Time after time we hear about cheating scandals at the corporate level, and time after time we wonder how corporate criminals continue to cheat Americans. Consider the Volkswagen cheating scandal in which Volkswagen corporate officers did their emissions testing in a laboratory, allowing them to alter the results. Hundreds of thousands of people bought Volkswagen vehicles, based on those altered emissions tests, only to find they were cheated, and are now unable to re-sell their vehicles.
Other car manufacturers participated in the program which used remote sensing devices placed on the side of the road. These devices accurately gauge the level of emissions from the vehicles that pass by, and because manufacturers are not sure when their own vehicles will be tested, the test becomes virtually cheat-proof. Lower emission vehicles are a regulation in some areas, and a definite boon to the environment, yet Volkswagen did their own “tests,” so they could deliberately cheat American consumers.
Consumers Cheated Time After Time by Corporate Criminals
Unfortunately, this is hardly an isolated incident. The problem lies in the fact that every time consumers are cheated by corporate criminals, those criminals typically get a slap on the wrist and a fine, and they move on to another corporate position, likely to cheat the public again as soon as the opportunity arises. As long as corporate criminals are held to a different standard, corporate crime will continue.
Often, even when a fine is assessed on the corporate crook whose crime is discovered, the corporation pays the fine rather than the criminal. Fear of prison might actually be the deterrent to stop serial corporate criminals.
Blankenship’s Criminal Behavior Causes the Death of 29 Miners—Then He Runs for Senate
Surprisingly, Donald Blankenship, Massey Energy CEO who cheated on safety standards, and whose criminal behavior resulted in the deaths of 29 West Virginia coal miners, actually spent an entire year in prison after being convicted for his role in the worst U.S. mine explosion in four decades. Yet, nine months after Blankenship was released from prison, he was on the campaign trail, running for a Senate seat.
Prior to spending time in prison, Blankenship was fined millions of dollars for federal environmental violations and was accused of improperly dumping highly toxic coal slurry in the local waterways, poisoning the water for residents. Blankenship also openly bullied smaller coal companies, setting up an environment where miners were encouraged to forgo reporting their work-related injuries. In short, the man Rolling Stone called “The Dark Lord of Coal County,” showed a blatant disregard, time after time, for the safety of Massey miners.
When you realize that Blankenship is the first coal industry executive to ever face a jury (in spite of the many tragedies in which coal miners lost their lives, and families lost their loved ones due to executives ignoring safety rules), it truly makes you wonder about our system of justice.
Corporate Greed and the Great Recession
What about the financial crash of 2008? Only one banker went to prison after the 2008 debacle, despite the fact that thousands of bankers and executives were actively and knowingly cheating the American public. Almost seven million Americans lost their homes during the Great Recession due to financial industry deregulation which permitted banks to engage in hedge fund trading, then demand more mortgages to support the profitable sale of derivatives—financial contracts which derive value from an underlying asset.
Interest-only loans which were made affordable to subprime borrowers were being handed out like candy. In 2004, the Federal Reserve raised the fed funds rate at the same time the mortgage interest rates re-set. Housing prices tanked as supply quickly outgrew demand. Homeowners could neither afford their mortgages nor sell their homes, leading to a crumbling value of the derivatives, and the financial crisis which led to the Great Recession.
Once again, corporate criminals defrauded the American public, causing millions to lose their homes, and, once again, ONE person went to prison. The others? Well, they received huge bailouts from the United States government, and many CEOs used at least a part of that bailout to fly their corporate jets to corporate parties they threw for themselves.
Wells Fargo in One Scandal After Another
Consider the recent Wells Fargo scandal(s). Not one, but multiple scandals. Wells Fargo employees opened more than three and a half million bank and credit card accounts on behalf of customers—without their consent. Next, Wells Fargo was accused of illegally repossessing service members’ cars, agreeing to pay $24 million to settle those charges.
Soon after, Wells Fargo was accused of modifying mortgages without customer authorization, resulting in some customers paying the banking giant more than they legitimately owned. The bank then admitted it charged more than half a million customers for auto insurance they did not need, causing more than 20,000 customers to default on their auto loans and overcharging small businesses for credit card transactions.
No Reason for Corporate Criminals to Stop Cheating the American Public
So, when you look at it from the point of view of the actual cheaters, there is simply no reason not to cheat American consumers every chance they get. No prison time, no fines—or only fines paid by the corporation—and these cheaters live to cheat another group of consumers. Obviously, we have to catch these corporate criminals in order to convict them, which requires a commitment on the part of lawmakers and regulatory agencies.
Unfortunately, there is far too much money changing hands between big corporations, lawmakers and regulatory agencies for there to be any real oversight. Recently, one of the top Washington Republicans claimed too much regulation was the “single biggest domestic problem we have regarding the future growth of our country.” Really???!!!
What about unemployment, an infrastructure which is crumbling before our very eyes, inequality…well, the list goes on and on, but it is a sure bet that only those who are involved in these payoffs believe there is too much regulation going on. Other remedies may need to be looked at, including the stipulation of duties and obligations of corporate managers to the public as well as to shareholders, and, ultimately, severe consequences for cheating corporate criminals.
Contact Our Jackson Consumer Fraud Lawyers
If you have been a victim of consumer fraud, banking fraud, or corporate fraud in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Meridian, or anywhere in the State of Mississippi, we can help. It is important to talk to an experienced Jackson consumer fraud attorney immediately.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.