge of “American carnage.” But even as the Trump administration ramps up “zero-tolerance” policies against street crimes and immigration, it has gone soft on enforcement policies that protect Americans from lawbreaking corporations. “Corporate Impunity,” a new Public Citizen report, finds that in 11 of 12 agencies led by a Trump administration official for most of 2017, total monetary penalties imposed on corporate violators plummeted. At the Department of Justice (DOJ), penalties against corporate offenders plunged by 90 percent.
A group of activists led by Ralph Nader is calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to create an annual corporate crime database and annual report. “For street crime, the FBI oversees the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, which tracks data from over 18,000 local and state law enforcement agencies,” Nader and his colleagues wrote in a letter to Sessions. “The Department of Justice should launch a parallel program for corporate crime and law-breaking, including but not limited to antitrust and price-fixing, environmental crimes, financial crimes, overseas bribery, health care fraud, trade violations, labor and employment-related violations — discrimination and occupational injuries and deaths — consumer fraud and damage to consumer health and safety, and corporate tax fraud onshore and offshore.”
The proposal the Chamber of Commerce was considering was to "target, track, and neutralize people, organizations, and companies" that were challenging the Chamber of Commerce. As part of the proposal process Team Themis investigated the "personal information about the principals of VR and their family members, promising to exploit 'pressure points' of the named targets." They planned a "a dirty tricks campaign against the Chamber opposition organizations." This included creating fake email personnas, i.e. creating "two fake insider personas using one to discredit the other giving the second immediate legitimacy." They were also going to provide fake documents to get us to report on them and then show they were in accurate to attack our credibility. Many of the tactics described in Blumenthal's article were going to be used against me and my colleagues (we were specifically named). The plan was exposed by people from Anonymous and thereby foiled.
February 21, 2018, Alexandria, VA – Today, a Virginia federal judge ruled that the treatment of three Iraqi individuals formerly detained at the infamous “hard site” at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq constitutes torture, war crimes, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, based on a thorough review of U.S. domestic and international law. The ruling also held that the men have sufficiently alleged that employees of private military contractor CACI Premier Technology conspired to commit and aided and abetted these crimes. The case, Al Shimari v. CACI, was filed nearly ten years ago, and CACI has repeatedly argued that, even if its employees were involved in torture and other abuse, the company is shielded from liability. Today’s 54-page ruling definitively rejected that position, as well as attempts by certain Bush-era officials to water down the prohibition against torture, and allowed the lawsuit to proceed against CACI.
By Alison Kirsch for AlterNet - At the start of next week, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the U.N.'s negotiating body on climate change, will meet in Germany to discuss next steps after the historic agreement by 195 countries to curb global climate change to 1.5° Celsius, or 2° at most—an agreement whose only logical conclusion is that the world cannot afford expansion of the fossil fuel industry. Various players in the financial industry have talked a big game on their commitments to the Paris Agreement. But their business practices prove otherwise. According to the new report Funding Tar Sands: Private Banks vs. the Paris Climate Agreement, in the first three quarters of 2017, major international banks have financed the extraction and transportation of tar sands at levels one and a half times higher than in the whole of 2016. How can it be that in the last 9 months, $32 billion has gone to an extreme fossil fuel whose development is flatly incompatible with meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement? Moreover, banks continue to stand behind their clients whose proposed tar sands projects, from Teck Resources' Frontier open-pit mine, to Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline, would further damn our climate and infringe upon Indigenous rights.
By Russell Mokhiber of Corporate Crime Report - The database catalogues state criminal prosecutions against companies and individuals whose actions caused a worker’s death or serious injury. The database contains information on 75 incidents in 16 states that have led to criminal charges and provides additional related materials. “Every state has laws on the books that allow for criminal prosecution of employers who cause a worker’s death or serious injury,” said the Center’s Katie Tracy. “But it’s common for district attorneys to leave anything that happens in the workplace up to OSHA, even if prosecution is clearly warranted, and even though OSHA’s penalties are severely limited. It’s time for prosecutors to take workplace cases more seriously.” “Our database highlights instances in which states have pursued such cases over the past several decades to seek justice for workers and their families and to hold employers responsible for their actions,” Tracy said. “Until now, such information has been scattered across the Internet and not terribly useful to advocates and researchers.” The Crimes Against Workers database includes data on past and current cases, as well as a range of other materials, such as case files, court decisions, media clips, and advocacy resources. The database also contains information about advocacy campaigns in pursuit of criminal charges, some of which have resulted in an indictment and some of which have not.
By Russell Mokhiber for Corporate Crime Reporter - Donald Trump is not a fan of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the law that says it’s illegal for any person — corporate or human — to bribe overseas. And you could argue that the Trump Justice Department’s first two FCPA enforcement cases reflect Trump’s point of view.Trump has called the FCPA “a horrible law” and has said that the law “puts us at a huge disadvantage.” Both were declinations — despite the fact that the companies disclosed illegal overseas payments and agreed to disgorge illegally gained proceeds. Some are using the cases to ask the question — is Trump soft on corporate crime? As the lawyers say, let’s stipulate for the record that he is. But let’s also remember that going soft on corporate crime was perfected by the Democrats. The Obama Justice Department, for example, regularly used declinations — five in Obama’s last year in office — and non prosecution agreements — 22 over the eight years of his administration — to settle corporate FCPA matters. And since September 2015, when the Obama administration put out the Yates memo calling for more prosecutions of individual executives, there have been 20 FCPA corporate prosecution agreements — yet not one individual has been charged in connection with those cases.
By David Sirota for International Business Times - One of the Justice Department’s top corporate crime watchdogs has resigned, declaring that she cannot enforce ethics laws against companies while, she asserts, her own bosses in the Trump administration have been engaging in conduct that she said she would never tolerate in corporations. Hui Chen -- a former Pfizer and Microsoft lawyer who also was a federal prosecutor -- had been the department’s compliance counsel. She left the department in June and broke her silence about her move in a recent LinkedIn post that sounded an alarm about the Trump administration’s behavior. “Trying to hold companies to standards that our current administration is not living up to was creating a cognitive dissonance that I could not overcome," Chen wrote. “To sit across the table from companies and question how committed they were to ethics and compliance felt not only hypocritical, but very much like shuffling the deck chair on the Titanic. Even as I engaged in those questioning and evaluations, on my mind were the numerous lawsuits pending against the President of the United States for everything from violations of the Constitution to conflict of interest, the ongoing investigations of potentially treasonous conducts, and the investigators and prosecutors fired for their pursuits of principles and facts.
By Valentina Stackl for Earth Rights International - In a victory for accountability for corporate crimes, families of those murdered by Colombian paramilitary death squads can proceed with a U.S. federal lawsuit against former Chiquita executives. Yesterday, JudgeKenneth Marra of the Southern District of Florida ruledthat, according to the plaintiffs’ allegations, “profits took priority over basic human welfare” in the banana company executives’ decision to finance the illegal death squads, despite knowing that this would advance the paramilitaries’ murderous campaign.