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Psst...wanna do business with a criminal?

The National Press Club of America held a press conference in early September to launch its Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the Decade.

Live to air on national TV, the Press Club announced their concern that active criminals now dominate every aspect of the American

economic market, its culture and political arena.

Every year, the major business magazines put out their annual surveys of big business in America to identify and glorify the biggest and most profitable corporations. These include the Fortune 500, the Forbes 400, the Forbes Platinum 100 and the International 800.

The lists rank big organisations by sales, assets, profits, and market share.

The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the Decade was created, according to Press Club member Russell Mokhiber, to focus public attention on the “pervasive criminality that has corrupted the marketplace and that is given little sustained attention and analysis by politicians and news outlets.”

The criteria for membership on the exclusive list was simple: corporations that have pleaded guilty or no contest to crimes and have been criminally fined.

The list reads like a who’s who of powerful organisations – many of whom Australians support daily.

Do you do business with any of these criminals?

BASF Aktiengesellschaft has been fined US$225million. Exxon displays a recidivist attitude with a guilty conviction more than once in ten years including one fine of US$125m.

Bankers Trust has been fined US$60m, Hoechst AG were fined US$36m, US$17m was demanded of Ortho Pharmaceuticals, Mitsu-bishi International Corporation were fined US$1.8m and Eastman Kodak were fined US$11m.

Other companies on the list include General Electric, Aluminum Company of America ALCOA, IBM EastEurope/Asia and Hyundai.

The full list is available at http://lists.essential.org/corp-focus.

Mokhiber pointed out that the list of 100 represents only the tip of the iceberg of corporate wrongdoing, as many are not prosecuted.

“For every company convicted of health care fraud, there are hundreds of others who get away with ripping off Medicare and Medicaid or face only mild slap-on-the-wrist fines and civil penalties when caught,” said Mokhiber.

“For every company convicted of polluting the nation’s waterways, there are many others who are not prosecuted because their corporate defence lawyers are able to offer up a low-level employee to go to jail in exchange for a promise not to touch high-level executives.”

“For every corporation convicted of bribery or of giving money directly to a public official in violation of federal law, there are thousands who give money legally through political action committees to candidates and political parties.

“They profit from a system that, effectively, has legalized bribery.”

Mokhiber stated that corporations often define the laws under which they live.

As a result they can make an argument that the most egregious wrongful corporate acts, such as the genetic engineering of the food supply, the systematic pollution of the nation’s air and waterways or the bribery by corporate criminals of the political parties are totally legal.

• Ann Macbeth is a futurist and principal of Annimac Consultants.

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