Corporate VS. Individual Responsibility

Essay by Lily1University, Master'sA+, April 2004

download word file, 10 pages 5.0

Susan Gustafson

Business Ethics

Professor Mark Matthews, Ph.D.

March 12, 2004

Corporate Crime--Who Should Be Held Responsible?

Corporate vs. Individual Responsibility

"Experience has shewn, that even under the best of forms [of government] those with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny."

--Thomas Jefferson

Rampant corporate crime has forced us to question, once again, whom society should hold responsible for damaging corporate decisions. When corporations break the law, should we hold them responsible as "entities" themselves, or should we hold a more inclusive view and hold individual agents responsible?

Dark business decisions are being brought to light by market watchdogs such as Russell Mokhiber. He published a report on the top 100 Corporate Criminals of the Decade for the 1990's. In his report Mokhiber stresses the high cost of corporate crime. Multiple hundreds of billions of dollars a year are stolen from honest Americans at the hands of corporate criminals.

These crimes include pollution and occupational diseases as well as those crimes such as price-fixing and fraud.

While the Justice Department publishes an annual report titled "Crime in the United States," Mokhiber has found the list to be noninclusive of corporate crime. Crimes such as price-fixing, corporate fraud, pollution and public corruption are not documented. The list only reports "street crimes" committed in the United States annually. This is troubling as the cost of all street crime annually amounts to a mere $3.8 billion dollars whereas corporate crime is estimated to come at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Here is a quote from Mokhiber's report, "The savings and loan fraud--which former Attorney General Dick Thornburg called "the biggest white collar swindle in history"--cost us anywhere from $300 billion to $500 billion alone."1

This high cost of corporate malfeasance has engaged...