Too Smug to Jail

By Matt Talibi and cross-posted from Rolling Stone

As we reach the close of an election season marked by anger toward the unaccountable rich, The Economist has chimed in with a defense of the beleaguered white-collar criminal.

An editorial called “Jail bait” is the latest in a line of salvoes against what the magazine imagines is a wave of politically driven regulatory actions against corporate executives.

The piece makes many of the usual Wall Street arguments: locking up executives wouldn’t do any good, populist passions are ignorant, etc. But this is the crucial passage:

“Most corporate crime is the result of collective action rather than individual wrongdoing—long chains of command that send (often half-understood) instructions, or corporate cultures that encourage individuals to take risky actions. The authorities have rightly adjusted to this reality by increasingly prosecuting companies rather than going after individual miscreants.”

Yikes! This extraordinary argument is cousin to the Lieutenant Calley defense, i.e., that soldiers bear no responsibility for crimes they were ordered to execute. The Economist here would have you believe that there’s no such thing as an individual crime in a corporate context

Continue reading the article

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