No Such Thing as Corporate Crime?

Common Courage Press -
Political Literacy Course, September 20, 1999


Corporations are getting a bad rap. Just ask Jeffrey Parker, a professor of law at George Mason University: "Crime exists only in the mind of the individual." Therefore, he argues, "since a corporation has no mind, it can commit no crime."

The Justice Department, which keeps close watch on street crime and tabulates the results consistently, doesn't bother to collect statistics on corporate crime. It's as if the Department shares Parker's view.

If corporations are exempt from criminal prosecution, then remedies for wrongdoing are restricted to civil suits, whose damages can be written off as the cost of doing business.

But are more than just individuals to be held responsible? Consider the ten worst corporations of 1998, compiled by corporate crime journalists Robert Weissman and Russell Mokhiber in ìCorporate Predators: The Hunt for Mega-Profits and the Attack on Democracy:

* Chevron, for continuing to do business with a brutal dictatorship in Nigeria and for alleged complicity in the killing of civilian protestors.

* Coca-Cola, for hooking America's kids on sugar and soda water to the point where teenage boys and girls now drink twice as much soda pop as milk, the reverse of what it was twenty years ago.

* General Motors, for becoming an integral part of the Nazi war machine, and then years later denying it, even when documentary proof emerged.

* Loral, who donated $2.2 million to the Clinton/Gore campaign, then benefited from a technology transfer to China after Clinton cleared the way with a waiver on human rights violations.

* Mobil, for supporting the Indonesian military in crushing an indigenous uprising in Aceh province and allegedly allowing the military to use company machinery to dig mass graves.

* Monsanto, for exposing consumers to unknown risks in genetically modified foods.

* Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, for pleading guilty to felony crimes of dumping oil in the Atlantic Ocean and then lying to the Coast Guard about it.

* Unocal, for engaging in numerous acts of pollution and law violations to such a degree that citizens in California petitioned the state's attorney general to revoke the company's charter.

* Wal-Mart, for crushing small town America, paying low wages such that a huge percentage of employees are eligible for food stamps, and for using Asian child labor.

* And Warner-Lambert, for marketing a hazardous diabetes drug, Rezulin, which has been linked to at least thirty-three deaths due to liver injuries.

Now, ask yourself: is this the work of a scattered bunch of individuals? Or do they add up to a particular form of law breaking: corporate crime.


For a compendium of very organized crime consult - Corporate Predators: The Hunt for Mega-Profits and the Attack on Democracy.

Common Courage Press