Law vs. Ethics: The Infuriating Big Branch Mine Disaster Sentence

UBBMemorial

We really have to change sentencing guidelines so that white-collar criminals get the sentences they deserve.

Twenty nine men were killed in West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion six years ago, and former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, who was  found guilty of conspiring to avoid safety regulations that could have prevented those deaths, received only a one-year prison sentence and a fine.

A federal jury convicted Blankenship last year of a misdemeanor conspiracy to violate mine safety standards at Upper Big Branch. The jury acquitted him of felonies that could have put him in jail for 30 years. The judge handed down the stiffest sentence allowed for his misdemeanor conviction, but U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, prosecutors and the family members said later that the punishment was far too lenient for the nature of the crime.

Indeed it was. Corporations play the odds in a risk-reward game. If violating rules, regulations and laws can save or make millions and the eventual penalty when and if the company is prosecuted is only a fine, many companies and executives think it’s a risk worth taking. . If the risk also includes significant prison sentences for decision-makers, the risk-reward ratio changes significantly.

Blankenship was CEO of a company that intentionally risked the lives of its employees, and 29 men died. One year in jail looks like a rap on the wrist. Forget about the “Affluenza” kid: this sentence is far more disturbing.

“This man has no remorse at all!” a family member of one of the victims said. “He never approached none of us [after the mine disaster], he never told us he was sorry for what happened, and he knows he could have done the right thing.”

“I miss my family. (Blankenship) hugged his,”  he continued. “And all he gets is a year. The judge has done great; she gave him what she can give him. But there need to be stricter, more harsh penalties for people like that who put greed and money over human life.”

Yes.

The Halliburton Plea Bargain: Why We Have To Start Sending Corporate Executives To Jail

"BAD company! BAD! Now go feel sorry while you count your money."

“BAD company! BAD! Now go feel sorry while you count your money.”

The news media and pundits were too entranced by Anthony Weiner’s package, the royal baby, whatever it was, and President Obama’s  third or fourth promise to make the economy his primary focus every waking hour between fundraisers and expensive junkets to notice that the old villain of the Left, Halliburton, once again got away with corporate villainy of the worst kind. You see, Halliburton executives engaged in ethics accounting, essentially balancing the possible penalties that might arise from illegal and unethical conduct against the benefits, and decided, sure, let’s destroy evidence that shows that Halliburton had more to do with the deadly and ecologically devastating Deepwater Horizon explosion that created the Gulf oil spill than regulators and the courts currently know.

The company’s crime—remember, Scooter Libby was sent to jail for obstructing justice regarding the investigation of a crime that didn’t exist—was discovered, so it made a sweet deal with the Justice Department: it agreed to pay the maximum allowable fine of $200,000 ( perspective: this would be considered a joke of a fine for steroid use by a major league baseball star) and will be subject to a three year probation; the company continue its cooperation with the government’s criminal investigation (which is its duty anyway), and to really show its contrition and yummy goodness, Halliburton made a voluntary contribution of $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to clean off those oil-covered sea birds and otters, and that kind of thing.

Awwwwwww…

Disgraceful and outrageous. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Bernie Madoff, Now and Forever

Would I rather have Charlie or Bernie on the loose? Tough call...

Bernie Madoff, reports the New York Times, is feeling mistreated.

Two years into his 150 year sentence for defrauding hundreds of investors, destroying dozens of charities, and crushing the financial security of people who trusted him with their future, Madoff thinks it was unfair for Judge Denny Chin, who sentenced him, to make certain that he would die in prison. Accusing Chin of having “zero understanding of the industry”—meaning what, I wonder; that it was normal for the investment industry to set out to ruin people?—-and saying that he was being made a scapegoat while Wall Street firms and government officials “walk away free,” Madoff told reporter Ben Weiser, “Remember, they caused the recession, not me.”

Yes, and the Crusades started the chain of events that led to 9-11, and Teddy Roosevelt’s Asian policies lit the fuse for Pearl Harbor. Continue reading