JanF

Good Government: Prosecuting People, Not Just Corporations

One of the more frustrating aspects of the prosecutions related to the Great Cheat that led to the Great Recession was that many of those perpetrating the fraud got off scot-free while their companies were simply levied fines, often a fraction of the profits they received from their cheating.

While it is important to seek penalties and restitution so that those harmed by high level corporate crimes can be made whole again, it has always seemed wrong that the people who devised and promoted the fraudulent schemes are rarely charged. Some faceless corporation pays a fine equal to 1/1000000th of its annual revenue and those behind the scenes are left in place to come up with a new ways to defraud consumers.

On Thursday, the Justice Department announced a new policy on individual liability for corporate crimes that seeks to address that concern.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates spoke at the New York University School of Law:

Crime is crime. And it is our obligation at the Justice Department to ensure that we are holding lawbreakers accountable regardless of whether they commit their crimes on the street corner or in the boardroom. In the white-collar context, that means pursuing not just corporate entities, but also the individuals through which these corporations act. […]

In modern corporations, where responsibility is often diffuse, it can be extremely difficult to identify the single person or group of people who possessed the knowledge or criminal intent necessary to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This is particularly true of high-level executives, who are often insulated from the day-to-day activity in which the misconduct occurs. […]

Americans should never believe, even incorrectly, that one’s criminal activity will go unpunished simply because it was committed on behalf of a corporation. We could be doing a bang-up job in every facet of the department’s operations – we could be bringing all the right cases and making all the right decisions. But if the citizens of this country don’t have confidence that the criminal justice system operates fairly and applies equally – regardless of who commits the crime or where it is committed – then we’re in trouble. […]

Effective today, if a company wants any consideration for its cooperation, it must give up the individuals, no matter where they sit within the company. And we’re not going to let corporations plead ignorance. If they don’t know who is responsible, they will need to find out. If they want any cooperation credit, they will need to investigate and identify the responsible parties, then provide all non-privileged evidence implicating those individuals. […]

We are going to continually reexamine our practices to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to hold corporate wrongdoers accountable. Despite this, there will still be cases where we don’t have the evidence necessary to establish an individual’s criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt. And regardless of public demand, we will never bring charges against anyone unless we are satisfied that the individual is in fact guilty of a crime. That is the core of our responsibility and promise to the American people. And I should be clear: while these policy shifts are effective immediately, the public won’t see the impact of these steps over night. […]

We make these changes recognizing the challenges that they may present. Some corporations may decide, for example, that the benefits of consideration for cooperation with DOJ are not worth the costs of coughing up the high-level executives who perpetrated the misconduct. Less corporate cooperation could mean fewer settlements and potentially smaller overall recoveries by the government. In addition, individuals facing long prison terms or large civil penalties may be more inclined to roll the dice before a jury and consequently, we could see fewer guilty pleas.

Only time will tell. But if that’s what happens, so be it. Our mission here is not to recover the largest amount of money from the greatest number of corporations; our job is to seek accountability from those who break our laws and victimize our citizens. It’s the only way to truly deter corporate wrongdoing.

Bolding and underlining added

Full transcript below the fold.

Senate Democrats Reject War (UPDATED with video)

NY Times Email:

BREAKING NEWS Senate Democrats clear way for Iran nuclear deal

Thursday, September 10, 2015 4:08 PM EDT

Senate Democrats delivered a major victory to President Obama on Thursday when they blocked a Republican resolution to reject a six-nation nuclear accord with Iran, ensuring that the landmark deal will take effect without a veto showdown between Congress and the White House.

A procedural vote fell short of the number needed to break a Democratic filibuster. It culminated hours of debate on the Senate floor and capped months of discord since the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China announced the agreement with Iran in July.

After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempts to rewrite history, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid points out that McConnell lives in an alternate reality.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) shows some spine and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) melts in a puddle of Obama Derangement Syndrome on the Senate floor.

Film at 11 below the fold.

The White House “Back-to-School Tour”: #HeadsUpAmerica

The White House has launched their “2015 Back-to-School Tour” to promote the administration’s community college initiative, America’s College Promise, and announce a new initiative: Heads Up America, an independent campaign to raise awareness about the importance of America’s community colleges.

First stop, Macomb Community College in Warren MI with Dr. Jill Biden and President Barack Obama:

From the Michigan Daily

The president and Dr. Jill Biden, a professor at Northern Virginia Community College and the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, addressed a crowd of several hundred people at Macomb Community College. During the event, Obama rolled out a $175 million apprenticeship grant program through the U.S. Department of Labor and rallied support for a proposal he announced in January to provide a guaranteed two free years of community college.

Obama announced this plan in his State of the Union address with the goal of offering responsible students the opportunity to attend two years of community college for free. He emphasized the need for every student to have a chance to succeed, arguing that the benefits of a community college degree and job skills training include the chance to live a more prosperous life.

Dr. Biden:

“Our administration believes you should have the education and skills you need to succeed without being saddled with decades of debt,” she said. “Because it’s too hard to get ahead when you start off from so far behind.”

President Obama:

“A big part of making sure today’s economy works better for ordinary folks goes back to the issue of education,” he said. “Every American willing to work hard should have a shot at higher education because as the economy globally becomes more competitive, everybody’s got to upgrade their skills a little bit.”

(Transcript below)

Things That Actually Matter: Campaign Finance Reform

While everyone was off chowing down on the nothingburger being served by the bored press (“not sorry?” “sorry” “but are you really really sorry?”), Hillary Clinton was rolling out more of her 2016 presidential campaign platform. On Tuesday, it was campaign finance reform, something that is personal for her.

Did you know Citizens United was started by a conservative group lobbying against Hillary Clinton? Watch as Kristina Schake of the Hillary For America campaign explains why Hillary is passionate about overturning Citizen United, and stoping the flow of dark unaccountable money in campaigns.

Secretary Clinton:

“We have to end the flood of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections, corrupting our political system and drowning out the voices of too many everyday Americans,” Clinton said in a statement. “Our democracy should be about expanding the franchise, not charging an entrance fee. It starts with overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and continues with structural reform to our campaign finance system so there’s real sunshine and increased participation.” […]

David Donnelly, the president and CEO of Every Voice, a campaign finance reform group, praised Clinton’s plan, noting it was as comprehensive and bold on the issue as the proposals he has seen from any presidential candidate.

“These proposals get us 90 percent to 95 percent there to address the issue of money in our elections,” he said, adding that the additional 5 to 10 percent comes down to enforcing the rules.

To those who call this call for changes hypocritical since Hillary Clinton’s campaign will benefit from Super-PACs:

“Those candidates that are competing in the current system have to play under the rules as they are rather than the rules as they should be,” [Donnelly] said. “Hillary Clinton has chosen to come out with a serious plan to address a major problem that every voter and every candidate knows exists, and the alternative is to basically clam up and not talk about it and accept the way things are.”

Secretary of Labor Tom Perez: Let’s Hear Your Voice

Secretary Perez sent the following message to the White House email list on Labor Day.

Labor Day is about more than barbecues and a three-day weekend.

It is a day owned by every one of us, to honor our contributions to America’s strength and prosperity. Today, we’re looking at more than 13 million private-sector jobs created since 2010, and 66 consecutive months of private-sector job growth. That is prosperity that we created together. And it deserves to be recognized.

The problem is that far too many Americans still aren’t sharing in that prosperity.

As we continue to emerge from the depths of the great recession, the challenge before us is to make sure more Americans get a slice of the pie that they helped bake. America, after all, is stronger when more people have more.

(There’s something every one of us can do to create change in our workplaces, and it always starts with a conversation — with colleagues or with decision makers. Make a commitment to start that conversation today at whitehouse.gov/worker-voice)

Last month, I hit the road to meet hardworking Americans standing together to raise their voices. Whether it’s making sure an honest day’s work earns a fair day’s pay, or insisting that no one should have to choose between the job they need and the family they love, Americans across this country are showing that small conversations at the lunch table can lead to big changes at the boardroom table.

It starts with a conversation. And you can commit to start one today right here.

You can tell us about how you or someone you know stepped up in your workplace to push for a change, whatever your issue may be — from better wages to workplace fairness to greater equality.

And here’s what’s next:

On October 7, we’re hosting a Summit on Worker Voice at the White House. The Summit will rally workers, employers, unions, organizers and others to bring attention to both the new, innovative ways that workers are coming together to have a voice in their workplaces, as well as the proven practices — like collective bargaining — that have sustained the middle class for generations.

As history has shown time and time again, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish when we speak up with one voice. We are, after all, stronger together.

So add your voice: Say you’ll start the conversation.

Happy Labor Day.

Thanks,

Tom

Hillary Clinton: “Everyone deserves a chance and everyone deserves a champion”

Yesterday, in a speech in New Hampshire, Democratic presidental candidate Hillary Clinton launched her campaign initiative: “Women for Hillary” … it was also “Hillary for Women” and men:

(FULL Speech: Hillary Clinton speaks at campaign event in New Hampshire 09/05/15 ) (Looking for transcript)

NPR:

“What’s good for women is good for America,” [Secretary Clinton] said, adding that equal pay, childcare, and family leave are not just women’s issues, but economic ones.

“Too often these are called women’s issues,” Clinton said. “If you can’t afford to go to work or find a safe place to leave your kids, you’re not gonna have the kind of economic opportunity you deserve.”

Clinton said men also have a stake in such policies, pointing out that many men are now caring for children and aging parents. […] Speaking in New Hampshire, Clinton said she’s been talking about issues affecting families and children for years.

“I believe that raising incomes and supporting families is the defining economic challenge of our time,” Clinton said. “And these are not new fights for me.”

She was also commemorating the 20th anniversary of her speech to the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing (video and transcript below the fold).

“If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all,” Clinton famously said 20 years ago in a speech confronting Chinese leaders over their poor record on women’s rights. Clinton talked about poverty, violence, and lack of access to health care.

Weekly Address: President Obama – This Labor Day, Lets Talk About the Budget

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President recognized Labor Day by highlighting the economic progress our country has made, and underlining what needs to be done to continue that growth. Our businesses have created 13.1 million new jobs over the past five and a half years, the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in seven years, and seventeen states across the country have raised the minimum wage. The President stressed that to continue this progress, Congress needs to avoid a government shutdown that would hurt middle-class Americans and pass a responsible budget before the end of September. The President emphasized that Congress should not play games with our economy, and instead pass a budget that invests in our middle-class and helps those who work hard and play by the rules to get ahead.

President Obama’s Email to Me from Alaska

President Obama has been in Alaska the past few days. On his first day, he renamed a mountain and made a fiery speech before the GLACIER conference.

Since then he has been visiting Alaska and sending emails to his friends (like me!) about his doings. Today’s email:
Hi, everyone — checking in on day two. Right off the bat, I’ll note that I’ve got to come back here once I’m done being President.”

You just can’t see Alaska in three days.

I spent the day hiking through Exit Glacier in the Kenai Fjords National Park — where the mountains collide with the ocean and fields of ice. When the team handed over the camera, I did my best to do this place justice:

(Standing in front of Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park, President Obama spoke about how climate change is causing Alaska’s glaciers to recede and accelerating rising sea levels. September 1, 2015.)
Transcript: Remarks by the President at Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, AK

Visitors from around the world come here to see its Harding Icefield — one of the largest ice fields in the United States — covering hundreds of square miles. As the climate warms, glaciers are shrinking more and more rapidly — and throughout the park, there are signs marking where the glacier line used to be.

This is as good of a signpost as any when it comes to the impacts of climate change.

I also had the chance to tour the area by boat and experience the beauty and wildlife of Resurrection Bay. It was spectacular to see the horizon of ice and snow, but it’s melting. And if we don’t act, this simply won’t be here for future generations to enjoy.

Glaciers in Alaska, and the greater Arctic, are shrinking and it’s changing the way Alaskans live. And considering the Arctic’s unique role in influencing the global climate, it will accelerate changes to the way that we all live. Since 1979, the summer sea ice in the Arctic has decreased by more than 40%, a decrease that has dramatically accelerated over the past two decades.

One new study estimates that Alaska’s glaciers alone lose about 75 gigatons — that’s 75 billion tons — of ice each year. What does a gigaton look like? To put that in perspective, one scientist described a gigaton of ice as a block the size of the National Mall in Washington — from Congress all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, four times as tall as the Washington Monument. Now imagine 75 of those ice blocks.

That’s what Alaska’s glaciers alone lose…each year. And the pace of melting is only getting faster.

It’s now twice what it was between 1950 and 2000 — twice as fast as it was just a little over a decade ago. And it’s one of the reasons why sea levels rose by about eight inches over the last century, and why they’re projected to rise another one to four feet this century.

If we do nothing, temperatures in Alaska are projected to rise between six and 12 degrees by the end of the century, triggering more melting, more fires, more thawing of the permafrost, a negative feedback loop, a cycle — warming leading to more warming — that we do not want to be a part of.

The fact is that climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. That must change — and we’re not acting fast enough.

President Barack Obama”

More from President Obama’s trip below …

President Obama: “Climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now.”

President Obama is in Alaska for a three day visit. While there, he attended the GLACIER conference. GLACIER is “Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement, and Resilience” and is chaired by Secretary of State John Kerry.

President Obama:

… climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now. Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety — now. Today. And climate change is a trend that affects all trends — economic trends, security trends. Everything will be impacted. And it becomes more dramatic with each passing year.[…]

I’ve come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating this problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it. And I believe we can solve it. That’s the good news. Even if we cannot reverse the damage that we’ve already caused, we have the means — the scientific imagination and technological innovation — to avoid irreparable harm. […]

… the time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers is past. The time to plead ignorance is surely past. Those who want to ignore the science, they are increasingly alone. They’re on their own shrinking island.

FACT SHEET: President Obama to Announce New Steps to Enhance Administration Collaboration with Alaska Natives, the State of Alaska, and Local Communities

President Obama will meet with leaders from the Alaska Native community along with Governor Bill Walker, Lt. Governor Byron Mallott, and Senator Lisa Murkowski to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation between the Federal Government and Alaska Native tribes, including by furthering progress in developing cooperative management strategies for fish and wildlife. The President will also announce that the Federal Government has officially restored the Koyukon Athabascan name of Denali to the tallest mountain in North America, previously known as Mt. McKinley. This designation recognizes the sacred status of Denali to generations of Alaska Natives.