President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions claim to be as tough as they come on lawbreakers.
Trump promised in his inaugural speech to end “American carnage” and “Make America Safe Again,” and he and Sessions also preach “zero tolerance” for anyone who crosses the border illegally.
But it turns out that the Trump administration is tough on lawbreaking only by the poor and vulnerable.
When it comes to large corporations, the administration is undertaking an epic retreat from law enforcement.
Our hard-hitting new exposé — “Corporate Impunity: Tough on Crime Trump Is Weak on Corporate Crime and Wrongdoing” — for the first time shines a light on what this all adds up to:
- In almost every agency under the control of a Trump appointee, regulatory enforcement plummeted to just a fraction of what it had been under the Obama administration.
- The Environmental Protection Agency is giving polluters a pass, with total fines against corporations sinking a startling 94 percent in the first year of the Trump administration.
- Most alarmingly, at the Department of Justice — the nation’s lead law enforcement agency — total penalties against corporations dropped 90 percent during the first year of the Trump administration.
None of this is an accident.
Trump’s Cabinet and regulators consistently describe the companies and industries they regulate or oversee to be “customers” or “constituents.”
- James Otting, the Comptroller of the Currency — in charge of enforcement of nationally chartered banks — explained that he aimed to improve his agency’s “responsiveness to our customers, which are the banks.”
In agencies across the government, the Trump administration has adopted policies to soften civil and criminal enforcement against corporations.
- The Justice Department now allows corporations to avoid criminal prosecution for overseas bribery by self-reporting violations. Yes, really.
Let’s be very clear about what this all means: If corporations can violate the law with impunity, they will break the law for a buck.
And corporate law-breaking means:
- more workers needlessly injured and killed on the job;
- more consumers ripped off by predatory lenders;
- more preventable contaminated food outbreaks;
- more avoidable asthma attacks from illegal air pollution;
- more dangerous products on the market;
- more ripped-off investors; and
- more discrimination on the job.
It also means a greatly increased chance of corporate catastrophes, on the scale of the BP Gulf oil disaster and the 2008 financial crash, both of which can be traced directly to regulatory enforcement failures.
Trump and Sessions have railed against a non-existent “surge” in violent crime, but are aiding and abetting a surge in corporate crime and wrongdoing that threatens all of us.
President, Public Citizen
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