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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.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Soldiers seize power in Burkina Faso as global coup surge continues

Mutinous soldiers in Burkina Faso declared on state television Monday that they had deposed the government, closed the borders, and taken control of the country. President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré has reportedly been arrested.

The big picture: This would be the third successful military coup in west Africa in eight months, after juntas took power last year in Guinea and in neighboring Mali.

3 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 3 hours ago - Economy & Business

S&P 500 on track for worst-ever start to year

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Stocks suffered their steepest drop of the year early Monday, putting the S&P 500 on course for its worst-ever start to a year.

Driving the news: The benchmark S&P 500 dropped for its fifth straight day, with losses nearing 3% in early trading, momentarily putting it on track to fall into a "correction." Some of the steepest losses were recovered in early afternoon trading.

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