Should corporations that break laws in a significant manner be allowed to exist?
Monday, October 12, 2015
The recent corporate scandals at Volkswagen and the Peanut Butter Corporation got me thinking about just when it was that corporations got constitutional rights. The answer is that over time, our Supreme Court has incrementally granted Corporations certain Constitutional rights, mostly in controversial political situations. Corporations are creatures of state statues, whose sole purpose is to provide for an association dedicated to making profit. Those statutes grant them certain rights such access to the courts to sue and be sued. Corporate existence is dependent on complying with law and paying fees and taxes. Corporations would not exist but for their statutory creation.
While some complain about corporations paying extraordinary taxes, they are well represented by their influence on regulatory and administrative agencies and lobbying efforts in congress. Shareholders have been told that these expenses are a necessary cost of doing business and a legitimate expense against profits.
Two recent Supreme Court cases newly granted corporations the right of free speech (Citizens United) and religious rights (Hobby Lobby). There are 8 other cases that in one way or another grant corporations constitutional rights. How do corporations deserve our precious citizen's inalienable rights given that their very existence was granted by a state legislature?
Going back to status for the moment, if corporations are statutorily created creatures subject to law, and if they violate the law in a significant way, should they be allowed to continue in existence? Corporations have not been granted a fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. Corporate Records and testimony by corporate executives should be totally available to prosecutors. In the Volkswagen Case, the facts are not yet out, but it would appear likely that the creation and installation of this software device was not an act of negligence. It was intentional. The Peanut Butter Corporation produced its a food product in plants known to be unsanitary and resulted in death and serious illness to many consumers. Corporations can's go to jail, so why should these two corporations, having committed or alleged to have committed felonious acts be allowed continued existence? Wouldn't the threat of ending a corporation's existence send a message?
I look forward to hearing from you.