Politics Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader: Our Leaders Are Doing Nothing to Quash Corporate Crime

Neither Democrats or Republicans have raised the banner of tough “law and order” to counter rampaging corporate crime.
[Russ Allison Loar / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

By Ralph Nader

As the size and severity of the corporate crime wave surges, Congress is asleep at the switch. The mostly captive Capitol Hill Gang has sat on an antiquated federal criminal code, starved the budget of regulatory health, safety, and consumer/labor protection agencies, and let corporate crooks routinely get away with their crimes.

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”?

Many people still remember how Wall Street, in its greed and power, collapsed the economy in 2008-2009, cost nine million jobs, shredded pension and mutual funds, and insisted on a multi-trillion-dollar bailout. In 2018 Public Citizen found during President Donald Trump’s first year in office, enforcement against corporate crime and wrongdoing plummeted from the final year of the Obama administration (See Corporate Impunity “Tough on Crime” Trump Is Weak on Corporate Crime and Wrongdoing).

None of the big boys and mid-sized big boys were ever prosecuted. Shortly thereafter polls showed 90 percent of Americans (conservatives and liberals) wanted to break up the big banks that were too big to fail. Conservative columnist, George Will, wrote that companies too big to fail should not exist.

But exist they do, and their marauding continues almost unabated. According to fraud expert, Harvard Professor Malcolm Sparrow, year after year, billing fraud and abuse accounts for at least 10% of healthcare expenses. That’s over $350 BILLION this year. Less than two percent is recovered by law enforcement.

As one prosecutor put it, no matter how complex the rip-offs are, no matter how silent or invisible is the violence (e.g., toxics, latent defects, dangerous pharmaceuticals hospital induced infections, etc.), it comes down to lying, cheating, and stealing.

Some corporate crimes are too big to be ignored. Here is a New York Times report: “Over the past two decades, more than 500,000 people in the United States have died from overdoses of prescription and illegal opioids …. Purdue [Pharma], widely believed to have helped ignite the problem by downplaying the addictive potential of OxyContin and aggressively marketing the drug with misleading campaigns, pleaded guilty to two separate investigations by the Justice Department.” The company escaped into bankruptcy. There are all kinds of lawsuits. The bottom line is that the proposed settlement let the Sackler family, mega-billionaire owners, paid out just a small chunk of their immense ill-begotten fortune. Criminal prosecutions of corporate wrongdoers and criminals are almost never pursued.

As the Times wrote: “Neither the company, nor the Sacklers, would admit to wrongdoing in connection with these [about to be settled] lawsuits,” brought by many state attorneys general and the Justice Department.

Welcome folks to the widespread phenomenon of corporate crimes without criminals. Also, the settlement, expected to be signed off by the judge, would release the Sacklers and their company from any personal civil liability. The several billions of dollars that will be paid without any personal prosecutions is the way corporate attorneys succeed in monetizing murder or manslaughter as just a deductible cost of doing business. No clients going to jail. (See Rena Steinzor’s book, Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction, 2014).

Boeing’s attorneys are also pushing for their strategy of immunity under existing litigation. They got the Trump Justice Department, (DOJ), days before Trump left office in January 2020, to conclude a corrupt, sweetheart “deferred prosecution” settlement (See Corporate Crime Reporter: Lead Boeing Prosecutor Joins Boeing Corporate Criminal Defense Firm Kirkland & Ellis). Though there was a grand jury in operation, there were no indictments or other charges against any of the culpable company bosses who made the decisions that led to the loss of 346 lives in two 737 MAX crashes. Boeing paid a measly $2.5 billion mostly deductible dollars.

To make the stench worse, DOJ’s Attorney General William Barr chose a faraway federal court in Fort Worth, TX, known for its corporatist judge, with a right-wing prosecutor, who after cutting the deal, quit and took a job with Kirkland Ellis – Boeing’s criminal defense law firm.

In the civil lawsuits against Boeing, brought by the aggrieved families, Perkins Coie, Boeing’s law firm, is going all out to avoid trials and settle all these cases through mediation, which, of course, excludes sworn testimony and primitive damages. The overriding goal is to assure that the culpable Boeing bosses and others are neither charged or put on the witness stand under oath in a public trial open to the media and citizenry. See why big corporate lawyers make so much money? They keep the prisons empty of corporate wrongdoers by having them be above the law.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), now Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Constitution Subcommittee, has spoken out about the absence of any criminal penalties in numerous federal statutes such as the ones covering auto and aviation safety. In 2015 Senator Blumenthal introduced the S.2140 the “Hide No Harm Act” that would make it a crime for a corporate officer to knowingly conceal information about a corporate action or product that poses the danger of death or serious physical injury to consumers or workers. As a former longtime Attorney General of Connecticut, he decries weaknesses of existing federal criminal statutes and small budgets. He wants action. It is high time to hold historic hearings that go to the cause of the systemic derelictions of justice regarding corporate abuses. America, besieged by corporate crime, needs corporate crime laws that fit these crimes.

Urge full Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) to provide Senator Blumenthal the requisite staff and resources for this historic mission. Senator Durbin’s phone numbers are Washington D.C. office: 202-224-2152 / Chicago office: 312-353-4952.


  1. Ralph is one of my faves, so is his sister. The writing is clear my friends, Capital destroyed the culture to extract what it needed from its people, Good luck rebuilding

  2. I just called Durbin’s offices. Chicago office tells you to use Durbin’s webstite.

    DC office asks for your zip code. When I asked if in giving a zip code out of Illinois, the opinion expressed will not be given to Durbin. The woman gently side stepped answering directly, by (pregnant) pausing, and saying -it will be put into the system. Well, don’t we know which system she’s actually referring to? Apparently matters affecting the entire population are acceptable to Durbin only if you have the right zip code. What to make of that?

  3. Our government is bought and paid for by those Corporates Ralph. I thought you of all people would know that by now. They own the courts, the lawyers and the legislature. They are above the law because they are the law. You can’t vote them away nor can you wish them away. They will take until you have nothing left but your hunger and worse, it is my belief that the people will let them….distracted and pit against each other the people are utterly incapable of rational thought or unified action.

    In short I see nothing to promote optimism. Zilch….

  4. “Law and order” only applies to street crime. Crime is in the streets. When it’s in corporate boardrooms, it’s just business as usual.

  5. Let’s face it, American corporations have not had to pay taxes or follow even rudimentary regulations since the days of Reagan. While it has always been clear that the Republican Party was never going to make any attempt to address those issues, it’s the actions (or lack of them) of the Democratic Party that are most disconcerting. And at the end of the day, it’s the fault of the democratic electorate, as it is we progressives who have, since the days of Bill Clinton, been voting for the Lesser of Two Evils. We have arguably been doing so since the 1970’s.
    Now we find ourselves as progressives in an unenviable corner that we painted ourselves in to. By spending the last 35 years voting for the LOTE candidates we have willing played an integral role in the Democratic Party taking the place of the Republican Party as the one that represents the views of America’s main stream conservatives and (phony) moderates.
    There are two major political parties in the USA. Both with right of center ideologies. One, the republicans, are a neo-fascist party. The other is of course the democrats, who have moved to the political Right just as the GOP did. Both support capitalism as not only the nations only economic engine, but also as the state religion, a faith that has Americans praying to big corporations and wealthy individuals. There is not currently a major political party that represents the views of the majority of American voters, progressives. And there will not be a progressive party in America until we stop voting against our own best interests and stop supporting corporate backed “democrats” as a “lesser of two evils” and falsely hope that we could somehow make them change once they get elected. Those democratic progressives that believe they can somehow “force” an already elected politician to become more liberal after they were elected, believe in something that never was and never will be.

  6. Our so-called ‘leaders’ are not leaders at all. Leaders are people who bring out the best in those positioned below them.

    The people referred to in this article are merely our bosses, our owners and our masters. You cannot expect them to stand up to corporate crime; it’s their bread and butter.

  7. Please explain the difference between: Plucking out gold teeth by Adolph’s Followers, and Plucking out cash thru Corporate Sponsored Death by Executives…???

  8. The Corporate Democrats cannot be reformed. They are, as Chris Hedges
    exclaimed in his book EMPIRE OF ILLUSION ; “careerists “. They consider
    government work as just another capitalist opportunity to ride out a sinking
    ship and gather a handsome fortune and retirement package on the way down.
    We have reached the end -phenomena of what unbridled corporatism does
    to nations, governments and humanity. It considers all of mankind an expendable
    commodity to be exploited until extinction. Hence : Corporate power has reached
    its goal ; Rule by carefully selected corporate controlled mindless political rulers
    without conscience, The english language defines most of them as antisocial.
    Sociopaths with out a conscience. In my opinion, we can only prevent ecocide or
    nuclear holocaust by placing all of our efforts at forcing out every corporate
    Democrat in unison ! Pronto!

    I would like to edit my above last sentence to include the word “peacefully ”
    as follows ;
    …. we can only prevent ecocide or nuclear holocaust by placing all of our
    efforts at peacefully forcing out every corporate corporate Democrat in
    unison !
    Thank You,
    Richard Schaffer

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