Judicial dissolution, sometimes called the corporate death penalty, is a legal procedure in which a corporation is forced to dissolve or cease to exist.
A “corporate death penalty” is the revocation of a corporation’s charter for significant harm to society. In some countries there are corporate manslaughter laws, however, almost all countries enable the revocation of a corporate charter. There have been numerous calls in the literature for a “corporate death penalty”. Most recently a study argued that industries that kill more people each year than they employ should have an industry-wide corporate death penalty. Some legal analysis has been done on the idea to revoke corporate charters for environmental violations such as for severe environmental pollution. Actual corporate death penalties in the United States are rarely used. For example, Markoff has shown that no publicly traded company failed because of a conviction that occurred between 2001 and 2010.
Companies suggested as deserving the corporate death penalty include Eli Lilly & Company, Equifax, Unocal Corporation, and Wells Fargo. “If Volkswagen or other examples in this volume were forced out of existence, this would send a message,” John Hulpke wrote in the Journal of Management Inquiry in 2017.
One argument against its use is that otherwise innocent employees and shareholders will lose money or their jobs. But author David Dayen argues in The New Republic that “the risk of a corporate death penalty should inspire active governance practices to protect their investments.”
In 1890, New York’s highest court revoked the charter of the North River Sugar Refining Corporation on the grounds that it was abusing its powers as a monopoly.
“Instead of asking why a corporation can speak as freely as a person, perhaps we should ask, “Why is money considered speech?””
Executing a corporation would be similar to declaring a chapter 7 bankruptcy, with a few additional steps to ensure that the actual people hiding behind the corporation committing these atrocities don’t profit from them. First, nationalize the corporation to ensure that all equity holders forfeit their investments. Then all worldwide assets need to be confiscated. And as a final act of deterrence, all members of the board of directors and corporate executives must have all their assets seized and be banned from employment for life. If their conduct rises to the level of a crime, the executives must also be held personally liable according to the laws of the criminal justice system. Some executives have to be jailed.
Humans receive the death penalty for the most heinous crimes. Why shouldn’t corporate legal personhood also come with the death penalty? Is it that they get to be people when they benefit but cease being people when they need to be punished? No!
IG Farben Companies: Bayer, Sanofi, BASF and Agfa
IG Farben, one of the world’s biggest chemical cartels, was not merely a passive beneficiary of the the Nazis and the Holocaust. They were active participants. The Nuremberg trial transcripts show us that the executives of IG Farben directed and controlled Hitler’s policies. In the 1930s, IG Farben was the biggest contributor to the Nazi party. It even helped form an economic plan on behalf of the Nazi party. The passage below is an example of the IG Farben executives pulling the levers behind the scene in the Nazi party.
IG Farben executives were also instrumental in convincing Von Pappen to hand over the proverbial keys to the kingdom to Hitler in 1933. Its collaboration didn’t stop there. It was one of the most loyal ideologues for the Nazi party. The Nuremberg trials exposed the infernal depths of IG Farben‘s crimes. The company itself was deemed liable for: slavery, genocide, and illegal human experimentation. Its biggest profit came from selling Zyklon-B to the Nazis, the gas used in the gas chambers, the most common death penalty apparatus used by the Nazis.
In 1945, IG Farben was dissolved for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The executives were also later tried in a different proceeding. In 1948, many of IG Farben’s executives were found guilty of war crimes. One prominent executive was Fritz Ter Meer, who was convicted for creating Auschwitz. His other crimes included: slavery, genocide, mass rape and crimes against humanity. Ter Meer only served two years in prison for his role in one of the worst atrocities known to man. In 1950, he was paroled for “good behavior.” However, the three powers in the Western zone: France, UK and the US reconstituted the IG Farben cartel into four companies: BASF, Bayer, Sanofi and Agfa. The original shareholders (who were convicted of perpetuating the Holocaust) were given ownership and all their assets back. In fact, Fritz der Meer was reinstated and he continued to serve on the Board of Directors for Bayer until his death. The descendants of the IG Farben executives are still some of the wealthiest people in Germany.
The IG Farben companies seemed to have continued their culture of ethnonationalism. In the 1990s, they admitted to deliberately infecting Africans with HIV and paid millions for this crime. In 2015, after it became public that Bayer tested a cancer medication on Indians, India revoked a drug patent for Bayer. Contravening Indian law, they did not make the drug available for Indians even though they had no problem experimenting on Indians during the R&D phase. Responding to the Indian Supreme Court ruling, then CEO Marijn Dekkers exclaimed, “We did not develop this medicine for Indians. We developed it for western patients who can afford it.”
Adding Monsanto’s Crimes to Bayer’s Balance Sheet
Monsanto ran the defoliation campaign using Agent Orange in Vietnam. Even today, children in Vietnam still suffer birth defects. On top of it, Monsanto tested the effects of Agent Orange on US soldiers, for which they paid compensation. They also sprayed cancer causing pesticides in Hawaii.
Chiquita – Pleading Guilty to Hiring Colombian Death Squads
In 2000, a Chiquita executive admitted to hiring Colombian paramilitaries that were classified by the US government as terrorist organizations. The Chiquita executives claimed that it was for “security purposes.” Of course, these paramilitaries didn’t protect the factories. Instead, they “subdued the land,” marching indigenous people at gunpoint on a “trail of tears.” On top of displacing thousands, these paramilitaries have killed at least 4000 people.
The most unforgivable part is that the attorney who defended Chiquita was the former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. During the Bush years, Eric Holder negotiated with the justice department on behalf of the Chiquita executives. All his clients pled guilty. None of them went to jail and Chiquita was fined only $25 million. Eric Holder even made a statement chastising the justice department for the proverbial slap on the wrist. He claimed, “If what you want to encourage is voluntary self-disclosure, what message does this send to other companies? Here’s a company that voluntarily self-discloses in a national security context, where the company gets treated pretty harshly,[and] then on top of that, you go after individuals who made a really painful decision.”
Nestlé – Infant Deaths, Slavery and Water Privatization
Nestlé illegally marketed their infant formula to poor women in Africa, who were forced to work long hours to make ends meet. They marketed it as a convenience, in contravention to national laws and international code. Nestle’s actions increased the infant mortality rate in Burkina Faso and Togo. Every year, nearly 25% of Togo’s infant mortality and 11% of Burkina Faso’s infant mortality are caused by baby formula.
Nestle is a huge maker of chocolate in the world and 60% of the chocolate its manufacture uses child slave labor in Africa. However, Nestle won’t monitor thitseir supply chain to make sure they don’t use child slaves. Instead, it continues violating the law and all morality brazenly and without consequence.
Like many other companies in South America, Nestle funded death squads in Colombia which murdered many union workers and activists. Finally, Nestle is using up the world’s fresh water supply for bottling and making water too expensive for people to drink.
Other honorable mentions for privatizing water:
- Bechtel not only privatized the water, but they even got rights to the rain. After Bolivia asserted its sovereignty, Bechtel tried to sue Bolivia in the World Bank Arbitration court. Thankfully after public outcry, the suit was dismissed.
Umicore is the successor company for Belgian Union Minere. As soon as Congo got its independence, it funded paramilitaries to create an ethnostate called the “Free State of Katanga.” The white nationalist paramilitaries were responsible for assassinating Patrice Lumumba, and later, these same paramilitaries assassinated the first UN secretary General Dag Hammarskjold.
To learn more about these atrocities, listen to our interview with Andreas Rocksen.
In 1964, a BBC Comedy sketch succinctly explained all the atrocities committed by this one company:
Shell Oil, through corruption, received concessions to drill in the Niger-Delta. Sometimes, when the prime drilling spot was on top of a village or town, they paid paramilitaries to displace people and murder any activists who spoke out against the colonization of their homes. Shell also intentionally polluted areas in the Niger Delta, making parts of it uninhabitable, displacing 40,000 people. In violation of local law, Shell refuses to clean up these areas that they polluted.
They are also responsible for killing entire fisheries, which further threatens an already food-insecure population.
Check out our interview with Greg Palast to understand how Katrina was a manmade disaster created by the oil companies.
Nearly 9000 miles around the US gulf coast is a “dead-zone.” This means that it cannot support marine life. Tyson, which has food production factories in many locations along this coast, is deemed the #1 culprit in creating their dead zone
It also abuses its labor force. Tyson regularly smuggles undocumented immigrants across the border. However, if these trafficked individuals tried to form a union, Tyson has no problem siccing ICE on their trafficked labor force. Last year, Tyson sicced ICE on employees who demanded a decent wage. While ICE arrested the parents, children were left alone and crying.
Amidst the covid crisis, Tyson employees in California have compared their conditions to modern slavery.
Purdue Pharmaceuticals had a shamleless predatory scheme to market addictive opioids to doctors. It also employed a quasi-legal bonus scheme to bribe doctors, pharmacies and healthcare workers to further the atrocity. The NIH explains all their predatory behavior:
From 1996 to 2001, Purdue conducted more than 40 national pain-management and speaker-training conferences at resorts in Florida, Arizona, and California. More than 5000 physicians, pharmacists, and nurses attended these all-expenses-paid symposia, where they were recruited and trained for Purdue’s national speaker bureau…
One of the cornerstones of Purdue’s marketing plan was the use of sophisticated marketing data to influence physicians’ prescribing. Drug companies compile prescriber profiles on individual physicians—detailing the prescribing patterns of physicians nationwide—in an effort to influence doctors’ prescribing habits. Through these profiles, a drug company can identify the highest and lowest prescribers of particular drugs in a single zip code, county, state, or the entire country.
A lucrative bonus system encouraged sales representatives to increase sales of OxyContin in their territories, resulting in a large number of visits to physicians with high rates of opioid prescriptions, as well as a multifaceted information campaign aimed at them. In 2001, in addition to the average sales representative’s annual salary of $55 000, annual bonuses averaged $71 500, with a range of $15 000 to nearly $240 000. Purdue paid $40 million in sales incentive bonuses to its sales representatives that year.”
Obviously, there are many more corporations that probably deserve the death penalty! If there is a candidate you’d like to nominate, please comment and I will see if I can add it to the list
Why we see opportunities rather than pitfalls in BBB-rated credits
Why the concern? Because BBB-rated debt, which includes credits rated BBB-, BBB, and BBB+, has grown sharply over the past several years. This credit tier represented nearly half of the $6.2 trillion U.S. IG credit market as of January 31, 2019, according to the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Credit Index. Additionally, its size relative to the high-yield and leveraged loan markets has caused concern that a pickup in credit downgrades could have negative implications for the high-yield market. In Europe, the BBB-rated sector has also grown substantially. Although others—both media and asset managers—have amplified fears concerning BBB credits, we think differently. We believe the growth of this sector offers opportunities. Within this paper, you’ll find reasons for growth in BBB-rated credits as well as an assessment of the risks and credit metrics most relevant for investors to consider. We also share ways you might consider using BBB credits in an effort to add alpha and diversification to an IG portfolio. These ideas range from where our analysts see relative value, mispricings that active managers may capitalize on, and ways to further diversify amid BBB credits.
While the BBB-rated credit space has grown rapidly in market value, this growth is not necessarily a cause for fear. Several innocuous factors have contributed to the growth, including an uptick in issuers, a positive credit trend that has led to rising stars, and elevated M&A activity that is typical for this stage in the cycle. Although these BBB-rated credits tend to be more volatile, this sector presents opportunities for active managers to add alpha through an intense focus on security selection while offering diversification.
Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Bank of America are the worst offenders.
WASHINGTON — If you asked us why a dozen people sat on the floor next to the A.T.M. in a Chase Bank branch on Friday, waiting for the police to arrest us for this small act of civil disobedience, we would come up with the same answer as the famous robber Willie Sutton: “Because that’s where the money is.”
We don’t want to empty the vaults. Instead, we want people to understand that the money inside the vaults of banks like Chase is driving the climate crisis. Cutting off that flow of cash may be the single quickest step we can take to rein in the fossil fuel industry and slow the rapid warming of the earth.
JPMorgan Chase isn’t the only offender, but it is among the worst. In the last three years, according to data compiled in a recently released “fossil fuel finance report card” by a group of environmental organizations, JPMorgan Chase lent over $195 billion to gas and oil companies.
- Wells Fargo lent over $151 billion,
- Citibank lent over $129 billion and
- Bank of America lent over $106 billion.
Since the Paris climate accord, which 195 countries agreed to in 2015, JPMorgan Chase has been the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels by a 29 percent margin.
This investment sends a message that’s as clear as President Trump’s shameful decision to pull America out of that pact: Short-term profits are more important than the long-term health of the planet.
There are few financial institutions untouched by these climate change-causing investments. Amalgamated Bank, Aspiration and Beneficial State Bank are notable exceptions. Local credit unions rarely have major investments in fossil fuels.
JPMorgan Chase, in contrast, has funded the very worst projects — projects that expand the reach of fossil fuel infrastructure and lock in our dependence on fossil fuels for decades to come.
If approved this year, the pipeline will carry 760,000 barrels of crude oil every day from Canada to terminals on the edge of Lake Superior. This project reroutes and expands existing pipelines so that more crude oil can flow to refineries in Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Ontario.
Tara Houska, a tribal attorney and member of the Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe, has demonstrated the impacts on the ground. If built, the Line 3 replacement route will endanger the wild rice crops harvested for at least 500 years by the people native to the upper Midwest. Many Ojibwe nations in the region have opposed the project.
But it’s just as damaging if the oil doesn’t spill. Refined and burned as gasoline or jet fuel, it will spew carbon into the air, raising the temperature of the planet.
The victims of climate change are primarily people who have done little to cause the crisis. A World Health Organization senior scientist, Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, said in December that climate change is emerging as “potentially the greatest risk to human health in the 21st century.” In the same month, Oxfam reported that cyclones, floods and fires are now displacing three times as many people as wars.
Not all the victims of climate change are humans. An estimated 800 million animals have been killed in the Australian blazes, which came after record heat and drought. Neither of us have met a long-nosed potoroo; the news that Australia’s bush fires have likely driven it and other species to extinction makes the world seem poorer.
There’s nothing abstract about climate change any more. Slowing the pace of climate change is humanity’s great task.
One center of power in our world is political — that’s why young people have been demonstrating outside of parliaments, writing a Green New Deal and registering new voters: in the United States, 2020 will be a fateful year for changing the politics of climate.
But even if the most environmental candidates win, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll be able to move our country at the pace science requires. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that if we want to limit global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial temperatures, we will have to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, cutting them to net zero by around 2050 — and Washington is only one capitol.
It makes sense to go after the other center of power, too: the vast financial empire centered in our country. Insurance companies like Liberty Mutual and asset managers like BlackRock have also, through their investments in fossil fuels, enabled climate chaos.
These titans may be too big to pressure. Yet if we could get just one offending bank to move toward divesting from fossil fuels, the ripple effects would be both swift and global.
Imagine an announcement from JPMorgan Chase that it was immediately ending funding for new fossil fuel projects. It would echo around the world in hours, and there would be nothing the Trumps or Putins or Bolsonaros of the world could do to stop it.
We sat in and were arrested at Chase Bank on Friday for nothing smaller than the future of our planet. If you care about the climate, it’s worth moving your accounts away from these offenders. Cut up your credit cards.
If you want to stop climate change, follow the money.
We can save our broken economic system from itself.
Despite the lowest unemployment rates since the late 1960s, the American economy is failing its citizens. Some 90 percent have seen their incomes stagnate or decline in the past 30 years. This is not surprising, given that the United States has the highest level of inequality among the advanced countries and one of the lowest levels of opportunity — with the fortunes of young Americans more dependent on the income and education of their parents than elsewhere.
But things don’t have to be that way. There is an alternative: progressive capitalism. Progressive capitalism is not an oxymoron; we can indeed channel the power of the market to serve society.
In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s regulatory “reforms,” which reduced the ability of government to curb the excesses of the market, were sold as great energizers of the economy. But just the opposite happened: Growth slowed, and weirder still, this happened in the innovation capital of the world.
The sugar rush produced by President Trump’s largess to corporations in the 2017 tax law didn’t deal with any of these long-run problems, and is already fading. Growth is expected to be a little under 2 percent next year.
This is where we’ve descended to, but not where we have to stay. A progressive capitalism based on an understanding of what gives rise to growth and societal well-being gives us a way out of this quagmire and a way up for our living standards.
Standards of living began to improve in the late 18th century for two reasons:
- the development of science (we learned how to learn about nature and used that knowledge to increase productivity and longevity) and
- developments in social organization (as a society, we learned how to work together, through institutions like the rule of law, and democracies with checks and balances).
Key to both were systems of assessing and verifying the truth. The real and long-lasting danger of the Trump presidency is the risk it poses to these pillars of our economy and society, its attack on the very idea of knowledge and expertise, and its hostility to institutions that help us discover and assess the truth.
There is a broader social compact that allows a society to work and prosper together, and that, too, has been fraying. America created the first truly middle-class society; now, a middle-class life is increasingly out of reach for its citizens.
America arrived at this sorry state of affairs because we forgot that the true source of the wealth of a nation is the creativity and innovation of its people. One can get rich either by adding to the nation’s economic pie or by grabbing a larger share of the pie by exploiting others — abusing, for instance, market power or informational advantages. We confused the hard work of wealth creation with wealth-grabbing (or, as economists call it, rent-seeking), and too many of our talented young people followed the siren call of getting rich quickly.
Beginning with the Reagan era, economic policy played a key role in this dystopia: Just as forces of globalization and technological change were contributing to growing inequality, we adopted policies that worsened societal inequities. Even as economic theories like information economics (dealing with the ever-present situation where information is imperfect), behavioral economics and game theory arose to explain why markets on their own are often not efficient, fair, stable or seemingly rational, we relied more on markets and scaled back social protections.
We are now in a vicious cycle: Greater economic inequality is leading, in our money-driven political system, to more political inequality, with weaker rules and deregulation causing still more economic inequality.
If we don’t change course matters will likely grow worse, as machines (artificial intelligence and robots) replace an increasing fraction of routine labor, including many of the jobs of the several million Americans making their living by driving.
The prescription follows from the diagnosis: It begins by recognizing the vital role that the state plays in making markets serve society. We need regulations that ensure strong competition without abusive exploitation, realigning the relationship between corporations and the workers they employ and the customers they are supposed to serve. We must be as resolute in combating market power as the corporate sector is in increasing it.
If we had curbed exploitation in all of its forms and encouraged wealth creation, we would have had a more dynamic economy with less inequality. We might have curbed the opioid crisis and avoided the 2008 financial crisis. If we had done more to blunt the power of oligopolies and strengthen the power of workers, and if we had held our banks accountable, the sense of powerlessness might not be so pervasive and Americans might have greater trust in our institutions.
The neoliberal fantasy that unfettered markets will deliver prosperity to everyone should be put to rest. It is as fatally flawed as the notion after the fall of the Iron Curtain that we were seeing “the end of history” and that we would all soon be liberal democracies with capitalist economies.
Most important, our exploitive capitalism has shaped who we are as individuals and as a society. The rampant dishonesty we’ve seen from Wells Fargo and Volkswagen or from members of the Sackler family as they promoted drugs they knew were addictive — this is what is to be expected in a society that lauds the pursuit of profits as leading, to quote Adam Smith, “as if by an invisible hand,” to the well-being of society, with no regard to whether those profits derive from exploitation or wealth creation.