New Orleans Ok, I’ll admit right off the bat that it’s not a movement. It might not even be a trend, but perhaps we could call it a tendency. I’m talking about the fact that big-time CEOs, tech founders, and others responsible for huge consumer and citizen calamities might finally be forced to face the same consequences that small time drug dealers and purse snatchers face and have to do some time and pay some fines.
I’ll admit I’m pushing the envelope and drawing from a woefully small sample size. The banking and financial hustlers and scammers from the 2008 Great Recession by and large walked away free as birds, despite millions of families losing their homes and most of what they counted as citizen wealth.
Still, I’m going to grasp at these straws.
The CEO of Wells Fargo at the top of their food chain and criminal enterprise was not only forced to resign where the buck stopped at their defrauding customers in their sales boiler room by opening accounts that didn’t exist among other things. Recently, he was barred from the banking industry and forced to pay $17.5 million in fines by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The OCC is also preparing to fine the head of Wells Fargo’s retail arm $25 million and meting out other penalties for three or four more executives and seeking to extend the ban from banking to the whole lot of them.
Germany is charging six executives of Volkswagen criminally for their roles in emissions cheating in the United States and around the world. As remarkably, the company itself has already pled guilty.
Don Blankenship, the CEO of Massey Energy, the coal mining company, did a year in jail because of a deadly mine explosion in West Virginia and his role in ordering safety short cuts. Of course, that pales next to the actions being taken by Brazil prosecutors who are now charging executives of the world’s largest iron ore mining company, Vale SA, of homicides in the dam collapse that killed sixty-five people.
Elizabeth Holmes and her partner at Theranos are getting off easier as a judge dismissed the damage they did in defrauding doctors and patients with their fake blood testing scam that was the toast of tech land and fawning attention of media for years. At least they are still being held to account for ripping off investors, but that is more a story of the rich being ripped off by the wannabe rich and their own narcissism.
In an age of Trumpism, inequity, and anything goes robber barons and financial fortunes creating no value, we have to hold tight to whatever hope we see in these tea leaves.