FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

An Open Letter to John Ashcroft on Corporate Crime

 

Dear Mr. Ashcroft:

Recently, your Federal Bureau of Investigations released its annual “Crime in the United States” report, which pulls together comprehensive data on eight crime indexes: murder and manslaughter; forcible rape; robbery; aggravated assault; burglary; larceny-theft; motor vehicle theft; and arson. The report is obviously useful in empowering law enforcement professionals and the public; it helps them to better understand and respond to criminal trends.

Conspicuously absent from this report, however, is an assessment of corporate crime. The report contains no statistics on the accounting, securities, and financial services crimes that have rocked the economy in the last two years. It does not list details on the litany of food safety violations, product safety violations, workplace safety violations, environmental pollution and countless other crimes that kill, injure and sicken millions of Americans each year.

Certainly, as attorney general of the United States, you should understand the problem of corporate crime. After all, in a September 27, 2002 address to the Corporate Fraud/Responsibility Conference, you said that “the malignancy of corporate corruption threatens more than the future of a few companies — it destroys workers’ incomes, decimates families’ savings and casts a shadow on the health, integrity and good name of business itself.” You warned that “We cannot — we will not — surrender freedom for all to the tyranny of greed for the few.” You told prosecutors that “with each act of justice, you send the unmistakable message that no board room is beyond the law, no executive is above the law.”

Yet, because the FBI does not collect data on corporate crime, both the American public and the law enforcement community lack good information on what has become a pressing national problem – a corporate crime wave. Comprehensive data on corporate crime would help law enforcement officials to better analyze patterns and better direct resources. Information is also a powerful tool for public support of strong law enforcement, and the lack of it hampers your efforts to stay true to your tough words on corporate crime.

Corporate crime, as you surely recognize, is no small problem. Where the costs have been estimated, the numbers are staggering. Most credible estimates confirm that, in the aggregate, white-collar and corporate crimes cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars annually – far more than conventional categories of crime such as burglary and robbery – and cause many preventable deaths, injuries, and disease.

Using conservative numbers issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for instance, criminologist Jeffrey Reiman, a professor at American University, estimated that the total cost of white-collar crime in 1997 was $338 billion. The actual cost is probably much greater. For instance, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, estimates that health-care fraud alone costs up to $100 billion each year. Another estimate (by University of Cincinnati Criminal Justice Professor Francis T. Cullen) suggests that the annual cost of antitrust or trade violations is at least $250 billion. By comparison, the FBI estimated that in 2002, the nation’s total loss from robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson was less than $18 billion – less than a third of the estimated $60 billion Enron alone cost investors, pensioners and employees.

But corporate crime isn’t just about the money. It’s also about people’s lives. The national murder rate has hovered around 16,000 per year in recent years (In 2002, the FBI reported 16,204 murders). But statistics from a respected group of occupational health and safety investigators, led by Professor J. Paul Leigh, have estimated that in 1992 alone there were 66,971 total job-related injury and occupational disease deaths. These numbers do not include the thousands of annual deaths caused by cancers linked to corporate pollution, deaths from defective products, tainted foods, and other corporate-related causes. Though we can begin to estimate, it is hard to know how many deaths are caused by corporate crime, since again, we have no official numbers or annual reports.

There is now a growing consensus that corporate crime is a mammoth problem threatening the stability of our economy and the security of millions of Americans. But how mammoth exactly? This is what millions of Americans would like to know through official and authoritative sources from a government that should be acting to diminish such public dangers, not ignore them.

Mr. Ashcroft, if you are indeed serious about enforcing the rule of law fairly and justly in this country, we urge you to direct the FBI to expand its annual “Crime in the United States Report” to actually describe all the crime in the United States, not just street-level criminal activity. Corporate crime is a huge problem, with far more impact on society than street crime. The major media has recognized this point more and more in the past three years in headlines and cover stories and editorials. And with the help of more comprehensive data, we could gain an even better understanding of the problem, which is essential to solving it.

We expect you to take this matter seriously and look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader Founder, Citizen Works

Lee Drutman Communications Director, Citizen Works

 

More articles by:
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science – Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
Michael Collins
The Affirmative Action Silo
Andrew Levine
Tipping Points
Geoff Dutton
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the New York Times
Ajamu Baraka
Cultural and Ideological Struggle in the US: a Final Comment on Ocasio-Cortez
David Rosen
The New McCarthyism: Is the Electric Chair Next for the Left?
Ken Levy
The McConnell Rule: Nasty, Brutish, and Unconstitutional
George Wuerthner
The Awful Truth About the Hammonds
Robert Fisk
Will Those Killed by NATO 19 Years Ago in Serbia Ever Get Justice?
Robert Hunziker
Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact
Ramzy Baroud
Europe’s Iron Curtain: The Refugee Crisis is about to Worsen
Nick Pemberton
A Letter For Scarlett JoManDaughter
Marilyn Garson
Netanyahu’s War on Transcendence 
Patrick Cockburn
Is ISIS About to Lose Its Last Stronghold in Syria?
Joseph Grosso
The Invisible Class: Workers in America
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail