Corporate Predators

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

– Krishnamurti

“A criminal is a person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation.”

Howard Scott

The corporation of the 21st Century is a perfect example of the psychopath sharpening his teeth in the realm of business. If this seems like a glib statement then we only need to be reminded that the ruthless practices of corporatism has ensured that only ten trans-national companies control the output of everything you buy; from foodstuffs to toiletries; pet food to designer clothes. They have achieved this global monopoly by gobbling up smaller businesses and establishing an effective cartel with cheap labour, banking preferences, and the assistance of government deregulation which restricts the ability for more local-based business to thrive. This gives an illusion of choice when in fact it offers nothing more than a form of cartel capitalism: a world of diminishing returns for all of us.

George Monbiot highlighted the evidence corporation is an excellent reflection of the psychopath in business in his November 2011 article for The Guardian newspaper entitled: “The 1% are the very best destroyers of wealth the world has ever seen.” He quoted the Journal of Psychology, Crime and Law who had tested 39 British senior managers and CEOs and found that they had more psychopathic tendencies than patients in Broadmoor.

A 2013 report written by Chris Miles for online magazine Policy Mic entitled: “10 Corporations Control Almost Everything You Buy” explains the formula for the lion’s share:

Yum Brands owns KFC and Taco Bell. The company was a spin-off of Pepsi. All Yum Brands restaurants sell only Pepsi products because of a lifetime deal with the soda-maker.

$84 billion-company Proctor & Gamble — the largest advertiser in the U.S. — owns companies that produce everything from medicine to toothpaste to high-end fashion. P&G reportedly serves a whopping 4.8 billion people around the world with their products.

Nestle — famous for chocolate, but which is the biggest food company in the world — owns shampoo company L’Oreal, baby food giant Gerber, clothing brand Diesel, and pet food makers Purina and Friskies.

Unilever, of soap fame, produces everything from Q-tips to Skippy peanut butter. It gets even more macro, too: 37 banks have merged to become just four — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and CitiGroup in a little over two decades, according to this Federal Reserve map. 

(You can view an extraordinary infographic at the same link above). The report also reveals that “The nation’s 10 largest financial institutions hold 54% of our total financial assets; in 1990, they held 20%”. Since the 2008 global economic crisis a process of financial warfare took place which resulted in a consolidation and centralisation of corporations parallel to the banking industry, which the pretext for the manipulated crisis in the first place. As Policy Mic states: “… the number of banks has dropped from more than 12,500 to about 8,000.”

And it’s not just the products you buy and consume, either. In recent decades, the very news and information that you get has bundled together: 90% of the media is now controlled by just six companies, down from 50 in 1983, according to a Frugal Dad infographic from 2012. Under the fusion of corporations and the State, privatization has become the means by which commercialisation, consolidation, centralisation and control can shape social, cultural and economic perceptions. which continues to make a profit for an elite few and the valueless ethos of corporatism.

Telecommunications, prisons, energy and water utilities, healthcare, transportation and banking – no domain is untouched by rampant privatisation. Meanwhile, Government outsourcing and corporate control is becoming the norm at the federal level and local level which means the greatest profits are going to a smaller and smaller percentage of the rich at expense of the vast majority of ordinary people. What we are seeing is reduction of community and “consumer” freedom in the face of cartel capitalism with transnational companies leading the charge. This is the psychopath’s business sensibilities manifesting as the global corporation which in turn, has increasingly defined how business is done in this dog-eat-dog world.

For example, Online journal Common Dreams ran an August 2013 piece by Paul Buchheit’s called: “8 Ways Privatization Has Failed America,” in which a 2009 analysis of water and sewer utilities by Food and Water Watch was cited. It found that private companies charge up to 80 percent more for water and 100 percent more for sewer services. A more recent study confirms that privatization will generally “increase the long-term costs borne by the public.”

Increasing governments are blamed for, or called on to remedy, damages done by private industry.  For instance, as recently as 2004, Monsanto had insisted that Agent Orange “is not the cause of serious long-term health effects.” Dow Chemical, the co-manufacturer of Agent Orange, blamed the government. Halliburton pleaded guilty to destroying evidence after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. Cleanups cost much more than the fines imposed on offending companies, as government costs can run into the billions, or even tens of billions, of dollars.

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Buchheit’s report indicates that a number of the nation’s leading (corporate) news figures and organizations are beginning to acknowledge the shortcomings of the “free market” and privatization.  Thus, Ted Koppel is on record as saying, “We are privatizing ourselves into one disaster after another.” And US News & World Report ran an editorial on Hurricanes Isaac and Katrina indicating that, “private industry is not going to step in and save people from drowning, or help them rebuild their homes without a solid profit.” Buchheit summarizes, “analysis reveals that privatization doesn’t seem to work in any of the areas vital to the American public.”

Corporations within global operations are able to easily ignore outdated governmental restrictions concerning national economies and foreign policy. The trans-nationalisation of business – by the very nature of the corporate structure and its ethos – is concerned with eliminating smaller units of self-sufficient diversity. Whatever proves a hindrance towards a centralised system of vertical supply networks must be removed. And with it, the social, cultural and ultimately, individual identity of nations caught up in this colonisation.

Whatever the quality of benevolence existing within the internal personnel of the corporation (i.e. ordinary citizens like you and I) the structures and directives that spur corporations on to maximize profits are the precise embodiments of the predator. No matter how hard these leviathans may try, they cannot go beyond their conspiratorial desire to implant a strictly one dimensional action of capitalist “efficiency” tied to unlimited economic growth. True values of society are merely inconveniences on the road to consumption; obstacles to complete monopolisation. Meanwhile, massive trans-national mergers and boom and bust economics ensure financial warfare resulting in greater and greater centralisation.

Some examples from our official culture of business these past years include:

The Swiss pharmaceutical giant, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., paid “a record $500 million criminal fine for leading a worldwide conspiracy to raise and fix prices and allocate market shares for certain vitamins sold in the United States and elsewhere.” It is just one of a long line of companies which consider it a part of their yearly activities, as normal in fact as Exxon diddling the books and McDonald’s lying about it’s so called nutritional meals. [1]

Or how about Daiwa Bank Ltd. that was charged with 16 federal felonies and who paid the largest criminal fine ever imposed in the United States at $340 million? Or Bankers Trust that was “fined $60 million for its role in a scheme by high-ranking bank officials to enhance the bank’s financial performance by falsely recording approximately $19.1 million in unclaimed customer funds as the bank’s income and reserves.” [2]

Then there is Damon Clinical Laboratories, Inc. that was fined $32.2 million for submitting false claims to the Medicare program and defrauding the American public. And we mustn’t forget that tried and tested formula of giving away billions of dollars to Israel in the form of tax free benefits and corporate hand-outs including a $26.5 million in the sale of military equipment. [3]

General Electric was fined a paltry 9.5 million for persistent counts of fraud which barely dented its global operations for expansion. We can also mention the sorry tale of Unisys which conspired to defraud the US; including “bribery, conversion of government property, filing a false statement and filing false claims…” [4] [5] underscoring the fact that streamlined corruption is as much a part of corporate business as it is in politics.

The so called fines inflicted on these companies are used as a sop for both the public and the Department of Justice.  They are immediately swallowed up in the vast mega-profits that these monoliths create, or as one resident commented on the Eastman Kodak criminal fine for a chemical spill: “It’s equivalent to you or I getting a jaywalking ticket.” [6]

The essential framework of exploitation lumbers on, consolidating and centralising into bigger market share opportunities for the minority rich causing decreasing diversity, quantity over quality and the destabalisation of community and the environment. The effects of corporate dynamics far outweigh the oft mentioned benefits to society where jobs and the push for economic growth are deemed as the only viable options for a desperate global population. Yet some of the biggest trans-national corporations have mutated into such monsters of consumption that the dehumanization takes more tangible and immediate forms.

For example, over in Latin America – a favourite continent for exploitation by the US – has seen Union leaders at Coca-Cola’s Colombian bottling plants murdered while hundreds of other Coke workers tortured kidnapped or illegally detained by violent paramilitaries, often working closely with plant managements. [7]  While providing for all our unhealthy snacks, soft drink and clothing needs large trans-nationals have excelled in the realm of human rights abuses right along with criminal fines and lawsuits.

After the US killed millions of Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, the Dow Chemical Co. made its name by subsequently destroying the health of millions more of the Vietnamese people lucky enough to survive the military onslaughts. Enormous tracts of rainforest were destroyed during the Vietnam War using the Dow’s lethal War defoliant, Agent Orange. Not content with their profits from this ecological and human disaster they put their creative minds together to produce Napalm which burned many thousands of innocent people to death and which was used illegally in the invasion of Iraq. [8]

In 1988, with the sticky fingered handshake from Donald Rumsfeld, Dow chemical sold $1.5 million in pesticides to Saddam Hussein despite knowledge that these would be used in chemical weapons.[9] When it acquired Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and its outstanding liabilities in for the Bhopal disaster in India, these were summarily ignored at great emotional and financial cost to Bhopal’s civilians. [10] The company continues to be involved in human rights abuses: environmental destruction, water and ground contamination, health violations, chemical poisoning, and chemical warfare.

From 1972 to 1992 the petrochemical company Chevron and its Texaco subsidiary felt it necessary to leave more than 600 unlined oil pits in the pristine northern Amazon rainforest while dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic production water into rivers used for bathing. It destroyed the ecosystems, displaced indigenous Indians and caused countless health problems. [11] Chevron continues to exacerbate and ferment violent repression of non-violent opposition to its oil extraction ventures in both Nigeria and the Niger Delta. The company has used any tactics it sees fit, including the collaboration with Nigerian police and military where human rights seem yet again to be an impediment to shareholders’ dividends. [12]

The daily list of actions that fly in the face of any notion of human dignity and respect continue daily according to the nature of the beast. If intimidation and bribery on the ground do not work then they can always rely on the bias of criminal law to ease the wheels of progress. One example of such loop-holing is known as “deferred prosecution agreements” [13] where the prosecutor charges the corporation with a crime, but agrees to drop the charges if the corporation fulfils its promises to the prosecutor. These promises include fines, cooperation – including the highly controversial waiver of attorney-client privilege – and monitors. The elimination of corporate liability is the goal and many advocate its preferential treatment for business.

Underpinning the global economic infrastructure which makes all this possible is of course, international banking.

In 2011, Barclays Bank Barclays admitted attempting to manipulate the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor – the interest rate at which banks lend money to each other – and was fined by various US and UK regulatory bodies £291 million ($470) in 2012. Six other banks were served subpoenas in that year including: HSBC, UBS, Royal Bank of Scotland, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan. HSBC was fined a whopping £1.9 billion ($1.9) by US authorities for money laundering whilst other enquiries are on-going. [14]

A global coalition of government and business interests have decided that what is good for you because their narrow view of a global market place buttressed by institutional corruption and criminal business practice is good for them. Their only priority – at least at the executive level – is to their board members and shareholders. Anything that gets in the way of this fundamental process is expendable. Adapting to social ethics, activism and environmental awareness is incorporated into the corporate structure out of a genuine wish from many employees to do their part in making society a better place to live and to attempt to initiate change within the corporate structure. Due to the structure and principles of the corporate monolith, its overriding essence is antithetical to true social values, decentralised commerce and community. Much of the ecological awareness has proven to have been a form of “green-washing” which co-opts awareness as a PR image boost whilst offering lip-service and slick logos to green concerns.  Many such corporations hastily create new “human rights teams” in much the same way companies created “environmental focus teams” green consumer products and “sustainability department groups” which, regardless of the correct intentions or PR designs of those involved, are doomed to failure due its inherent nature.

The corporation stands for the very opposite as it grows in size causing an environmental and social footprint which causes pollution, despoliation, community fragmentation, job loss and low wages the latter effects of which are central to its expansion. It may provide many jobs initially for displaced workers while uprooting the very the often indigenous cultures themselves, causing mass migration to mega-cities.

The list of 100 top corporate criminals from the 1990s-2000s is testament to what they can get away with without being caught. We have seen the exact same dynamic occurring towards international banking which gets a hefty fine then returns to business as usual. In reality, laws promote the multinational agenda rather than the basic rights for the men and women in the street. As such, these crimes are merely normal business practice for 90 percent of the listed companies. Fining these companies does not address the problem. It is akin to smacking the legs of a Rhino as it marauds through a China shop.

The control of market power depends on the “invisible hand” of economic pathology with nothing and no limits to its “growth.” Still, we get endless support for corporatism that is out of control; its essential nature creates and perpetuates toxic effects on the developing world sanctioned by powerful banking cartels. It is the nature of the corporation to despoil and degrade it cannot do anything else since these dynamics are built into its very structure. It is the psychopath’s idea of how business should operate.

The Greek social reformer Vassilis Epaminondou wrote: “To the fervent proponents of ruthless corporate capitalism I say: make a millionaire CEO live as a poor sweatshop worker in Indonesia for one month and then ask him about the merits of the world economic system.”

I fear that wouldn’t work either, unless of course, the corporate CEO in question had a conscience.

 


Notes

[1] ‘The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s’www.corporatecrimereporter.com.
[2] F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. Type of Crime: Antitrust Criminal Fine: $500 million 12 Corporate Crime Reporter 21(1), May 24, 1999.
[3] Daiwa Bank Ltd. Type of Crime: Fraud Criminal Fine: $340 million 10 Corporate Crime Reporter 9(3), March 4, 1996
[4] Unisys Type of Crime: Bribery Criminal Fine: $5 million 5 Corporate Crime Reporter 35(11), September 16, 1991.
[5] General Electric Type of Crime: Fraud Criminal Fine: $9.5 million 6 Corporate Crime Reporter 30(7), July 27, 1992.
[6] Eastman Kodak Type of Crime: Environmental Criminal Fine: $1 million 4 Corporate Crime Reporter 14(1), April 9, 1990.
[7] ‘Chicago Protest Against Coca-Cola Death Squads in Colombia’ By Fightback News Service, May 17, 2003.
[8] ‘US admits it used napalm bombs in Iraq’ By Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, August 10, 2003.
[9] ‘Rumsfeld ‘offered help to Saddam’’- Declassified papers leave the White House hawk exposed over his role during the Iran-Iraq war, by Julian Borger, December 31, 2002.
[10] Members of Congress tell Dow – Face up to your Bhopal responsibilities, US Congressional Letter to Dow Chemical July 18, 2003.
[11] ‘Amazon Indians want court to speed up Chevron case’ by Alonso Soto, Reuters, 25 Jul 2006. “Lawyers for Amazon Indians embroiled in a $6.1 billion pollution case against Chevron Corp. in Ecuador asked a local court on Monday to move faster, a month after the country’s government filed its latest accusation against the oil giant in the United States.”
[12] ‘The True Cost of Chevron: Chevron in Nigeria’ from The True Cost of Chevron Alternative Annual Report May 2011 By  Nnimmo Bassey, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria; Emem Okon, Kebetkache Women’s Resource and Development Centre; Laura Livoti & Marc Evans, Justice In Nigeria Now. | http://www.justiceinnigerianow.org/about-chevron | ‘Child Labour and Trans-National Seed Companies in Hybrid Cotton Seed Production in Andhra Pradesh’ Dr. Davuluri Venkateswarlu Director, Glocal Research and Consultancy Services, Hyderabad. India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep – April 24, 2003.
[13] ‘Crime Without Conviction: The Rise of Deferred and Non Prosecution Agreements.’ A Report Released by Corporate Crime Reporter Wednesday, December 28, 2005.
[14] ‘HSBC to pay $1.9bn in US money laundering penalties’ BBC News, December 1, 2012.

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