Tag Archives: White Collar Crime

boeing and the “chickenshit” justice department

TUESDAY 2 MARCH 2021

Justice under Capitalism

Those relying on the U.S. justice system to hold the Trump administration accountable for the crime spree that was the past four years, need to consider the record of the Justice Department in prosecuting corporate and white collar criminals.  Let’s just start with one case.

In January of 2021, the Justice Department allowed Boeing to resolve a criminal charge “related to a conspiracy to defraud” the government in connection with the FAA’s evaluation of Boeing’s 737 MAX airplane.

Boeing needed FAA approval for the planes and FAA was charged with developing safety protocols for them.  Employees of Boeing, however, placing “profit over candor” deceived the government by withholding important information from the regulatory agency, information which might have delayed approval or necessitated increased training for the use of the planes.

These employees continued to withhold the information and participate in a conspiracy to cover up the withholding, even after the first disastrous crash of the Boeing 737 MAX in 2018.

In 2018, Loin Air Flight 610 crashed near Indonesia.  189 passengers and crew were killed.  In March 2019 Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, crashed near Ejere Ethiopia.  All 157 passengers and crew died.  In March 2019 the plane involved, the 737 MAX, was officially grounded.   

No individuals were charged in the federal criminal information filed against a company, Boeing, and no individuals were punished.  Boeing was allowed to buy itself out of prosecution.

The agreement accepted by the Justice Department was a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), one of many the Department of Justice enters into with corporations every year.  According to “The Chikenshit Club” by Jesse Eisinger (one of the most underestimated books in the past decade) from 2002 until the Fall of 2016, the Justice Department entered into 416 such agreements.  In the previous 10 years, they had participated in 18.

These DPAs take the place of prosecutions.  They are easier for the Justice Department (require less resources and risk of losing), allow the Department to claim victories and tout what appear to be large fines.  And, the NPAs are much less painful for the corporation.  The fines are usually tiny compared with resources of the corporation, and they rarely involve individuals.   

So even though individuals at Boeing made decision after decision to deceive the regulatory agency the public depends on to ensure flying safety, they were not named and not prosecuted.  They were allowed to hide behind a NPA that resulted in a fine paid by Boeing.

DPAs are similar to plea bargains.  But, unlike plea bargains, they are not lowered charges in exchange for a guilty plea.  It is a prosecution that has been deferred, not brought.  Boeing has not been prosecuted for a crime, and can claim so.  It has been allowed to buy itself out of prosecution. 

Every criminal in every court in the country (except the innocent ones) would love to be allowed to pay a small sum in order not to be prosecuted for the crime s/he committed.  They are almost never afforded this opportunity.

Ordinary criminal defendants (the poor) are almost always required to plead guilty to a crime in order to secure a more lenient sentence.  The poor defendant is subject to the stigma of criminal prosecution, the economic costs.  These companies, however, are allowed to negotiate a settlement that doesn’t even include prosecution, or necessarily an admission of guilt.

In this case, Boeing agreed to a settlement, a bribe, in order not to be prosecuted for deceiving the government by withholding crucial information about one of its planes from those charged with developing safety protocols, information that might well have prevented two crashes and the loss of over 400 lives.

Boeing, a company, a legal fiction, is held responsible for its’ employees behavior.  Those employees who participated in this conspiracy, knowing that it would endanger lives for profit, are left free to be promoted, or leave the company and get jobs working elsewhere, committing more crimes.

The FAA is one of the agencies administering regulations about how corporations function.  Republicans have spent the past forty years fighting against every regulation of industry, starving regulatory agencies of funds, and demonizing them in the eyes of the public they were designed to protect. 

When a white collar or corporate criminal is caught, they are allowed to hide behind their “company” and evade responsibility.

If you want to know what Republicans stand for, this is it – free, unfettered, unaccountable fraud against the American people for profit.     

Resources:

Free Speech TV: Economic Update with Richard Wolff, History Lessons on Capitalism’s Failures, 3/2/21.

Department of Justice News: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/boeing-charged-737-max-fraud-conspiracy-and-agrees-pay-over-25-billion

Counterpunch.  https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/04/19/why-boeing-and-its-executives-should-be-prosecuted-for-manslaughter/

Mother Jones several background articles

Intelligencer.  https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/01/boeing-settled-737-max-case-for-almost-nothing.html

The Chickenshit Club by Jesse Eisinger

Two justice systems: lori loughlin

DAILY BLOG:

  • Lori Loughlin was sentenced to two months for paying bribes to get her daughters into USC.  Loughlin not only paid a bribe, she cheated some other deserving student out of a college education.
  • There are two justice systems in this country.  Race and class intersect to create sentence disparities.
  • While some studies report that arrest and prison admission rates are “dropping” for black people it’s because that rate dropped from black people going to state prison eight times the rate of whites, to five times.
  • And, black people are spending longer in prison. 
  • https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/12/03/the-growing-racial-disparity-in-prison-time
  • According to a U.S. Sentencing commission Report, black men receive 19% longer sentences than white men for similar crimes.
  • The report also found that judges are more likely to use their discretion to cut an offender’s sentence if the offender is white.

We cannot continue to have a justice system that fails to prosecute white collar, corporate and political criminals.

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There’s No Country on Earth Like It

Mitch McConnell

I can’t see that there’s anything in this stimulus bill that prevents it being a slush fund give-away for big business.  Because of objections, there is now talk of an Inspector General and a panel to over see the distribution of the funds, but no assurance that these funds, for example, won’t to directly into the Trump properties and businesses.

This is outrageous.  What I am expecting is to see somebody like the snake-in-the-grass Chris Coons to come out with some kind of watered-down, meaningless “compromise” that will allow Republicans to steal billions.

I’m disgusted with the Democratic Party, as usual.

On top of everything else, why isn’t somebody from the Democratic Party, somebody who has some moral authority, somebody who is willing to fight for regular people, not out in public every day, explaining how this crisis is being used as a giant rip-off for the 1%?

This is a country that has degenerated into a situation where it is considered a serious proposal to allow poor, working class and elderly people to die in order to protect the stock market for the wealthy.

Capitalism is the Crisis: The Repubicans Paved the Way for This

burr, richard

This afternoon, Jason Easley (3/19/20) at Politicsusa reported that Sen. Richard Burr, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was dumping $1.6 million in his own personal stock at the same time he was publicly reassuring the American people that their government had the coronavirus well in hand.

Burr was also warning his rich donors that this virus was likely to rival the 1918 flu virus that caused widespread devastation, thereby alerting them that they should scurry like rats leaving a sinking ship.  Burr, as head of the Intelligence Committee, was receiving daily updates (which included some of the nation’s most highly classified information) on the status of the virus and the extent of the threat to US security.

If the American people aren’t not furious about this, they should be.  They are losing their jobs, their financial security, and their retirement investments while a Republican member of Congress trades off his position to evade something like a 30% loss on his stocks.

As Miriame Kaba, an organizer recently interviewed on “The Intercept” stated, “capitalism is the crisis.”

This country has been thrown into social and economic turmoil by a group of people who have been telling the rest of us that the markets would take care of everything and that the individual pursuit of profit would make us free.  Meanwhile, they are busily trying to make money off the crisis.

If there is anything positive to be gleaned out of this crisis, it is the hope that people will finally realize that we are under the rule of  what Sarah Kenzior calls a crime syndicate posing as a government.  This includes not just Trump and his family.  This includes most of the members of the Congress as well.

I would be willing to bet that none of the corporate news media outlets will cover this story.  They will, instead, run video after video of reporters walking backward in grocery stores telling us that the shelves are empty as if this was edifying in any way.

Trump said today that the federal government was not a “shipping clerk.”  What he meant was that people were on their own, they couldn’t count of the federal government, their government, the government that they fund, to help them out.

We have no reason to be surprised.  Anyone could have seen this crisis coming.  It was never a question of whether, it was a question of when.  Experts in the field warned of the likelihood of a pandemic and people lived through an ebola crisis.

But for decades, the Republican party has been paving the way for just such a crisis.  They are the party that denigrates and ridicules science, reason, government, and expertise.  Why would anyone voting Republican expect anything different?

We are told we live in the richest, best country in the world, but we can’t afford testing kits to establish the severity of a pandemic.

 

Truth May Matter, but Justice Evidently Does Not: The Stone Sentencing

roger 2

I don’t know how many more days like this I can handle.

 

Roger Stone, convicted for witness tampering, lying to Congress and obstructing an official proceeding was today sentenced to 40 months in prison.  The media immediately turned the judge, who rejected an initial Justice Department recommendation that Stone get between 7 and 9 years, into a hero.

 

Ari Melber on MSNBC (who evidently considers himself the Consoler in Chief) once again had guests on to tell the American people that the judicial branch is holding steady, the last bastion of integrity and justice.  The institutions, so he claims, are holding.

 

Well, I’ve got news for Ari F…ing Melber, the institutions are not holding.  The executive branch is a criminal enterprise masquerading as a government (Sarah Kenzior), the Congress is toothless and being led by the nose by a collection of thugs who are either being bought off or extorted or who are just so craven for power they will do anything.  This same group of thugs is appointing new federal judges at breakneck speed.  Their nominees are so inept and ignorant they would never ever get near a courtroom as a judge unless there were a thoroughly corrupt administration shoveling them into lifetime positions.  The media is controlled by corporate interests and mediocre star reporters who laugh and joke their way through crisis after crisis after crisis.  The institutions are crumbling before our eyes.

 

Neither the corporate press nor the members of Congress are brave enough to see what’s happening and convey the seriousness of the situation.  The institutions are holding, they say.  Nothing to see here.  It will all be alright.

 

It reminds me of something that happened to me in Scotland years ago.  I went along with a friend to a house where the father of the family had thrown himself out a window.  Fortunately, he fell into the lovely Scottish garden below.  I was charged with sitting with the young son.  At some point I said: It’ll be alright.  The kid’s head snapped around and he stared at me with incredulity and contempt.  “Alright,” he said.  “Alright? My father just jumped out of a window.”  I nodded.  “You have a point.”  I said.

 

Sentencing for white collar (political and corporate) criminals is already an obscene joke in this country.   Take a look at Jesse Eisinger’s recent (and totally ignored) book “The Chickenshit Club.”  Eisinger details what happens these days to prosecutors who try to aggressively prosecute white collar criminals.  It’s an endeavor which is against their career interests.    Most white collar (corporate and political) criminals are not prosecuted.  The Justice Department almost always does deals with their attorneys before they come to trial.  A trial is considered time-consuming, expensive and unnecessary.  Smart prosecutors are expert negotiators and deal makers. As Eisinger points out, not only have prosecutors learned that they put their careers on the line if they fail to negotiate a deal, the institution itself has lost the expertise to prosecute cases and take them to trial.

 

Line prosecutors in the Stone case, though, did go to trial.  These prosecutors risked their careers but they proved their case and then recommended a sentence that was squarely in the middle of (already lenient) sentencing guidelines.  Their reward?  William Barr intervened, overruled them and after they resigned in protest sent his cronies into court to claim that DOJ had reconsidered the sentence recommendation and decided a lesser sentence was appropriate.

 

Then, when most of us who are sane and love the law and the concept of justice noticed, when something like 2000 former DOJ officials wrote a letter of protest, Barr sent his minions back into court to say that it had all been a misunderstanding.

 

Nobody who has a brain can mistake this series of events for anything but what it was – an attempt by Barr and Trump to see if they could simply throw caution to the wind and direct the sentencing of one of Trump’s buddies.  They tried, they got some push back, and they backed off to some extent.  But, make no mistake about it.  They will try again, and they will probably succeed.  This is (like the pardons) a softening of the ground.

 

Because of this, what was needed from the courts was a strong statement that high-level government officials cannot just dictate prosecution and sentencing.  What we got was the same “chickenshit” response from Jackson we saw previously from Mueller (who defined his investigation so narrowly it could not really be effective).  Jackson compromised, caved, backed down.

 

Earlier in the day, Seth Abramson tweeted that Trump used professionalism against people.  He predicted that Jackson would give Stone a lenient sentence in the name of being “reasonable,” or “fair” or “unbiased” or “professional.”  In doing so, she failed to send a message that the justice system is going to fight.

 

This morning, when I first heard the reporting that she was talking tough in court, I knew we were in big trouble.  In highly publicized cases like this, when judges talk tough, they sentence light.

 

“What did you expect.”  My partner said to me as I was pacing around the house indignant at the lenient sentence and the reaction of the corporate media.

 

“I know, I know” I responded “but it’s like knowing somebody’s going to die and having it actually happen.”

 

“You thought you might be wrong?”

 

“I was hoping, hoping I might be wrong.”

 

But, I was not wrong.  Of course, I was not wrong.

 

Tuesday night, Ari Melber had Melissa Murray on his show and she told a story about lecturing students.  She was talking about Nixon vs. Fitzgerald. She told her students that in immunizing the president from civil suits the courts did not make him a king.  He was still subject to other checks – the impeachment process, the free press, the effect on his legacy.  Her students, 112 men and women learning to be lawyers, laughed at her.  Well they should have.  I would have laughed at her.

 

Murray, as much as I love her, is another of those people (like Joyce Vance, Chuck Rosenberg and others) who’s identity is bound up with believing a fairy tale.  That fairy tale is that there are people with integrity who will stand up to injustice, corruption and the destruction of democracy.  The fairy tale is that these people will step up and save us. They will not.  We live in a society largely made up of conformists, of cowards, of people who are too timid and too comfortable to rock the boat.  Their careers and their inflated salaries are more important to them than their county, democracy or justice.

 

Jackson said in her decision today that the truth matters.  Maybe, but justice evidently does not.