Saturday, November 20, 2010

The forgotten history of WA's sacrifice zones

The story of the Esperance lead pollution scandal has been consigned to the "dustbin" of Western Australian history. Hopefully, new research by the Conservation Council of WA might focus attention on the contamination of the town by a mining company and its state government partners.

Over 2 years (2005- 2007) Magellan Metals and the Esperance Port Authority allowed lethal lead dust to escape from storage facilities and contaminate the town of Esperance and surrounds. Over 9500 birds died of lead poisoning and hundreds of children suffered lead poisoning from elevated lead levels.

A Western Australian Parliamentary Inquiry found that the Esperance Port Authority and Magellan Metals (and 2 other government agencies) were guilty of "critical failings" in their handling of toxic material in allowing lead carbonate particles to escape during Port operation.

The Inquiry concluded that the deaths of 9500 native birds in December 2006 and March 2007 resulted from lead poisoning from Magellan Metals lead carbonate concentrate which had been handled by the Esperance Port Authority from April 2005 until March 2007. A quarter of the children under 5 years of age who were tested showed a blood lead level over 5 µg/dL. The Committee concluded that the exposure of the Esperance community to lead was a result of:
  • the ongoing transport to, and inloading practices at, the Esperance Port which occurred almost every second day over some 23 months;
  • the escape of lead dust during the usual out loading practices at the Esperance Port, which occurred on 22 occasions; and
  • a number of key dust incidents occurring during ship-loading of the Magellan lead concentrate at the Esperance Port, which released significant lead pollution into the environment, and in the absence of any containment or clean up, caused on-going exposures to lead.”
The Report found that the Esperance community had been let down by the actions of the Esperance Port Authority, Magellan Metals and the WA Department of Environment (DEC).

The Esperance Port Authority was fined over half a million dollars after admitting responsibility for the lead poisoning. Magellan Metals escaped without any serious penalty after agreeing to a $9 million settlement to clean up the town. As part of the agreement the State Government agreed not to pursue any criminal or legal charges against the company.

The scandal is back in the news this week as a result of resarch by the Conservation Council of WA. The Council reports that even though the lead pollution problem scandal was supposedly fixed, local research shows that local insect eating birds have lead levels in their feathers about 8 times background lead levels. The birds are at threshold level for lead pollution in birds.

These levels raise serious questions about the effectiveness of the cleanup. A State Government report released earlier this year claimed that three years after the crises the poisonous lead dust still present in the town  remained a major threat to bird life and animal life but presented no "serious threat to human health"  

But why should we believe a report commissioned by a State Government agency that has utterly failed in its job to regulate mining companies and their Government partners and has failed time and time again protect the community. During the Esperance crises, Government agencies, including the Health Department, continually downplayed the seriousness of the problem and denied any serious risk to human health.

Like many other places in WA, Esperance is what US author Steve Lerner calls a "Sacrifice Zone"- communities forced to live with the harmful social and environmental impacts of poorly regulated mining and industrial activity. 

Martin Bruckner's remarkable book Under Corporate Skies tells the shocking story of another Western Australian "Sacrifice Zone"- this time the struggle between the community of Wagerup and the multinational mining corporation Alcoa and its ally over three decades- the WA Government. Brueckner tells a story also consigned to the dustbin of Western Australian history. His book describes the the same pattern of denial, protection of mining and industrial interests, collusion by State Government agencies and  dismissal and trivialization of community concerns that has been evident in the Esperance scandal.

These "sacrifice zones" exist all over WA, in towns and communities where mining and industrial activity are dominant.  These are places and people sacrificed on the alter of corporate profit and economic growth. 

The harms caused by poorly regulated mining and industrial activity- ill health and death, scarred land, polluted, air and water, despoiled environment and human landscape and a fraying social fabric- are trivialized, and denied, and if proven, they are simply dismissed as a cost of economic prosperity or considered not serious enough to warrant attention

Friday, November 5, 2010

Missing in action: An economic vision for the "common wealth" not corporate wealth

For US author David Korten the lesson of the US Congressional elections is that financial and corporate interests have strengthened their hold over US politics. Korten argues that no US President or party is willing to break their hold over democracy. The result is that neither party has a credible vision for the economic future of the nation.

Korten argues that the banking and financial industries and their corporate allies are the big winners from the US congressional elections and now hold an even more dominant role over democracy. This is despite the fact that they were the  cause of the economic crises that has devastated the US economy and left over 15 million people unemployed. 

In the latest elections the banking and financial services industry and their corporate allies used their massive spending power to ensure the election of candidates that serve corporate interests.

Korten calls for a fundamental economic restructuring and a long term vision for a New Economy that
  • is based on sound market principles
  • is rooted in community and life values rather than financial values  and is built from the bottom up
  • is accountable to community interests
  • is aligned with values of solidarity, compassion and caring for others
  • locates the power to create and allocate money in people and community rather than the banking and financial industry
  • ensures that sustainable living and sustainable livelihoods for working people are the highest priority of economic policy rather than increased corporate profits, reduced taxation and growing wealth for the already well off.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ralph Nader and the steamroller of corporate power

"Not withstanding the latest corporate crime wave, the devastating fallout on workers, investors and taxpayers from the greed and corruption of Wall Street, and the abandonment of American workers by US corporations in favour of repressive regimes abroad, the Democrats have failed to focus voter anger on the corporate supremacists.........
The giant corporate control of our country is so vast that people who call themselves anything politically- liberal, conservative, progressive , libertarian, independent or anarchist- should be banding together against the reckless Big Business steamroller"
Ralph Nader, legendary US consumer advocate, lawyer and author on corporate power in the USA

Friday, October 29, 2010

Public sector reform=bosting corporate profits

George Monbiot on exactly what "public sector reform" really means in David Cameron's vision of the UK Big Society. 

Lesson to be learned- when Conservatives and Liberals, like Colin Barnett, talk about reforming the public sector this is what they mean:
"Public bodies whose purpose is to hold corporations to account are being swept away. Public bodies whose purpose is to help boost corporate profits, regardless of the consequences for people and the environment, have sailed through unharmed. What the two lists suggest is that the economic crisis is the disaster the Conservatives have been praying for. The government’s programme of cuts looks like a classic example of disaster capitalism: using a crisis to re-shape the economy in the interests of business"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gross hypocrisy and BHP Billiton

The London Mining Network has published this piece on BHP Billiton's London AGM. The report reveals the huge gulf between BHP Billiton's rhetoric about corporate social responsibility  and sustainable development and the reality of its actions on the ground that destroys communities, local economies, environments and livelihoods. 

There is no better example of BHP's hypocrisy than its stance on climate change. CEO Marius Kloper says that BHP  accepts the science and believes that greenhouse gas emissions need to be limited so that the increase in average atmospheric temperatures can be held at two degrees above the pre-industrial average. 

But BHP Billiton believes that it is up society and governments to decide on the way forward. (That is unless society and governments come up with a strategy unacceptable to BHP, in which case they will oppose  and destroy it like they did the Rudd Government proposal to introduce a Super Profits tax here in Australia).

BHP will continue to ramp up its plans to increase production of coal, oil and gas in the hope that currently unavailable technical solutions might one day help limit the effects of burning them. And BHP claims that its increased investment in uranium mining will be beneficial for global warming. 

The report concludes with this:
"BHP Billiton sees itself as indispensable to the prosperity of the world. Millions of the world’s poor are apparently relying on it to help them embrace the urbanised life of high consumption which it believes to be their destiny. Those who have a different view – like Indigenous communities in Kalimantan or small farmers in Colombia – have to be moved out of the way. BHP Billiton plans to continue mining, burning and irradiating its way towards a vision of the future that its board finds inspiring and which many of its critics reject as apocalyptic".
 A protest against BHP  in Perth is to be held at the Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre on Tuesday 16th November between 10.100am-2pm.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Challenging corporate power requires challenging economic orthodoxy












"We need to develop a new way of conceiving the economic process. In calling for an end to economics, I am not suggesting that we should dismiss everything that economists have learned about the economy. Some economic insights are useful. Our goal should be to build up an understanding of the economy in a context that transcends the narrow context of economic theory that characterizes modern economic theory. In doing so, we may lay the groundwork for an economy that transcends our outmoded capitalist way of life." 

Michael Perelman Railroading Economics

Stephen Marglin calls it the "dismal science". Michael Perelman writes about the ideological straitjacket of modern economics. James Galbraith describes contemporary economics in terms of a god that failed, a governing creed whose fallacies have been exposed by events of recent years.  In his book Economia Australian Geoff Davies writes that we have all become so accustomed to the current economic regime that we fail to see how absurd it is. He is right.

Contemporary economics provides the intellectual justification for corporate power. If we are to expose and challenge corporate power then we must also expose the fallacies at the heart of contemporary economics and economic theory. With that goal in mind I am currently reading the books pictured, all of which present a radical and sustained critique of contemporary economics. They challenge the idea that market and market forces are a solution to our social, environmental and economic problems.

These books don't just expose discredited contemporary economic orthodoxies, they also document the destructive effects of those orthodoxies in the real world (rather than the theories of economists and business leaders). These authors more importantly set an  alternative and radical economic agenda for the future.

The books pictured include:
  
Stephen Margeli (2008) The Dismal Science
Michael Perelman (2006) Railroading Economics
James Gustav Speth (2008) The Bridge at the End of the World

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The corporate enclosure of sport

John Pilger on the corporate enclosure of sport.

"The pursuit of profit in sport seems unrelenting............................Corporate sport has enriched Rupert Murdoch, corrupted cricket and much of football, subverted numerous other play and appropriated the Olympics and similar spectacles. Its language is that of business schools, PR companies, consultancies and banks. Its “philosophy” is that everything is for sale and monopoly rules.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The most important West Australian book published in 2010


The book Under Corporate Skies, A struggle between people, place and profits by Martin Brueckner and Dyann Ross is the story of a West Australian community torn apart and people's lives destroyed by the power of a multinational mining company protected and supported by the WA government. 

 In WA we are used to State Governments actively protecting and promoting the interests of large mining and resource companies, but the story of Alcoa, the small southwest town of Yarloop and the WA Government is deeply troubling. In this review to be published in Online Opinion Professor Gavin Mooney concludes that this important book shines the light on the shocking state of democracy in WA. 
A community versus a corporation … while government looks on
Gavin Mooney, Co-convenor WA Social Justice Network, Honorary Professor University of Sydney
‘It seems that whatever Alcoa says the government has to do, they’re too scared to disobey…. I think Alcoa’s got all the control. They tell the government what to do.’  Yarloop resident.
The above is a quote from this book* which tells the David and Goliath story of the struggle between the small West Australian community of Yarloop and the multinational corporation, Alcoa World Alumina, which has a refinery at Wagerup, just next to Yarloop to the south of Perth. The win by David in the original version is pretty much story book stuff. In this real world version from Brueckner and Ross, David has lost out big time. And the original story is nowhere as poisoned as this one – with poison occurring at two levels – as perceived by residents through the pollution in the air at Yarloop and through the bastardry of government (and other institutions such as local universities).

Brueckner and Ross tell the story of this ‘struggle between people, place and profits’ in a remarkably dispassionate way. But it is all the more savage in its telling as a result of that.
The authors take us through the problems faced by the local community as a result of the pollution – air, noise and visual – from its corporate neighbour. They tell how so many local residents have had their lives destroyed and not just their health as a result of both the presence and the behaviour of Alcoa. Perhaps inevitably, given how these things work, the local neighbour when it comes to decision making was not truly local at all as the real power in Alcoa is in a far off board room in the US. It seems that at least some of the local Alcoa management were human in responding to the problems being created for the local community. But they had little power to act.

Thus the authors argue (p 245): ‘As a US-based multinational corporation with executive managers able to influence decisions of governments across borders, Alcoa exercised placeless power while at the same time maintaining a ‘powerful place’ at Wagerup by occupying the territory and pursuing its commercial interests.

One aspect of all of this that comes over strongly is that there is a degree of cleverness, one might say deviousness, with corporates that can be quite breath taking. In this case Alcoa set up voluntarily a ‘Land Management Plan’ which created a buffer zone around Wagerup which involved some financial compensation/relocation for residents in that zone. Sounds good. But it did not include all Yarloop residents and split the town in terms not only of compensation but also emotionally. Deliberate on the part of Alcoa? Who knows but it certainly resulted in weakening the community position vis-a-vis Alcoa.  Then because Alcoa did this voluntarily ‘the government refrained from being involved when residents fell foul of the voluntary relocation as proposed by Alcoa’ (p173). Deliberate on the part of Alcoa? Welcomed by the government? Who knows but it certainly resulted in weakening the community vis-a-vis not just Alcoa but also the government.

Scary stuff and heartbreaking to read about the desperate and despairing fight of the Yarloop residents. 

The book exposes a number of intriguing issues. Just a couple. The question of what constitutes scientific evidence (especially in epidemiology) and how and by whom that is interpreted is discussed and science and epidemiology do not emerge well.

How corporations can act to protect themselves and infiltrate social institutions is fascinating and worrying as again the book exposes. The authors write of how (p227) Alcoa ‘secured a Professorial  Chair and gave its name to a new research centre  - Alcoa’s Centre for Strong Communities (sic - or sick?) - at Curtin University of Technology’ in Perth.  When the authors questioned the company about this initiative they were told ‘there was to be no relationship (with Yarloop) as the new Centre was not going to be addressing the specifics of the Wagerup issue.’

This particular point is close to my heart. I was a member of staff at Curtin at that time and was invited on to local radio to talk about the fact that this ‘Centre for strong communities’ was being funded by Alcoa who were at the same time perceived by the Yarloop community as weakening them! On the afternoon of the interview I was summonsed by a senior manager at the university and had my fingers rapped for daring to speak out as I had in the media.
The influence of the corporations on government and other of our key institutions like our universities needs to be exposed again and again and again. This book does an excellent if frightening job of doing that.

So where does this leave us? There is a risk in the wake of the “success” of the mining corporations in destroying the tax on super profits that we grow to accept that this sort of behaviour by corporations is all fine and that business interests and the national interests as implied at the weekend by Michael Chaney are often synonymous.

Acceptance of that places our democracy at risk.

We need the Brueckners and the Rosses of this country to tell this sort of story and we must be glad that they do. But telling the story aint enough. We must read their story! Please do that. Their tale is horrendous so be sure to have a stiff drink before you start – especially if, as I do, you live in WA. 
 
*Under Corporate Skies, A struggle between people, place and profits. Martin Brueckner and Dyann Ross.  Fremantle:  Fremantle Press, 2010 $26.95. 316pp.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Serco and the running of immigration detention centres

As the crises in Australia's detention centres worsens, closer attention is starting to be paid to Serco, the global mega-corporation that runs the immigration detention centres on behalf of the Australian Government.  Serco has a contract worth $400 million with the Federal Government to run immigration detention centres on the Australian mainland and Christmas Island,although the value of the contract will increase with the massive expansion of detention facilities, such as Curtin in WA.

Serco is a huge multinational corporation that has benefited immensely from the privatization of public functions previously run by Governments. It has stepped into the void to run services that governments don't want to run. The great benefit for Governments is that they are distanced from criticism when things go wrong.

In Australia Serco is also a major player in the running of prisons for State Governments, including Acacia prison in WA, and also provides defense related logistical services, including running navy patrol services.

Journalist, author, blogger and activist Antony Loewenstein has been one of the few Australian journalists to focus on Serco's' role in the unfolding crises in immigration detention centres. He has written regular pieces on the shady and tawdry practices of Serco.

The Sydney Morning Herald has written this story about Serco, however it only scratches the surface on the role played by Serco. Antony Lowenstein will continue to be the major source of investigative reporting and writing about Serco, but let's hope that mainstream journalists start shining the light on Serco

Corporatization of War

Christian Miller reports that in the last 6 months more private contractors than soldiers were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the first time in history that corporate casualties have outweighed military losses. Corporate casualties now make up 25% of total US deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The wars fought on behalf of the American empire are increasingly fought by private contractors working for large corporations, supplied and supported by logistical operations run by other large corporations. Modern warfare has become another way for large corporations to make money and extend their reach and power over governments and countries.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the lie of corporate social responsibility

Great piece by Russell Mokhiber from Corporate Crime Reporter on why corporate social responsibility is not just an oxymoron but a sham:
"Corporate social responsibility has been used by companies to ward off both the activists and to reduce the probability of more onerous government regulation,"

"And companies pretend to be socially responsible, but they really don't do very much. This keeps the activists at bay. And it might serve to keep government regulators at bay by saying - see, we are doing it on our own."

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Corporate hypocrisy and the sham of self regulation

 image of striking workers in the US, courtsey of Human Rights Watch & Vna Wert Times Bulletin


As Antony points out don't expect to see any reporting of this story in the Australian media.

The report shows that  many European companies which claim to embrace workers rights under voluntary global standards actually undermine workers rights in the US. Those companies have actively carried out aggressive campaigns to deny workers their rights to organize and bargain.  

Among the violations documented in the report are practices of forcing workers into "captive audience" meetings to hear anti-union harangues while prohibiting pro-union voices, threatening dire consequences if workers form unions, threatening to permanently replace workers who exercise the right to strike, spying on employee organizers, and even firing workers who support organizing efforts at companies.

"The behavior of these companies casts serious doubt on the value of voluntary commitments to human rights," said Arvind Ganesan, director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "Companies need to be held accountable, to their own stated commitments and to strong legal standards."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Event in Fremantle on the harm caused by markets and corporations

Great to see this event The Global Economy and Human Wellbeing  being run by Rob Lambert* at the Edmund Rice Centre for Social Justice in Fremantle this Saturday 4 September, 2010 between 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM.

The event is designed to provide people with a deeper understanding of what global free markets are doing to persons, families and societies;  the nature of corporate restructuring of work, and its social and psychological impacts for families and communities; - basic analytic techniques of ‘political economy’ necessary for understanding these changes; - the values underlying these changes, and how they might be ethically assessed; and - how to envisage (imagine) alternative models of work, and the process of realising such change.

 *Winthrop Professor Rob Lambert is based at the University of Western Australia’s Business School, where he specialises in labour studies. He is co-author of the award-winning book, Grounding Globalization: Labour in the Age of Insecurity (Oxford, Blackwell, 2008),a critique of the free market economy that identifies destructive impacts for the environment, society, families and persons. Rob is the founder and coordinator of the Southern Initiative on Globalization and Trade Union Rights (SIGTUR), founded some 20 years ago. This movement brings together democratic trade unions across 15 countries and four continents in the global south. Rob has a background as a South African activist, and was National Secretary of the South African Young Christian Workers and then advisor to the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference before coming to Perth.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The power of corporations over the political process


"Recent events have shown how much the interests of corporations now dominate the political process. Mining companies mobilized more quickly than the government to challenge the resource rent tax, and effectively bought down a Prime Minister...... But political systems merely reflect the society which gives rise to them. And we live in a society- and a world-where the power of corporations is much greater than that of "ordinary"people. Corporate power can readily be seen in our homes, our workplaces, our public spaces and our national debates."
Josh Fear
The Nemesis Project aims to support efforts to wrest power back from corporations. We seek to connect the dots between issues to show the extent to which corporate power and corporate interests dominate across a wide range of policy issues and influence every part of our daily lives.

Josh Fear from the Australia Institute has written a fine piece about the extent of corporate power in Australia. His argument is that the power and interests of corporations dominate and control government decision-making.

He shows the ways that corporations now dominate the political process in Australia. Fear's point is that across a range of public policy issues- the super profits mining tax, emissions trading, carbon tax, executive salaries, banking profits and fees and superannuation- the interests of corporations have dominated.

As Fear points out, and as recent events show, corporate power played a major role in the overthrow of an elected PM and manufactured the demise of a Federal government who were seen to threaten corporate interests. Politicians heed that message, meaning that no real reform is likely when corporate interests are threatened.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Corporations that kill people: the sourge of asbestos


Perth, the city where I live is the asbestos cancer capital of the world, with the highest known incidence of asbestos related disease in the world.

The events that caused this situation constitute perhaps the greatest industrial and corporate crime in Australian history.

Asbestos is a deadly substance, a carcinogen that has taken millions of lives world wide, leading to it being banned or restricted in 52 countries. Global estimates are that between 5-10 million people may die as the result of exposure to asbestos and asbestos related products.

Despite the millions who have died and will die in the future as a result of exposure to asbestos, the asbestos industry continues to grow around the world. When it comes to asbestos, corporate power and industry greed for huge profits are insatiable.

Here in Western Australia, the human cost of exposure to asbestos is a legacy of the Wittenoom asbestos mine where asbestos was mined from the 1940's to the late 1960's, and the presence of many industries that processed, manufactured and used asbestos, for example in construction.

Groups such as the Perth based Asbestos Disease Society of Australia have been tireless in the pursuit of justice for the people affected by asbestos.

Perth based writer Miriam Miller's book Shattered Lives: The Human Face of the Asbestos Tragedy is a searing expose of the human consequences of the reckless and callous disregard shown by many corporations in WA, including CSR and James Hardie, and the industries that prospered on the use of asbestos, all of whom placed profit and greed ahead of human wellbeing.

Miriam Miller's fine book continues the tradition of Ben Hill's Blue Murder, his 1989 book on the history of the Wittenoom mine and of the men and women who worked in the mine or lived in the town, and Matt Peacock's Killer Company, a shocking expose of the evils perpetrated by James Hardie, the building products company that spent years covering up the dangers of its asbestos products.

A new report Dangers in the Dust: Inside the Global Asbestos Trade has found that asbestos industry lobby groups have spent some $100 million since the 1980's to preserve and grow the asbestos market in developing nations. They have been hugely successful. In India the asbestos market grows 25% each year, the result of a powerful, New Delhi-based trade group that spends millions on pro-asbestos ads, lobbying, and counteracting critical science on the mineral. China is now the largest exporter of asbestos in the world where demand for the substance is booming.

In countries like Russia and Brazil where asbestos is mined, powerful connections between the asbestos industry, corporations and sovereign governments exercise control over asbstos mining.

Western governments, such as Canada, continue to fund and support the mining and export of asbestos to Mexico, China and India. The Canadian Government is a staunch defender, supporter and funder of the asbestos industry (The Canadian Resources Minister is a former President of the Canadian Asbestos Chamber of Commerce).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

When Democracy is beholden to corporate power


"Inverted totalitarianism marks a political moment when corporate power finally sheds its identification as a purely economic phenomenon, confined primarily to a domestic domain of "private enterprise", and evolves into a globalizing co-partnership with the state..... The former becomes more political, the latter more market oriented"

Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Inc: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism
In a recent speech in London the CEO of Rio Tinto made a direct threat to elected governments around the world. His message was clear- challenge the power of the mining and resources multinationals by threatening their interests and the industry will do what was done to Kevin Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister.

It is remarkable that with a few exceptions there has been little serious analysis or anger in this country about the stark reality that a powerful industry, a number of multinational corporations and some of the wealthiest Australians could use their money and power to unseat a democratically elected Prime Minister.

One exception is an article in the Age by David McKnight in which he asks- who is actually running this country? His answer is corporate power.

In the article below Gavin Mooney, the co convener of the WA Social Justice Network, writes about the speech by the Rio CEO and the mining industry's use of its corporate power.

A PS to the RSPT
By Gavin Mooney


The ‘debate’ around the super profits tax has been illuminating. For me it has said so much about the mentality of the top executives in the mining sector - and of politicians. Early on there were the suggestions that Kevin Rudd was a communist (Clive Palmer), that it amounted to nationalisation (Andrew Forrest) and the tax was straight from the pages of Das Kapital (Julie Bishop)

In the wake of their success in bringing down both Rudd and the tax, their arrogance and their indifference to democracy is now out there in full flow. According to Forrest it wasn’t the miners who brought down Rudd – Twiggy’s pal – it was Ken Henry. Atlas chief David Flanagan divulges to The Australian that he would talk to his wife each night about the implications of the tax ‘and the legacy it would leave for their two children’. He went on: ‘I actually could see a scenario where the RSPT could destroy the fabric of the Australian economy… I mean, totally f…ing smash it to bits.’

Forrest asked ‘who voted for Ken Henry?’ Thank God for Forrest to alert us to the dangers of an unelected Ken Henry. And thank God for those who brought down the tax and saved us from these commies who were otherwise set to ‘destroy the social fabric’ of Australia.

These mining giants also have global aspirations. They are keen to use their power to save not just Australia. They want to save the world from nasty governments elsewhere as well! In a speech to mining executives in London last week, Tom Albanese, the Rio Tinto CEO, according to Peter Wilson in The Australian, ’issued a none-too-subtle warning about the events in Canberra to other governments attracted to the idea of “resource nationalism” and hiking taxes on mining profits’. Albanese is reported to have stated: ‘Policy makers around the world’ (and presumably that includes democratically elected governments – like ours) ‘can learn a lesson when considering a new tax to plug a revenue gap, or play local politics’. We are fortunate however that as Wilson reported Albanese ‘held back from openly crowing about the fall of Mr Rudd’.

The Fin Review joined in. ‘In a shot across the bows of Brazil, South Africa and Chile’, writes Andrew Cleary, ‘Rio Tinto’s chief executive Tom Albanese, has warned countries considering a super tax on resources to “learn a lesson” from the Australian government’s experience in dealing with the industry’s opposition’.

I would encourage readers to write to The Australian and the Fin Review to express their thanks to the big miners for saving – today - the social fabric of Australia yesterday and – tomorrow - the world. Good chance your letters will be published.

Against this background what chance any reasoned debate about the impact of the mining industry on global warming? Ah, but the Flanagan kids’ future is secure in the knowledge that their dad and the other big miners are there to look after the future of all of us.

And just a final thought: why do we need an election?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Victims of the Bhopal Disaster still seeking justice


In the early hours of December 3, 1984, around 40 metric tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked into the atmosphere from the Union Carbide chemical plant in the central Indian city of Bhopal and was carried by the wind to the surrounding slums.

25,000 people died in the immediate aftermath and the years that followed, and another 500,000 suffered serious consequences. The Bhopal disaster was the world's most deadly industrial disaster and the worst example of "corporate killing" in history. The website of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal is an excellent source of information.

Union Carbide, a US company, was responsible for the Bhopal disaster. Union Carbide now longer exists, the company being taken over by Dow Chemicals, another US company, in 2001.

The letter below was sent to the US President by over 100 Indian victims of the Bhopal disaster.
Mr Barack Obama
President
United States of America

Dear Mr President Obama,

With a great deal of interest, we have been following your tough stand against British Petroleum for the oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico, particularly your demand to know whose 'ass needs to be kicked'. We think your demand for corporate accountability for causing huge environmental damages is worthy of emulation by other governments around the World.

May we draw your attention to a bigger disaster that took place in the city of Bhopal in India in December 1984 that has officially killed over 15,000 people (about 25,000 people unofficially) and seriously injured nearly half a million people by now. This disaster was caused by another mega corporate entity called Union Carbide, headquartered in the United States of America, unlike BP whose parent company resides in Great Britain.

Through 'friendly' interventions of the Reagan administration that ruled the US in 1984, not only was Warren Anderson, the CEO of Union Carbide sent back from India even though he was arrested and cases were registered against him and the Union Carbide, but similar overtures resulted in all criminal cases against Union Carbide to be dropped in a shameful out-of-court settlement for a paltry US$470m. Twenty six years later, the local court in Bhopal, fettered by these collusive legal manipulations could at best convict six Indian officials of the Union Carbide India Limited for two years of jail, for which all the accused were given instant bail. The parent company based in the US, against whom charges exist in Indian Courts, is unanswerable. So no one pays for the death of over 15,000 people! Another major US corporate, Dow Chemicals, that bought Union Carbide in 2001, refuses to accept its liability for cleaning up the toxic wastes at the closed factory, that is still harming citizens of Bhopal, mainly from water that is contaminated with leached poisons stored in the abandoned factory; or liability for just compensation to the victims.

We are of course more than aware that the Indian Government and the Indian subsidiary of Union Carbide (UCIL) are as complicit in this disaster as the US government, the parent company Union Carbide Corporation and Dow Chemicals. For twenty six years the stricken but surviving gas victims of Bhopal have waged a sustained battle with the Indian establishment – governments at the center and in the state of Madhya Pradesh, scientific, medical and industrial monitoring institutions - in courts and streets, and will continue to do so. But the subtle pressure of the US administration, contested alien tort laws of the US and the discriminatory legal functioning of the US system that puts a higher cost to a US life than that of in Bhopal has made it necessary for the victims to fight on both fronts - the US and the Indian administrations, corporations and judicial systems - for over a quarter of century now.

It is well documented that the UCC is a guilty party since it deliberately exported a defective plant whose safety systems were grossly lacking compared to the parent plant at Danbury, West Virginia. The UCC also hid facts about the toxicity of methyl-isocyanate, while it was aware about its deadly effects. The guilt about these criminal acts requires the US judicial system to act; just as the inability of the Indian inspectors to check these shortcomings requires the Indian judicial systems to book the culprits.

Is it too much to expect that you use the same yardsticks of accountability you are using for BP for the terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, for corporations based in the country you rule? Whose 'ass' should the citizens of Bhopal kick if governments selectively shield their corporations and officials from legal accountability? How would you react, for example, if because of the pressure of the British media that is asking Prime Minister Cameron to ‘stand up’ to you, Mr. Cameron made a 'friendly overture' to you to back off from 'kicking anyone's ass', meaning British Petroleum's? If you wouldn't back off, then consistent with your stand, the citizens of Bhopal and the whole World demand from you that:

1. You signal/order that judicial processes be allowed, both in the US and India, to take their course in fixing responsibility of corporations and individuals of the US, responsible for the Bhopal carnage; dismantling the manipulative obstacles put up in these intervening years. This is crucial to restore the subverted system of justice.

2. You set processes in motion that make Dow Chemicals own up their responsibility for liabilities, that includes cleaning up the toxic mess that resides in the closed factory they now own. Any assurances to the contrary that they might have received from some Indian Ministers acting individually are laughably irrelevant and illegal.

3. You work with the same sense of collaboration with the Indian government on this issue to provide justice and proper compensation to Bhopal victims, that you proclaim you have achieved with the Indian government on the issue of 'global terrorism'.

Just as the US administration has demanded from the BP that it set up an escrow fund of US$10b for compensation pending legal settlements arising out of the oil spill, we demand from you to ask the erstwhile UC, Dow chemicals and the judicial system of US to reverse the out-of-court Bhopal settlement, and deposit amounts commensurate with the deaths of over 15,000 persons and half a million injuries in Bhopal, and process the extradition of guilty people immediately.

In anticipation of a prompt response and decisive action,

Friday, June 25, 2010

Will any corporation be held to account for the Montara explosion?


It is looking even more doubtful that any corporation will be held to account for the West Atlas/Montara explosion and oil leak, and subsequent ecological, economic and environmental damage, despite it being the largest oil explosion, blowout and leak in Australian history.

And the Federal Government continues to approve drilling operations, despite the lessons of the Montara catastrophe.

The Report of the Montara Inquiry into the explosion and 75 day long leak from the West Atlas/Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea (off the Western Australian coast) has been handed to the Federal Government. However, Martin Ferguson the responsible Minister is refusing to release the Report, citing legal reasons.

The Greens have called for the public release of the Report. In light of the eerie similarities (I have written about these before here) between the Montara explosion and the explosion and catastrophe on BP's Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf Coast, there is growing international interest in the Montara Report. Halliburton, the company responsible for cementing on the Montara well was also responsible for cementing on the Deepwater Horizon rig. It appears that cementing operations were a factor in both the Montara and Gulf explosions and blow out.

Public release of the Montara Report is essential, not only to ensure West Australians know what happened and to identify who was responsible, but also to ensure that such catastrophes never occur again. The regulatory, safety, engineering and management lessons of the Montara explosion will be important in shaping government and industry responses in Australia, and the USA, particularly the Inquiry into the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico catastrophe.

Based on press coverage, it appears likely that the Montara Report will find :
  • there were serious breakdowns in regulation, safety and management
  • the blow out was to be the result of a long chain of poor decision making, inaction and miscalculations and corporate greed
  • The well operator failed to follow its own safety procedures
  • The immediate trigger for the explosion is likely to be failure of vital pressure containment caps used to plug the well and problems with cementing
  • The well was not capped properly, causing it to burst.
  • a single National Regulator for offshore drilling is needed (although the Federal Minister has in the past opposed this) is needed.
One of the forgotten issues is the adverse social and environmental impacts of the blow out and spill in Indonesian and Timor Leste maritime waters. The governments of Indonesia and Timor Leste are now seeking compensation for the adverse impacts from the Australian government and PTTEP, the Thai owner of the Montara rig.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Criminalise corporations not civil society


'Limited liability is at the heart of this rise of corporate power: it constitutes a blanket exemption of a special interest group from accountability for the actions of their companies"

Blankenburg and Plesch

One consequence of the corporate structure and form is the ability to escape and hide liability and responsibility. The tenets of "limited liability" and "corporate person hood" allow corporations to avoid criminal responsibility. This protection is not available to individuals or civil society groups. Governments and authorities rarely use the full power of existing law against corporations.

It is telling to compare the way the US Government uses the full force of the law against civil society groups and whistle-blowers who try to hold it and corporations to account, with its complete inaction against recidivist corporate criminals such as BP who in their reckless disregard are responsible for the deaths of workers and the destruction of ecosystems, environments, livelihoods, and industries in the Gulf of Mexico.

The US government has arrested and imprisoned, without trial, a whistle blower who leaked to WikiLeaks a video showing US forces murdering 100 people, mainly children, in Garani Afghanistan. The video, which showed a US army helicopter gunning down civilians, was released by WikiLeaks early this year and caused outrage around the world. The soldier who is alleged to have released the video has been arrested and detained in an US army prison in Kuwait. The Australian founder of WikiLeaks has been forced to leave the US and go into hiding in response to a "manhunt" by the US government keen to arrest and prosecute him.

WikiLeaks collects and publishes evidence of human rights abuse and illegality by governments and corporations.

But when it comes to recidivist corporate criminals such as BP, Massey Energy or Goldman Sachs there is tough talk about criminal charges but little action. There is no serious attempt by governments to hold corporations, corporate executives, and shareholders personally and criminally responsible for the company's crimes. Laws are rarely used or enforced against corporations and the responsible individuals. And if charges are laid they are usually against low level functionaries and, as in the case of the corporate killings by Union Carbide in Bhopal, it takes 25 years before anyone is legally held to account.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Corprate power and the "marriage" of money and politics



image courtesy of The West Australian


This picture is from the front page of Thursday's West Australian newspaper.

The photo shows the Deputy Leader of the Federal Liberal Party locked in an embrace with WA 's richest man, who is also one of the key spokespeople for the miner's campaign against the Federal Government's Super profits tax.

My colleague Gavin Mooney and I have a piece in the online publication Online Opinion under the title Power and Money to Thwart Democratic Process in which we raise concern about the power of corporate money and corporate self- interest to control the democratic process. Our concern is that the debate on the super profits tax reflects the disproportionate influence of wealth and corporate power over the political and democratic process.

In our piece we raise questions about the way that the mining companies and some of the richest people in Australia use their financial power against a democratically elected government in order to protect their private interests. And what of the role of large segments of the corporate media who have actively prosecuted the miners' case?

Currently there are few rules that limit the spending of rich and powerful individuals and corporations. We ask
  • Why have limits on government spending on selling public policy and not on corporations spending on opposing public policy?
  • Surely any curb on political advertising first and foremost should apply to corporations? And should there not be limits on corporate funding of political parties?
In the piece we also ask about the role of the Liberal National Party in prosecuting the miners’ case. How much money are they receiving from the mining industry and how much money is flowing into the party’s coffers from the industry?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A case study of how corporate power works in the USA

On April 5 2010 the worst mining disaster in the USA in 40 years occurred at Massey Energy's Upper Branch coal mine in West Virginia. Twenty nine (29) miners were killed. The company responsible, Massey Energy, had a long history of safety and environmental violations. Its CEO and Chairman Don Blankenship has continually used his financial and political power to prevent scrutiny of the company and reject attempts to improve safety.

On the day before the explosion the company had received 2 citations for safety violations. In the month before the explosion it had been cited 57 times for safety violations.

Massey Energy is the 6th largest coal corporation in the USA and exercises immense political, financial, and legal power.

Russel Mokhiber runs Corporate Crime Reporter a US based website and newsletter that highlights corporate crime and corruption. It is a fantastic resource. The piece below appears on the website, along with other pieces on the explosion and the company responsible.

The piece is an example of how corporate power works.

Coal Intimidation

by Russell Mokhiber

Let's say you live in West Virginia.

And you want the local prosecutor to bring a criminal charge against Massey Energy.

And the responsible Massey executives.

For manslaughter.

For the deaths of the 29 coal miners who were killed on April 5.

At the Upper Big Branch Mine.

In Raleigh County.

So you put up a web site -- prosecutemassey.org.

And you urge people to sign a petition to the prosecuting attorney in Raleigh County -- Kristen Keller -- urging her to bring a prosecution.

And in the first week, almost 2,000 people sign the petition.

And let's say you design a billboard that reads -

29 Coal Miners Dead.

Prosecute Massey for Manslaughter.

And you purchase three billboard spots in the eastern part of the state.

Far from coal country.

Four hours away from where the miners died.

And put up the billboards.

And people see the billboards driving by.

When they get home, they go to the web site.

And they sign the petition.

And donate money to buy more billboard space.

And then you call billboard companies in coal country.

And you call up the biggest billboard company in the state and the country for that matter.

Lamar Advertising Company.

And you say -- hey, I want to pay to put up a billboard.

Sure, the billboard man says -- what does the billboard say?

Well, we'll send you the design.

And you send the design.

To Bruce Morrison of Lamar.

Bruce says he'll check with his general manager.

He writes back and says -- okay, we'll do it.

But you can't use the word "manslaughter" because no charge of manslaughter has been brought yet.

But Bruce, the point of the campaign is to persuade the prosecutor to bring a manslaughter charge against the company and responsible executives.

Before the statute of limitations runs -- April 5, 2011.

But Lamars say no.

We then turn to Kanawha Valley Advertising -- the second biggest billboard company in the state.

I speak with the head sales guy -- Frank Young.

Up front, I ask Frank -- do you have Massey as a customer?

Yes, Young says, but I'll ask the owner -- Wade Leslie -- anyway to see what he says.

Days go by.

No answer.

Finally, we get a letter faxed to us.

From Wade Leslie.

It's dated May 10, 2010.

Leslie doesn't say -- what are you nuts?

Massey is one of our clients.

I'm not going to do this.

No, Leslie says it's about the miners and their families.

Leslie says that "our primary focus at the present time is to assist our communities in the healing process and pray for the families affected by this terrible tragedy."

So, we wait a couple of weeks and e-mail Frank Young back and ask -- let us know when we can start to talk about justice for those responsible and bringing a criminal prosecution.

The statute of limitations is April 5, 2011.

No answer yet from Frank Young.

Finally, we approach Friendly Outdoor Advertising.

Friendly is a small company that has a number of billboards in Raleigh County -- some near the Massey mine where the 29 coal miners died.

We talk with Mike Rincic, the general manager for Friendly.

At first, Rincic says -- yes, we'll do it.

He says -- they've done controversial billboard ads before -- including for "adult entertainment" businesses -- like Lion's Den and Southern X Posure -- a topless bar.

"Some of the advertisers -- like Wendy's -- don't want to be on the same board as an adult entertainment store. And I can understand that for the kids' sake."

"And in today's world, there's a lot of women in charge of marketing -- and they consider this exploitation of women," Rincic says.

But we take the heat, he says.

And so, this Massey billboard shouldn't be a problem.

We talk price.

And we talk location.

I'll e-mail to you the locations, Rincic says.

No e-mail arrives.

Then Rincic calls the next day.

He's changed his mind.

But Friendly turns out to be a touch more honest than Lamar or Kanawha Valley.

"We worried about the possibility of vandalism -- they could hurt our property or tear your sign down," Rincic said.

"Plus, a lot of the people who have advertising with us are affiliated with the mining industry. It's probably not a wise business decision."

Do you have Massey as a client?

"No, but I'm sure that people we deal with sell supplies to Massey. Car dealerships sell to Massey employees. We just don't feel like it's a good move for us."

"And we're struggling -- we need the business."

"We never said no, until we asked around," Rincic said.

"I'm up here in Logan," Rincic said. "And yesterday, I'm talking to a machine shop guy. He probably services the coal mine industry. And I tell him about your billboard. And this guy says to me -- you want to get yourself killed, don't you?"

"Yesterday I was going to send you four locations that would have been possible. Vandalism is a possibility. And they could just tear your sign down. And there's a big possibility some of our customers just might not renew with us. They might say -- what did you do that for? Risk wise, if you were in my position, you would probably do the same thing."

"I was trying to be fair. But I just couldn't do it."

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. He is also founder of singlepayeraction.org.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Corporate power, corporate criminality and the worst ecological disaster in human history

"....whether or not the immediate trigger of the explosion is ever fully determined, there can be no mistaking the underlying cause: a government-backed corporate drive to exploit oil and natural gas reserves in extreme environments under increasingly hazardous operating conditions........ To ensure a continued supply of hydrocarbons—and the continued prosperity of the giant energy companies—successive administrations have promoted the exploitation of these extreme energy options with a striking disregard for the resulting dangers"
Michael Klare, The Relentless Pursuit of Extreme Energy
Writing in the Nation Michael Klare believes that the catastrophe unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico from BP's leaking oil rig is likely to be the greatest ecological disaster in human history. Michael Klare*, who is Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College, is one of the world's leading analysts of global energy and resource politics.

Although BP continues to minimize the amount of oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon rig, Klare estimates that the amount of oil spilt is equivalent to an Exxon Valdez spill every 4 days. The destruction is catastrophic and probably irreparable.

The Gulf seafood industry, which provides much of the seafood consumed in the US, has been destroyed, perhaps forever. The oil has poisoned the water of the Gulf, depriving it of oxygen and killing entire classes of marine species and living creatures. Whole marine and coastal landscapes have been destroyed, likely to never recover.

Klare identifies a host of actors who bear responsibility. BP is the ultimate villain. BP, whose environmental and safety record is appalling, has used its financial and political power to protect itself from regulatory oversight. It has bought off political and regulatory bodies and avoided all forms of accountability and scrutiny. Its response to the spill has been inept.

Various contractors- Halliburton, Transocean, Cameron International- as well as government instrumentalities such as the USA Minerals Management Service, have all breached legislative and regulatory requirements

Ultimately though Klare argues, responsibility for the catastrophe lies with the Bush and Obama administrations. Klare writes
"...there can be no mistaking the underlying cause: a government-backed corporate drive to exploit oil and natural gas reserves in extreme environments under increasingly hazardous operating conditions"
Klare believes that the world has entered an even more dangerous period where disasters like this one will occur more frequently and will be more destructive. Klare argues that as long as the major resources and energy firms continue to rest future profits on exploring and drilling in ever-deeper waters and more risky locations—and governments collude with them in this—more catastrophes are inevitable. Worse, the oil and energy companies do not have the existing technologies to respond adequately to the new challenges.

*Michael Klare's latest book is Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bill Leak on the Resources Super Profits Tax


copyright and acknowledgments to Bill Leak and the Australian

The hysteria from the mining and resources industry to the Rudd Government's proposed 40% Resource Super Profits tax demonstrates just how corporate Australia uses its political and financial power to protect its own privileged interests. They even claim that they oppose the tax to protect working Australians. As if!!!.

Bill Leak's cartoon from the Weekend Australian is priceless.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Why we need a super profits tax on all highly profitable corporate sectors

(image courtesy of WA Today)

Corporate and business power is being mobilized to oppose the Rudd Government's Resource Super Profits Tax. (In essence this is an extra tax levied on additional profits that a corporation makes because it has been given exclusive or privileged access to a limited resource).

Already the massively profitable mining corporations are crying poor and we are hearing all sorts of dire predictions from the mining and resources industry and their corporate and business lobbyists.

But the mining and resource companies make massive profits out of Australia's resources, and existing royalties and taxation regimes are a minor part of their expenditure. Between 2006-7 the value of top mineral production totalled $100 billion, of which the Australian community retained just 7% in Commonwealth and State tax revenue.

Most ordinary Australian will support the tax as a way to ensure that super profits from Australia's sovereign mining and resources wealth actually remain in Australia and benefit all Australians. Indeed, there are good reasons to extend the Super profit tax across all business sectors, particularly the highly profitable banking and financial services industry who continue to make obscene profits off the backs of ordinary Australians.

At the moment the overwhelming majority of profits earned in Australia by mining and resource companies goes overseas. Stephen Mayne reports that 80% of Australian resource profits go to overseas owners. The majority of the major mining and resource companies operating in this country are overseas owned, even those who proclaim their Australian-ness. (Stephen Mayne has a list here of Australian resource projects that are majority foreign owned).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

corporate personhood: the idea that corporations are "persons"




"The folly at the root of this foolish economy began with the idea that a corporation should be regarded, legally, as "a person" But the limitless destructiveness of this economy comes about precisely because a corporation is not a person. A corporation, essentially, is a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance. As such, unlike a person, a corporation does not age. It does not arrive, as most persons finally do, at a realization of the shortness and smallness of human lives; it does not come to see the future as the lifetime of the children and grandchildren of anybody in particular. It can experience no personal hope or remorse, no change of heart. It cannot humble itself. It goes about its business as if it were immortal, with the single purpose of becoming a bigger pile of money.

The stockholders essentially are usurers, people who "let their money work for them", expecting high pay in return for low pay. The World Trade Organization enlarges the old idea of the corporation-as-a-person by giving the global corporate economy the status of a super government with the power to overrule nations.


I don't mean to say, of course, that all corporate executives and stockholders are bad people. I am only saying that all of them are very seriously implicated in a bad economy
"

Wendell Berry: In the Presence of Fear

Corporate incompetence, corporate profits and explosions on offshore oil rigs

(image courtesy of the NY Times)

There are eerie similarities between last weeks explosion on the BP run Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers and the oil leak and explosion at the Montara (West Atlas) oil rig off the WA coast in late 2009.

As we await the Report of the Rudd Government initiated Montara Commission of Inquiry into the 10 week long oil leak from the West Atlas Oil rig owned and run by PTTEP Australasia, the shocking explosion and sinking of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico reminds us one again of the environmental and safety disasters caused by offshore drilling.

The explosion and subsequent sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and is now pumping 42,000 litres of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The oil has reached the Louisiana coast and threatens marine environments, marine life (including fish and birdlife) high value coastal wetlands and various industries.

The cause of the explosion in the Gulf of Mexico is not known, although an inquiry is investigating civil or criminal violations by the rig operators. As in the West Atlas case, the responsible company failed to activate devices to stop oil flowing in an emergency.

Only recently the US Government considered imposing tougher safety and environmental regulation, however the industry objected strenuously, claiming its voluntary programs were successful. It is also worth noting that in the same week as the explosion BP announced that its profits in the first quarter of last year doubled to $6.08 billion (from $2.56 billion).

Worth noting as well is that the loss of life and environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is causing trouble for the Obama administration which was looking to expand off shore drilling without adequate safeguards.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Taking money that belongs to others: the criminality of excessive executive compensation

image copyright of Bruce Petty


In mainstream Australia there continues to be galvanized anger about the exorbitant salary packages corporate executives are paying themselves, in defiance of public opinion, economic realities and the public interest.

As public outrage grows and more shareholders revolt about excessive executive salary packages its time to break through the web of illusions and justifications about excessive executive compensation presented by corporate Australia, political leaders, the corporate media and given credence by bodies such as the Productivity Commission.

In a recent paper titled "Exorbitant CEO compensation: Just reward or grand theft" in the Journal Crime, Law and Social Change criminologist David Friedrichs argues that executive compensation packages should be considered as a form of white collar crime. For Friederichs it is time to criminalize this behaviour. He calls it a form of robbery.

Friederichs is Professor and Distinguished University Fellow, Sociology/Criminal Justice, The University of Scranton and a lifelong researcher on corporate and white collar crime.

He argues that the corporate culture and practices that provide for and justify excessive executive compensation for corporate executives not only creates what he calls "crimogenic conditions" but are likely to lead to the taking of money that belongs to others.

Friederichs writes:
""Walking into a bank with a gun and demanding money from a teller is one way to steal money... Walking into a corporate boardroom and securing from the board's compensation committee, made up of cronies, paid consultants, and even relatives, compensation of millions sometimes tens of millions or hundreds of millions is another way to steal money. The principal differences are that the second way of stealing money pays much better, is all too often legal, and does not result in criminal prosecution and imprisonment. This needs to change"
The practices of excessive compensation have come to be viewed as standard business practice rather than as part of a spectrum of corporate criminal behaviour that goes unrecognized and unpunished. That is how corporate power works. It redefines reality to serve corporate and private interests. Its time to challenge that.