Sept. 25, 2018
Missing From FBI Crime Report: Corporate Crime Goes Unpunished Under Trump
Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen
In response to the FBI’s annual crime report, the Trump administration is touting its racist and ineffective tough-on-crime policies against street criminals (“common sense criminal charging,” in the words of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions).
But the “tough on crime” posture is just an act. President Donald Trump and Sessions are plenty cruel to vulnerable immigrant families and eager to throw the book at low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. But when it comes to the rich and powerful – corporate criminals and wrongdoers – Trump and Sessions are full of empathy and eager to let them off the hook with a warning or less. In practical terms, law enforcement against corporate wrongdoers is plummeting under Trump.
“Corporate Impunity,” a report (PDF) Public Citizen released in July, found that in 11 of the 12 agencies led by a Trump administration official in 2017, penalties for corporate crime and wrongdoing declined. In more than half of these agencies, penalties declined by more than 50 percent, with the steepest declines in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (94 percent) and the U.S. Department of Justice (90 percent).
As horrible as the toll is from street crime and violence, corporate crime and wrongdoing costs far more and injures far more people. The numbers show why. The total economic impact for all property crimes in this year’s crime report is $15.3 billion. In contrast, corporate wage theft alone is estimated to cost at least $15 billion. Volkswagen’s global bill for its Dieselgate scandal was about $30 billion. BP’s oil spill settlements and restoration costs totaled $62 billion. The 2008 Wall Street crash cost the U.S. economy a staggering $22 trillion. The human toll of corporate crime is staggering as well. Workplace trauma and disease kills more than 50,000 Americans a year, and air pollution kills hundreds of thousands prematurely.
Earlier this year, Public Citizen called on Sessions to produce and release an annual report on corporate crime to add the proper context to the FBI’s report on street crime. No one should hold their breath waiting.