Tuesday, September 4, 2018

No. 285: The Public Citizen/Corporate Research Project Joint Report

In July 2018 two nonprofit organizations based in Washington, DC released a major joint report. It is entitled Corporate Impunity: "Tough on Crime" Trump Is Weak on Corporate Wrongdoing.

The Executive Summary
The one-page Executive Summary consists of two extraordinary tables. They compare, for twelve federal agencies, the aggregate dollar amounts of financial penalties imposed for wrongdoing and the number of enforcement actions taken during President Obama's last year and President Trump's first year. As examples, the three agencies where the aggregate dollar amounts of financial penalties declined by the largest percentages were the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Communications Commission. Aggregate financial penalties imposed by EPA declined from $23.870 billion to $1.460 billion (minus 94 percent), by DOJ from $51.506 billion to $4.898 billion (minus 90 percent), and by FCC from $257.034 million to $39.631 million (minus 85 percent). [Blogger's note: I question whether it is fair to compare the first year of a new administration with the final year of an established administration. In other words, it might have been better to compare the first year of the Trump administration with the first year of the Obama administration.]

The Introduction
The Introduction consists of six pages. Here, without footnotes, are the second and third paragraphs:
Americans are virtually united in support for regulatory enforcement. Polling shows Americans favoring tough regulatory enforcement by an 87-12 margin. Democrats (89), Republicans (85), Independents (87) all agree, as do Americans from all parts of the country: Northeast (86), Midwest (88), South (88), West (84). In focus groups, Americans connect proper and fair enforcement of the rules to concerns about a rigged political and economic system. They favor enforcement to ensure that everyone has a fair shot in society. They want assurances that weak regulatory enforcement does not enable corporations and the rich to play by a different set of rules—with everyday people held to account, but the powerful able to disregard the rules because they know they won't be enforced against them. These views are durable, and withstand counter-messaging. Indeed, Americans express overwhelming support for stronger regulatory enforcement.
Americans' overwhelming support for tough law-and-order against corporate wrongdoers reflects three interconnected understandings. First, basic standards of justice require that the rules be enforced equally against powerful corporations as they are against vulnerable individuals. Americans of all political stripes perceive that the system is rigged, creating both a crisis of political legitimacy and a pervasive sense of injustice. Second, justice requires that wrongdoers be punished—and corporate violators, who can inflict damage on a scale vastly greater than street criminals, must be punished commensurate with the scale of the harms they impose. Americans of all income brackets, for example, expressed strong support for prosecuting and seeking jail terms for high-level Wall Street executives in connection with the 2008 financial crash. Third, strong enforcement is needed to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations that protect Americans' quality of life, from clean air safeguards to protections against predatory lenders.
Body of the Report
The body of the report consists of four major sections. They are Law Enforcement, Consumer and Worker Protection, Environmental Protection, and Financial Regulation. I think the report is well worth reading. The full report is offered at the end of this post.

The Two Organizations
Public Citizen is a national nonprofit organization with more than 400,000 members and supporters. It represents consumer interests through lobbying, litigation, administrative advocacy, research, and public education on a broad range of issues including consumer rights in the marketplace, product safety, financial regulation, worker safety, safe and affordable health care, campaign reform and government ethics, fair trade, climate change, and corporate and government accountability. [Blogger's note: In the interest of full disclosure, Public Citizen Litigation Group, a unit of Public Citizen, represented me pro bono several times over the years.]

Corporate Research Project is a nonprofit center that provides research assistance to organizations working on a wide range of corporate responsibility issues. It produces public resources such as a guide to online corporate research; Corporate Rap Sheet profiles of more than 70 large and controversial companies; and Violation Tracker, a database containing more than 300,000 entries relating to corporate regulatory violations and other forms of misconduct. Corporate Research Project is an affiliate of Good Jobs First, a national resource center on economic development accountability.

Availability of the Report
I am offering a complimentary 104-page PDF containing the full joint report prepared by Public Citizen and Corporate Research Project. Email jmbelth@gmail.com and ask for the July 2018 report on Corporate Impunity.