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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

Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the sole "no" votes.

Why it matters: Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon and President Biden's second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.

House will transmit article of impeachment to Senate on Monday, Schumer says

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the House will deliver the article of impeachment against former President Trump for "incitement of insurrection" on Monday.

Why it matters: The Senate is required to begin the impeachment trial at 1pm the day after the article is transmitted.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Private equity bets on delayed tax reform in Biden administration

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

In normal times, private equity would be nervous about Democratic Party control of both the White House and Congress. But in pandemic-consumed 2021, the industry seems sanguine.

Driving the news: Industry executives and lobbyists paid very close attention to Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen's confirmation hearings this week, and came away convinced that tax reform isn't on the near-term agenda.

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