In January, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) released the report “Rigged Justice - How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy” detailing what is known as regulatory capture.
A key point made in the report is that serious corporate offenses — even those resulting in massive environmental contamination or deaths — almost never result in criminal charges against the individuals involved. The most likely outcome is always a small fine that, when compared to the corporation’s annual profits, is nothing more than a rounding error.
While “Rigged Justice” did not specifically focus on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), an audit of the FRA’s policies on hazardous material transportation by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Transportation released in February found many of the same issues.
Echoing the message of Warren’s report, the audit notes that “penalties have little deterrent effect, and criminal penalties are not being pursued.”
The audit notes that within the sample of cases reviewed, 17 cases could have been referred for criminal investigation and yet none were. The audit estimates that over 20% of all violations could be reviewed for criminal investigation.
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