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Ear to the Ground

Avoiding Corporate Criminality in the Press

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Posted on Apr 18, 2013
stevendepolo (CC BY 2.0)

Can you guess how many times the phrase “corporate crime” has appeared in stories published by U.S. news outlets since the beginning of 2013?

There is every reason to believe that instances of pollution, corruption, fraud and reckless homicide associated with the actions of corporations are more numerous than ever, inflicting far more damage on society than garden variety street crime. But these crimes are rarely presented as such in the mainstream press.

The phrase “corporate crime” appeared only 42 times in the American news media, says the Corporate Crime Reporter, most of them in smaller newspapers or blogs the public would consider on the fringe. Only 14 of the 42 mentions came from mainstream news outlets, with three of them appearing in a New York Times blog. The phrase appeared 430 times worldwide.

When American outlets used the phrase, it was mostly in reference to corporate crimes committed outside of the United States. Additionally, according to the Corporate Crime Reporter’s research, Attorney General Eric Holder used the phrase only once in his three years in the office. That likely has something to do with the phrase’s invisibility in the press.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Russell Mokhiber at CounterPunch:

Instead of criminally prosecuting corporations and securing guilty pleas, [Holder’s] Department for the most part now settles major corporate crime cases with non prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements.

This undermines deterrence and sends the message that we have in a two tiered criminal justice system — one for powerless individual street criminals — who will go to jail if they commit crimes — and one for powerful corporate criminals — who will not be forced to plead guilty if they commit crimes.

And it’s not just the Department of Justice.

For decades now, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has settled major corporate cases with consent decrees in which the corporation “neither admits nor denies” violating the law but consents not to violate it again.

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