The Trump administration's failure to prosecute corporate crime could lead to a surge in illegal business activities across the United States, warns a new report.
The 'Corporate Impunity' report by the Public Citizen forum, published July 25, found that corporate America has largely been exempt from Trump's so-called 'law-and-order' agenda. Enforcement by major government agencies during Trump's first year in the White House have declined drastically, according to the report.
"When it comes to large corporations, the supposedly 'tough-on-crime' Trump administration is undertaking an epic retreat from law enforcement—slashing fines, declining to bring cases against corporate wrongdoers, and cutting enforcement programs," Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said.
"The message to big business couldn't be more clear: feel free to run roughshod over rules that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, as well as ensure the safety of the cars we drive and protect us against bank rip-offs and consumer fraud."
Responding to the report, legal scholar Jennifer Taub said: "The greedy leader sets the pace. Under the Trump doctrine, it's corruption without accountability all the way down."
The largest drop in enforcement came at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), headed by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler since Scott Pruitt resigned. According to Public Citizen, EPA penalties against corporate criminals have fallen by 94 percent since Trump took office.
NEW REPORT: During Trump’s first year in office, penalties for corporate violations plummeted.— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) July 25, 2018
While Trump ramps up zero-tolerance policies against immigration, he's gone soft on policies that protect Americans from lawbreaking corporations. https://t.co/32Xg8THhby pic.twitter.com/GuWdluxpGW
The Obama administration imposed stringent measures to combat corporate crime, fining businesses a total of US$51.5 billion during the president's last year in office. Trump's Department of Justice, by comparison, has so far imposed just US$4.9 billion in penalties.
Growing impunity under the Trump administration, Public Citizen warns, could trigger a surge in corporate crime: "If the chances of being prosecuted for lawbreaking drop and the penalties when caught are slight, we should expect a surge in corporate wrongdoing," the report reads.
"That means more workers needlessly injured and killed on the job. It means more consumers ripped off by predatory lenders... It also means a greatly increased chance of corporate catastrophes, on the scale of the BP Gulf oil disaster and the 2008 financial crash, both of which can be traced directly to regulatory enforcement failures."