Corporate crime supported by a whirligig of legal favoritism

This is odd: America's laws to deter corporate crime actually force victims to help subsidize the criminals.

This is odd: America’s laws to deter corporate crime actually force victims to help subsidize the criminals.

Follow the bouncing ball here: First, a court orders a corporation to pay punitive damages to a victim of its criminal acts; second, the corporate offender pays up, then merrily subtracts a big chunk of that payment from its income tax, effectively taking money out of our public treasury; third, while the criminal is counting its tax break, the victim is notified that the punitive damage money he or she received from the corporation will be taxed as “regular income;” fourth, that means a big chunk of the victim’s payment effectively goes to replenish the public money the corporate villain subtracted.

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Bad enough that corporate-financed lawmakers legalize such encouragement of criminality, but corporate-coddling judges are playing the same disgraceful game by drastically reducing the amounts that juries order corporations to pay. In a Montana case, for example, a jury awarded $240 million in punitive damages to the families of three people, including two teenagers, killed in a car crash. The deaths were blamed on a steering defect that South Korean automaker, Hyundai, was found to have known about and “recklessly” ignored for more than a decade. But a district judge has since supplanted the jury’s ruling with her own. While declaring that Hyundai’s “reprehensibility” certainly warrants a sizeable punishment, she cut the corporation’s punitive payment down to $73 million.

Hello – that’s not punishment to a $79 billion a year car giant, it’s pocket change. Why would Hyundai executives quit putting corporate profits over people’s lives if that’s their “punishment?

With subsidies and wrist-slaps, the corporate criminal whirligig will continue to spin, making a mockery of justice.

“When Company Is Fined, Taxpayers Often Share Bill,” The New York Times, February 4, 2015.

“Hyundai Motor,” www.forbes.com, May 2014.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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