Crime Wave! the 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s

By Mokhiber, Russell | Multinational Monitor, July 1999 | Go to article overview

Crime Wave! the 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s


Mokhiber, Russell, Multinational Monitor


Every year, the major business magazines put out their annual surveys of big business in the United States.

You have the Fortune 500, the Forbes 400, the Forbes Platinum 100, the International 800 - among others.

These lists rank big corporations by sales, assets, profits and market share. The point of these surveys is simple - to identify and glorify the biggest and most profitable corporations.

The point of the list contained in this article is to focus public attention on a wave of corporate criminality that has swamped prosecutors offices around the country.

This is the dark underside of the marketplace that is given little sustained attention and analysis by politicians and news outlets.

This compilation of the top 100 corporate criminals of the 1990s uses the most narrow and conservative of definitions - corporations that have pied guilty or no contest to crimes and have been criminally fined in the United States.

The 100 corporate criminals fell into 14 categories of crime: environmental (38), antitrust (20), fraud (13), campaign finance (7), food and drug (6), financial crimes (4), false statements (3), illegal exports (3), illegal boycott (1), worker death (1), bribery (1), obstruction of justice (1), public corruption (1) and tax evasion (1).

This list does not try to assess and compare the damage committed by these corporate criminals or by other corporate wrongdoers.

There are millions of people in the United States who care about morality in the marketplace.

But few realize that when they buy Exxon stock, or when they fill up at an Exxon gas station, they are in fact supporting a criminal recidivist corporation.

And few realize that when they take a ride on a cruise ship owned by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, they are riding on a ship owned by a criminal recidivist corporation.

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 pied guilty to more than one crime during the 1990s.

CORPORATE CRIME AND JUSTICE

A few caveats about the top 100 list.

Caveat one: Big companies that are criminally prosecuted represent only the tip of a very large iceberg of corporate wrongdoing.

For every company convicted of health care fraud, there are numerous others who get away with ripping off Medicare and Medicaid, or face only mild slap-on-the-wrist fines and civil penalties when caught.

For every company convicted of polluting the nation's waterways, there are many others who are not prosecuted because they do not get caught or because their corporate defense lawyers are able to offer up a low-level employee to go to jail in exchange for a promise from prosecutors not to touch the company or high-level executives.

For every corporation convicted of bribery or of giving money directly to a public official in violation of federal law, there are thousands who give money legally through political action committees to candidates and political parties. They profit from a system that effectively has legalized bribery.

For every corporation convicted of selling illegal pesticides, there are countless more who are not prosecuted because their lobbyists have worked their way in Washington to ensure that dangerous pesticides remain legal.

For every corporation convicted of reckless homicide in the death of a worker, there are hundreds of others that don't even get investigated for reckless homicide when a worker is killed on the job. Only a few district attorneys across the country (Michael McCann, the DA in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, being one) regularly investigate workplace deaths as homicides.

Caveat two: Corporations define the laws under which they live. …

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