Why hasn't BP been given the corporate death penalty?

The 2010 BP oil disaster released about 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and according to a new study, about 2 million barrels are still trapped on the ocean floor. The study, called Fallout Plume of Submerged Oil from Deepwater Horizon, was conducted by researchers from the University of California, and led by geochemistry professor Dave Valentine.

The scientists analyzed sea sediment from the Gulf and discovered what they called a “bathtub ring” of oil the size of the state of Rhode Island. Despite the obvious link to the 2010 explosion and subsequent leak, BP denied a connection to Deepwater Horizon, and issued a statement saying “The authors failed to identify the source of the oil.”

However, the authors of this recent study, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, say that the 2010 spill's impact could be even worse than they have indicated. The study reads, “We also suggest that a significant quantity of oil was deposited outside this area, but so far has evaded detection because of its heterogeneous spatial distribution.” In other words, oil that spread in different directions still may not be accounted for.

It's been over four years since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and began spewing oil into our Gulf, and we still don't know the full extent of the damage, or whether it will ever really be cleaned up. Yet, BP is still raking in profits and more wells are being drilled off our shores.

What will it take to make us wake up to the dangers of oil drilling? And, how much must a corporation destroy before they lose the privilege of doing business in our great nation? For the sake of our planet, and our species, we must answer those questions before we find ourselves dealing with an even bigger disaster.


mathboy's picture
mathboy 9 years 33 weeks ago

A caller offered a weird bit of information that happens to be wildly wrong. As a complete non sequitur, he stated that the last Roman Emperor was named Africanus and was a black man.

Nether part of that is true. The last Western Roman Emperor was (Flavius) Romulus Augustulus. The only emperors named Africanus were known popularly as Gordian I and Gordian II, and they weren't black either. The name refers to the wealthy Roman province called Africa, which corresponds to modern coastal Algeria through Libya, which has never been populated predominately by negros (to use it as a technical term); it was populated then by Berbers, and is now by Berbers and Arabs.

Several times I've heard gay people claim that certain important historical figures were gay, and black people claim that certain historical figures were black, when either there's not enough evidence or there's a misunderstanding. There's an obvious human susceptibility to want such things to be true.

mstaggerlee's picture
mstaggerlee 9 years 33 weeks ago

Mathboy - and this relates to BP & Deepwater Horizon HOW?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 33 weeks ago

Where else can one go to talk about callers to Thom's show? During the show one should go to chat room, but after the show this blog seems to be the only outlet.

chuck2's picture
chuck2 9 years 33 weeks ago

Run, Run, Run, Run, the sky is falling.................

George_R's picture
George_R 9 years 33 weeks ago

Corporate death penalty for BP? Thom, how? They are not subject to the kind of in personam jurisdiction ( "against the person". In personam refers to courts' power to adjudicate matters directed against a party, as distinguished from in-rem proceedings over disputed property.) required to transfer a company into receivership and dismantle it. This is BP's address:

BP p.l.c.
1 St James's Square
London, SW1Y 4PD
United Kingdom

We, theoretically, could delist BP from the NYSE. I rather doubt that the act could be done - if, for no other reason, the decision would have to pass through the Robert's Court and John Roberts is no enemy of BP.

Years and years ago when I was but a young lad I asked that corporate death penalty question of a professor of mine (who was teaching the 2L debtor-creditor course at the time - his scholarship has been cited by by the SCT in bankruptcy decisions several times since then) and his response was that the corporate death penalty did more harm than good. That the employees of the company and their families would be harmed, as would the businesses (and, their employees, and investors) that had done nothing wrong but to enter into business with the malefactor. That certain classes of investor have no direct control over their investments - like retirement plan administrators' decisions - the worker has no say (today's defined benefit plans ("pensions") exist for the very, very highly compensated and for government workers) in the investment and they would lose everything invested in the "executed" company. The ripple effects (externalities) would cause harms far greater than restructuring the entity through legal process to prevent future damages and compensate those suffering harms.

Prof. Warner has a point. What we don't have is a properly functional regulatory system and Tort system. Tortdeform (as we plaintiff's counsel refer to it) was an incredibly effective tool of unscrupulous industry and the insurance industry to shift blame to the victims and limit recovery by capping damages.

Why don't we have a corporate death penalty? Well, we do - we bankrupt certain companies - but (you know what's coming) BP is too big to bankrupt. China is the market to end all markets and the US is, effectively, only a giant military state where trade matters come to loggerheads.

I do not condone, nor do I suggest that the hypothetical I am about to make is moral - it is ethical by our current standards (and, those should be changed):

How to effect corporate change in the short run: Try and then fine and execute the entire chain of decision-makers in the entity. Turn the decision makers and their families into paupers and kill the highly-educated/comfortable executives responsible for the disaster. That would work for a short while - as with all things of this nature the entity would soon employ useful idiots with the correct titles - and the "masterminds" would just step back a bit as things continued on. So, even hypothetically, a corporate death sentence is unworkable.

Ultimately, Thom, the answer lies within the contents of the brilliant letter published by Prof. Garrett Hardin in Science Magazine in 1968 - The Tragedy of the Commons - that can be read here: http://www.garretthardinsociety.org/articles/art_tragedy_of_the_commons.html

Willie W's picture
Willie W 9 years 33 weeks ago

Too big to punish.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 33 weeks ago

George R RE #5 -- Thom has often mentioned at the beginning of our country every corporation automatically died after 20 years. They were required to go through a bunch of paper work to continue on. What happened to that process? Did charter mongering do away with it?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 33 weeks ago

There are 4 propositions on the California ballot that are so exemplary of the battle between the 99% and the 1% I just had to share them.

$56.9 million vs. $2.1 million; $60.1 million vs. $2.5 million – the 1% must feel really threatened.

That is, $56.9 million (from the top 1%) vs. $2.1 million (Prop 45 for the 99%); $60.1 million vs. the $2.5 million (Prop 46 for the 99%). This money must be working for the 1%. Before the avalanche of money, the polls had the Props 45 and 46 in favor by a margin of 1.4 to 1; after the avalanche (and the resulting TV ads) the ratio was almost completely reversed 1 to 1.3. - c8

Where is George Soros when I need him?

It seems all four of these propositions would assist the 99%. Three of them would affect the 1%. It seems the more the impact on the 1% the more ads on TV one sees. - c8

Prop 45 would allow a democratically elected official, the Insurance Commissioner, to stop excessive increases on Health Insurance rate by the members of the top 0.1%. The Insurance Commissioner and his staff already review all other types of insurance. This proposition could seriously cut into the profits of the Health Insurance companies. That is why they are spending $57 million to defeat the proposition. Meanwhile the proponents of the proposition have only raised a little over $2 million. - c8

Prop 46 pits one part of the 1% against the other. It pits trial lawyers against the medical profession. Of course, the trial lawyers task is to protect the 99% from the 1%. Corporate lawyers job is to protect the 1% from democracy. Those really wealthy trial lawyers (LOL) came up with only $2.5 million versus the $60.1 the corporate lawyers (and their bosses) came up with. - c8

Prop 47 just helps the 99% without much impact on the 1%. It helps minor drug offenders. In so doing it will help us all by balancing the budget. - c8

I cannot let it go without mentioning that the reason we still have many of these drug laws is because of Big Pharma (when I think of the 1% I always think of them). -c8

Prop 48 pits the 1% Indian tribes against the tribes who have not been able to get into the casino business. Essentially this proposition is an attempt by the rich Indian tribes to stifle competition. The creators of this proposition want you to vote no on it. The creators want to nullify a previous agreement between the government and two Indian tribes. - c8

douglas m 9 years 33 weeks ago

If you think , drive right by bp

And remember those who died on that rig and the uncalculable damage to the gulf

And everything that lives there or should i say lived there.

Then vote tuesday for the envirnmentaly concerned politician.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 33 weeks ago

I just read in the LA Times of April 2, 2014 (I am slow) that the label of "deporter in chief" is a distortion. If you are an immigrant living in the US, there is much less chance of you being deported by the Obama Adminstration, than the bush administration. The distortion comes from the fact that more people are being caught at the border. When caught they are deported. This is how the numbers of deportees is increasing under Obama.

johnbest's picture
johnbest 9 years 33 weeks ago

I agree with the death penalty for corporations so long as we throw in the Cock Brothers. Apply the death penalty then confiscate our trillions.

While we are at it, let's apply the death penalty to Haliburton, Chevron, Bank fo America, Comcast, Direct TV, Verizon, Fox Not News.

Why can't we apply the death penalty to red states? They are very unamerican. We could start with Texas, Shitzona, Utah, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Lousyana, Kentucky, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Let me know if I missed one.

johnbest's picture
johnbest 9 years 33 weeks ago

Get lost troll!!!

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 33 weeks ago

chuckle8 ~ Thanks for pointing all that out. Great job! Well said! I have a simpler way of reading the ads. If I see a bunch of expensive, prime time ads telling me how to vote, I make a note and tend to vote the opposite way. Let's use a little commons sense here. Do those people who have your interest and mine at heart have that much money to blow on all those ads just to 'help' us out? No, they don't, do they? The people behind a massive ad campaign are investing money in order to make money. Money that is probably intended to come out of us. People just don't spend that kind of money without a return on that investment. Let the listener beware! The voices you are hearing are helping you make a decision. Make the opposite decision! Those commercial campaigns are NOT in your best interest.

ChicagoMatt 9 years 33 weeks ago

I wonder if youtube tracks how many people "skip" the political ads in front of videos, versus how many people "skip" other ads. I'll bet that even the people behind the political ads know that they have little affect on anyone, but they don't want to admit it, because it would cost them their job. The biggest effect the ads have, besides annoying the shit out of people, is to reinforce the positions people already had about their candidates.

I think Direct TV and Dish Network can also track how many people fast-forward through ads.

My friend proposed something call a "P" chip. It's like a "V" chip, but instead of filtering out violence, it filters out political ads. I'd buy it.

As bad as it is here, I can only imagine what it would be like to live in a swing state. Those of you that do live in one, you have my pity.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 33 weeks ago
Quote ChicagoMatt:I think Direct TV and Dish Network can also track how many people fast-forward through ads.
They probably can if people have their Satellite boxes plugged into the phone line. I keep mine disconnected until I want to check for upgraded software which is practically never. And my Dish TV works just fine. I keep it disconnected because I believe that the Satellite box will "phone home" and upload information to them on what I watch. Not that it really matters much...but it is the principle of it that keeps me uncooperative with them. Things might have changed since I first got Dish TV many years ago and I still have the original boxes. So, maybe the newer boxes can connect wirelessly. They don't transmit through the Satellite dishes to the Satellites....just receive..that's why they need you to be connected via the phone.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 32 weeks ago

First to answer Thom's rhetorical question: if we weren't living under corporate fascism, BP would be history by now. Under our current system, laws are only in the books to keep us peons in line, while it's open season for kleptocrats.

Reply to #13: Great to have ya back, Marc! Excellent points! You could have taken many of those words right out of my mouth. Like you, I tend to vote the opposite of what those prime-time ads tell us. Here in Oregon we’ve been bombarded with Monsanto’s ads telling us to vote against GMO labelling. Yeah right. They might as well be telling us to step up as volunteers, and be Monsanto’s unpaid guinea pigs… and in a country with no universal healthcare! Downright insulting.

I’ll admit, I’ve been a little distracted by some of those threads on the side bar… like that one titled “Mysticism”. Hoo-we! If you visit that one, be ready to duck! Whole lotta mud slingin’ goin’ on… Gee, I thought spirituality was supposed to bring out the best in us! - AIW

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 9 years 32 weeks ago

Thom, Consumer Unions could be an affective model for a democratic institution that could punish BP, without having to beg our "representatives" in Congress to act as servants to the will of the people, instead of acting as paid employees of large corporations. Imagine, if an organized national Consumer Union collectively boycotted BP and then, imagine a bit more, if there was a International Consumer Union calling for boycotts around the world. Then democracy would be in the hands of the people, and the ruling class would final have a reason to fear the unbridled heard.

bobcox's picture
bobcox 9 years 32 weeks ago

Each of the three corporations involved in the oil spill should be convicted for the death of the personnel who lost their lives in the explosion. If corporations are "people" then the punishment should be equivalent to what any serial murdeerer would get. The equivalent woiuld be for the eintire capital and property of the corporations should be confiscated, equivalent to the death penalty for a human being so convicted.

The stock holdesr of the corporations would be made aware of the moral problems when corporations do not perform for the public good.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 32 weeks ago

RichardofJeffer RE#17 -- There is a Consumer Union and they do most of things you think they should do. See the following link:


You need to discuss with them why they cannot accomplish as much as you think such an organization should.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 32 weeks ago

Chi Matt RE#14 -- There is significant polling data that shows those ads are effective. I gave on example at the beginning of my blog comment. That is, the reversal of 1.4 to 1 to 1 to 1.3. Another example is the GMO labeling proposition in California. The polls showed that 72% of the public supported labeling of GMO products. After a barrage of anti-labeling ads, the proposition lost. One of the most nauseating of those anti labeling ads was the factual statement that it would increase the cost of the product (not necessarily the price or least it was never mentioned). Of course, the increase in cost was something like 0.1 cents.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 9 years 32 weeks ago

Stagger, there was no "Daily Topics" post like there's supposed to be, and I couldn't let the drive-by drop-off of bad information stand.

(It looks like replies to previous comments aren't marked as such, perhaps the webmaster could look into that.)

dianhow 9 years 32 weeks ago

BP is above law just as corrupt Wall ST bankers broke laws but never went to jail Taxpayers suffered great harm. CEO's got more millions after 2008 crash . US laws & polices favor large corps & billionaires , are killing off the working class Fair Wages & pensions are getting rare . MY husband worked so hard , walking the factory for years ,all the way up to Plant Supt The plant closed and his pension was slashed. Why is that even legal ? Because Corp & billionaires run our country .

ChicagoMatt 9 years 32 weeks ago

Good point Chuck. I was thinking of candidates, not ballot measures. We only had two binding, and about 5 non-binding ballot measures here. I didn't see any ads for any of them. To sum up the last five months of political ads I've seen: Bruce Rauner (R) is rich and got that way be screwing over old people, and Pat Quinn (D) is a failure at governing.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 32 weeks ago

Reply to #21: Mathboy, I give up depending on this website to keep track of what I'm responding to. I simply include the post # myself. Takes very little effort. - AIW

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 32 weeks ago

AIW re #24 -- It takes little effort, but a functioning short term memory (or pen and paper). I was actually locked out of this site's blogs for about a month because of my workaround of my aging short term memory. When I forgot the comment # I would give the same short answer. The software on this site interpreted it as spam after repeating it too many times.

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 9 years 32 weeks ago

chuckle8, it's a consumer advocate group not a union, and I am well aware of their existence. Thank you.

lizard's picture
lizard 9 years 32 weeks ago

Too big to punish. I am afraid we will be on fossil fuel until it tips us out into irreversable damage.

ChicagoMatt 9 years 32 weeks ago

I remember when the BP spill first happened, there was talk about boycotting BP. Then we quickly learned that oil companies sell to each other, so you can't say "no" to BP gas without saying "no" to all gas. And if you boycott the local BP station, you're just hurting the small-time station owner. The only way to really avoid BP is to get off of gas completely, which I am trying to do, but for financial reasons. I've got my daily commuting down to 8 miles round trip. Not too shabby. If only they made electric tractor-trailers to deliver the goods that I buy. I'd go out of my way to patronize any company that delivered its goods via non-gasoline-powered means.

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