Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: A French Revolution on Corps - off with their Corporate Heads! 2 September '11
We learned this week that Wall Street needs to lawyer up - because the Federal Housing Finance Agency is filing suit against more than a dozen of the nation’s biggest banks - accusing the banksters of selling junk-mortgage securities to investors - which was the trigger of Bush's 2008 financial crisis.
Mortgage lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for example, lost more than $30 billion after the banksters hustled them into buying these piles of mortgage junk - and now the government is coming to collect.
But I’m going to ask them to hold off for just a little bit on filing this lawsuit - actually, it was filed today, going forward, shall we say - because it just so happens - I’m holding my own trial against the banksters tonight - as well as a slew of other corporate criminals.
First up - Goldman Sachs.
As CEO of Goldman Sachs - Lloyd Blankfein - you are accused of defrauding your customers out of billions of dollars.
As a Senate investigation released in April of this year found:
When Goldman Sachs realized the mortgage market was in decline, it took actions to profit from that decline at the expense of its clients… At the same time the firm was betting against the mortgage market as a whole, Goldman assembled and aggressively marketed to its clients poor quality CDOs that it actively bet against by taking large short positions in those transactions.
Now, to translate that into English - Goldman Sachs lied to its customers - selling them massive amounts of junk and then made a fortune betting that those same junk investments they were selling would go bust - which, of course, they did.
On these charges of defrauding investors - and playing a role in the financial crisis that has since cost 5 million Americans their jobs and put 12 million Americans in danger of losing their homes… The jury finds Goldman Sachs…
Next up - BP.
As CEO of BP - Tony Hayward - you are accused of gross negligence in the deaths of 11 men - and responsible for over $40 billion in damages along the Gulf coast as a result of an exploding oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in April of 2010.
An official report into the causes of the BP oil spill accused the corporation of nine faults in the run-up to the incident and said:
Whether purposeful or not, many of the decisions that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean made that increased the risk of the Macondo blowout clearly saved those companies significant time (and money)… Better management of decision-making processes within BP and other companies, better communication within and between BP and its contractors and effective training of key engineering and rig personnel would have prevented the Macondo incident.
BP’s decision to cut corners led to the deaths of 11 men - and irreparable destruction to the coastlines of several states along the Gulf.
For those crimes - the jury finds BP…
The next corporate defendant is Big Tobacco.
As CEO of RJR, for example - Lou Gerstner - you and the rest of you big tobacco CEOs are accused of lying to Congress.
Even though you've killed more Americans than Bin Laden did, that's not why you're facing charges.
Instead - it's because in 1994 - you guy were called before Congress to testify on whether or not your product is addictive.
And you lied right through your teeth - there's even video evidence to support it:
Rep. Ron Wyden: Yes or No. Do you believe nicotine is not addictive?
Mr. William Campbell: I believe nicotine is not addictive, yes.
Rep. Ron Wyden: Mr. Johnston?
Mr. James Johnston: Mr. Congressman, cigarettes and nicotine clearly do not meet the classic definition of addiction...
Mr. Joseph Taddeo: I don't believe that nicotine or our products are addictive.
Mr. Andrew Tisch: I believe that nicotine is not addictive.
Mr. Edward Horrigan: I believe that nicotine is not addictive.
Mr. Thomas Sandefur: I believe that nicotine is not addictive.
Mr. Donald Johnston: And I, too, believe that nicotine is not addictive.
For the crime of perjury - in addition to selling one of the deadliest products known to man without a shred of regret - the jury find the tobacco companies...
And the final corporate defendant...General Motors.
Several CEOs of that corporation are accused of manslaughter in the deaths of over 1,800 people between 1973 and 2000 as a result of defective fuel tanks installed in General Motors vehicles.
The side-saddle fuel tanks were known to explode in minor car accidents - yet General Motors did nothing to address the problem - and instead covered it up.
It would have only cost the company 8 bucks to make the fuel tanks safer - but as court documents later showed - after an internal cost-benefit analysis was done - the corporation determined it would actually SAVE money by simply paying out legal claims to the families of people who died when their gas tanks exploded.
Like BP - the CEOs at General Motors chose profits over safety - and as a result - their exploding gas tanks killed nearly 2,000 people.
So on the charge of manslaughter - the jury find General Motors...
So now that we've determined all these corporations are guilty - it's time to send some people to jail right?.
Well, unfortunately - corporate criminals no longer get punished in America - even the corporations, much less the people.
Even though the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people and have access to the Bill of Rights - for some reason they can't face the same punishment for crimes that you and I would.
All these fraudsters - liars - killers - corporate killers - get off scot-free - in some cases only tossing a few crumbs of cash to the devastated families whose loved ones were killed or having the company cut a small check to the government - and then it's right back to business as usual.
It's a tale of two justice systems - and it's yet another consequence of corporate personhood that I document in my book Unequal Protection.
If an auto-repairman knowingly rigs a car to explode - and the driver is killed - then that auto-repairman goes to jail for manslaughter or even murder.
But if GM does it - they just pay a fine.
If a guy walks into the mall and steals a fifty dollar pair of pants - he going to jail for shoplifting.
But if Goldman Sacks steals $50 million from a state workers' pension fund - they just pay a fine.
But it wasn't always this way.
In the early decades of our nation - our government kept corporations in check with the threat of the corporate death penalty.
All the way up until the late 1800's - governments routinely revoked corporate charters - forcing the corporations to immediately liquidate their assets and cease doing business.
In 1825 - the state of Pennsylvania passed a law that made it much easier for that state to administer the corporate death penalty when - as the law stated - "[the operations of the corporation] may be injurious to citizens of the community."
By 1870 - nineteen other states had similar laws on the books.
And throughout that century - oil corporations - match manufacturers - whiskey trusts - and sugar corporations were all given the corporate death penalty for "operating contrary to the public interest."
Even John Rockefeller's Standard Oil was given the death penalty in New York in 1894 for, "a pattern of abuses."
The point is - it's time to start holding corporations accountable again.
Each year - the FBI releases a report on all the crime statistics in the nation - like how much money was stolen and how many people were murdered - but oddly, corporate crime is never included in those statistics even though far more money is stolen by corporations and far more people are killed every year by corporations than by human criminals.
Enough is enough - we know they're guilty - now it's time to give corporations like Goldman Sachs and BP and RJR the punishment they deserve...
Off with their corporate heads!
That's The Big Picture.