Dec 16, 2018 - Energy & Environment

The lack of corporate accountability

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

"Corporations are people," said Mitt Romney in 2011, famously, but if they are, they seem to have an impressive degree of impunity.

The big picture: Just like people, corporations display impressive instincts for self-enrichment and self-preservation, even when they're not-for-profits. They're not holding themselves to account, but — unlike real people — no one else seems to be holding them accountable either.

  • CBS had a "total failure" not only in its C-suite but also at the board level, according to documents obtained by the New York Times. While the sexual harassment by former CEO Les Moonves is on him, the broader culture of denial and multimillion-dollar payoffs and coverups was much more endemic. Yet the result of the board investigation into Moonves is likely to result in CBS keeping — for itself — the $120 million it would otherwise have had to pay him.
  • At Tesla, the CEO and controlling shareholder openly scoffs at his regulator, the SEC, and the settlement he signed with them. There's no sense that he or Tesla feel any sense of real accountability for his actions.
  • Multiple non-profits, including the Boy Scouts and USA Gymnastics as well as more than 20 Catholic dioceses and religious orders, have either filed for bankruptcy or are considering doing so in order to head off lawsuits alleging sexual abuse within their organizations. It's a move that wipes out non-existent equity (non-profits don't have equity) while also making it much harder for victims to receive justice.

Why it matters: The proximate cause for the rise of Trumpism was the financial crisis, where no senior bankers were prosecuted even as millions of Americans saw their livelihoods destroyed. That pattern continues to this day, with corporate entities receiving privileges that the 99% could never dream of.

Our thought bubble: Populism will remain a powerful and righteous force in American politics so long as that continues.

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