Robert Reich says it’s not enough to fine companies like GM and Credit Suisse when they’re found guilty of criminal behavior — the executives who made those decisions should face prosecution:
For a decade GM had been receiving complaints about the ignition switch but chose to do nothing. Who was at fault? Look toward the top. David Friedman, acting head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, says those aware of the problem had ranged from engineers “all the way up through executives.”
Credit Suisse employees followed a carefully-crafted plan, even sending private bankers to visit their American clients on tourist visas to avoid detection. According to the head of New York State’s Department of Financial Services, Credit Suisse’s crime was “decidedly not the result of the conduct of just a few bad apples.”
Yet in neither of these cases have any executives been charged with violating the law. No top guns are going to jail. No one is even being fired.
Instead, the government is imposing corporate fines. The logic is that since the corporation as whole benefited from these illegal acts, the corporation as a whole should pay.
But the logic is flawed. Such fines are often treated by corporations as costs of doing business. GM was fined $35 million. That’s peanuts to a hundred-billion-dollar corporation.