Every year, the major business magazines put out their annual surveys of big business in America. Their lists rank big corporations by sales, assets, profits, and market share. The goal of these surveys is to identify the biggest and most profitable corporations. But, there is another list – complied by the Corporate Crime Reporter – that tells quite another story. The point of the list contained in a recent report by the Corporate Crime Reporter, “The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the Decade,” is to focus public attention on a wave of corporate criminality that has swamped the offices of prosecutors around the country. It is said in the report that the list reveals the “dark underside of the marketplace that is given little sustained attention and analysis by politicians and news outlets.”
To compile what they refer to as “The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s,” the report used the most narrow and conservative of definitions – corporations that have pled guilty or no contest to crimes and have been criminally fined. The activities of the 100 corporations that apparently label them as “corporate criminals” fell into 14 categories: Environmental, antitrust, fraud, campaign finance, food and drug, financial crimes, false statements, illegal exports, illegal boycott, worker death, bribery, obstruction of justice, public corruption, and tax evasion. It was said that there was no attempt to assess and compare the damage committed by these corporations or by other corporate wrongdoers. Although there are millions of Americans who care about morality in the marketplace, few Americans realize how many large corporations have actually violated criminal or quasi-criminal laws in the past. Many of the violations involved governmental contracts.
Six corporations that made the list of the Top 100 Corporate Criminals were criminal recidivist companies during the 1990s. In addition to Exxon and Royal Caribbean, Rockwell International, Warner-Lambert, Teledyne, and United Technologies each pled guilty to more than one crime during the 1990s. A few caveats were set out by Corporate Crime Reporter relating to the report and those are set out below:
• Caveat one: Big companies that are criminally prosecuted represent only the tip of a very large iceberg of corporate wrongdoing.
• Caveat two: Corporations define the laws under which they live.
• Caveat three: Because of their immense political power, big corporations have the resources to defend themselves in courts of law and in the court of public opinion.
It was the opinion of the authors of the report that “corporate crime and violence inflicts far more damage on society than all street crime combined.” According to the authors of the report, the FBI estimates that burglary and robbery – street crimes – costs the nation $3.8 billion a year. The report compares this to the hundreds of billions of dollars, that resulted from corporate and white-collar fraud, and that tells the story. For example, health care fraud alone costs Americans between $100 billion to $400 billion a year. The savings and loan fraud — which former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called “the biggest white collar swindle in history” – cost American citizens between $300 billion to $500 billion.
The following are the first 10 of “The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s,” as reported by Corporate Crime Reporter:
1. F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd.: after pleading guilty, paid a $500 million fine in an antitrust case.
2. Daiwa Bank Ltd.: paid a criminal fine of $340 million in a fraud case.
3. BASF Aktiengesellschaft: paid a criminal fine in an antitrust case.
4. SGL Carbon Aktiengesellschaft (SGL AG): paid a criminal fine in an antitrust case.
5. Exxon Corporation and Exxon Shipping: paid a $125 million criminal fine in the Valdez case. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called the fine “the largest single environmental criminal recovery ever enacted.” The companies pled guilty to misdemeanor violations of federal environmental laws.
6. UCAR International, Inc.: paid a criminal fine in an antitrust case.
7. Archer Daniels Midland: paid a criminal fine in an antitrust case.
8. Banker’s Trust: paid a criminal fine of $60 million in a financial fraud case.
9. Sears Bankruptcy Recovery Management Services: paid a criminal fine of $60 million in a fraud case.
10. Haarman & Reimer Corp.: paid a criminal fine of $50 million in an antitrust case.
We are simply reporting in this issue the results of the survey performed by the Corporate Crime Reporter. Even though guilty pleas entered by the 100 corporations are a matter of record, we are not taking any position on guilt or innocence of those corporations. Although the amounts of the fines might seem to be large, in reality the corporations’ profits and benefits were much larger in each case, according to reports. While I wouldn’t go so far as to label all of these corporations as “criminals,” the documentation set out by the Corporate Crime Reporter in its report is pretty compelling. You can draw your own conclusions.
Source: Corporate Crime Reporter
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