- js reader version
- view hidden posts
- tags and related articles
by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
Thursday, Mar. 28, 2002 at 3:26 PM
"... but not at the expense of the environment, human rights, the public safety, the communities in which the corporation operates, or the dignity of employees."
A Corporate Lawyer Speaks Out
By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
Look at the law in each of the fifty U.S. states.
All have a provision similar to that of Maine's section 716: "The directors and officers of a corporation shall
exercise their powers and discharge their duties with a view to the interest of the corporation and of the shareholders."
These laws make it the legal duty of corporate directors and executives to maximize profits for shareholders.
Robert Hinkley would add a simply amendment: "...
but not at the expense of the environment, human rights, the public safety, the communities in which the corporation operates, or the dignity of employees."
The provision would be enforced by those who suffer at the hands of corporation wrongdoing. And in the case of intentional wrongdoing, by criminal sanction.
For 20 years, Hinkley worked as a corporate securities law expert, many of them as a partner at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, one of the world's largest corporate law firms.
He wants to spend the next few years campaigning for his amendment.
Now Robert, wouldn't your little amendment, if it were enforced aggressively, for starters drive the internal
combustion engine off the market?
"To the extent that auto companies can't find a way to make the internal combustion engine work without emitting pollutants into the air, yes, it would," he says. "I prefer to think that it would spur the auto industry to find a way to make money for its shareholders that doesn't poison their air at the same time. It can be done."
Hinkley wants zero pollution.
He would phase in his amendment over 10 or 15 years.
"We say -- we are going to move from where we are today to no pollution in 10 or 15 years," he says. "And we expect corporations to make progress all the way through."
Isn't your amendment way too broad, and vague -- "Not at the expense of the environment, the dignity of employees, the public safety?" Your former colleagues at Skadden Arps are going to have a field day with this.
Not at all, he says.
The securities laws operate largely on the basis of companies being prohibited from making "false and misleading statements."
"By not spelling this out in greater detail, companies are generally more cautious," he says. "When it comes to the public interest, whether it's the integrity of the securities markets or the environment, this is a good thing. I would expect the same results for my amendment."
"The language of the amendment is quite clear," he says. "It says we no longer want corporations to pollute, engage in unsustainable development, violate human rights, put dangerous products into the marketplace -- or leave them there once their danger is understood --
leave our communities in economic ruin by closing
down plants and simply moving away, pay employees less than a living wage."
"Like the Bill of Rights, the language of the code is such that it can change with the culture over time."
Wait a second, Robert.
A corporation is not allowed to profit at the expense of "the dignity of employees"?
The Wall Street Journal editorial writers are going to have a field day. Some employee is going to say -- you are making profits and that's undignified.
"I think a court would tell that employee that maybe he should do something else with his life," Hinkley responds. "There is an old maxim that the law does not deal with trivialities. I think that maxim would be applied in this case. Dignity is one of those words like pornography. In the words of the Supreme Court 'I know it when I see it.' An employee's dignity is violated when she isn't paid a living wage, when her right to bargain collectively is not recognized, when she is forced
to work overtime against her will, and when she
is forced to work in unsafe conditions. I am sure there are others. The amendment will give employees a different status in the corporation from the one they now
have. In addition to being the 'company's most important assets,' they will have to start being treated that way."
But Robert, if you pass this law in Maine, then every major corporation will move to Delaware.
"I once sat next to a republican Delaware legislator at a dinner in New York and he said to me -- 'Bob, that's a great idea. You get it passed in the other 49 states and I'll get it done in Delaware.'"
Hinkley says that in Maine, there are about 40,000 corporations on the books -- "39,950 of them are small local corporations which don't pollute the environment, which don't violate human rights, which don't endanger the public safety, which treat all five to 10 of their employees with dignity."
"They are good corporate citizens," he says. "It is the big corporations that create the problem. That is where the system takes over. The local guy in downtown Ellsworth, Maine has to walk through the town everyday.
If he messes with the public interest, the local people will not do business with his company and he will be out of business. It is the large public corporations that are creating the problem. If this law is passed, will these other 50 companies pack up and leave Maine? I don't think so. They will see it is the trend."
Hinkley says that his former colleagues would for the most part be opposed to his amendment.
"Corporate lawyers are a peculiar lot," he explains. "We make our living by representing clients that are dedicated solely to the pursuit of their own interests. You have to be careful when you are talking to a
group of people whose job it is to speak for
someone else. Usually they are responding to only what they see to be in their clients' interests, not what is in the public's interest."
But he cites a Business Week/Harris poll which finds that 95 percent of Americans agree with him.
In that poll, 1,100 Americans were asked -- which statement do you agree with more strongly?
The first is -- corporations should only be concerned with maximizing profits for shareholders, and if they do,
everything will be right with the American economy.
The second is -- in addition to being concerned about shareholders, corporations should be concerned about their employees, the communities in which they operate, and sometimes they should sacrifice the interests of shareholders for the benefit of employees and the communities in which they operate.
Ninety-five percent choose the second.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
Multinational Monitor, http://www.essential.org/monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999;
(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
This article is posted at:
Focus on the Corporation is a weekly column written by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman. Please feel free to forward the column to friends or repost the column on other lists. If you would like to post the column on a web site or publish it in print format, we ask that you first contact us (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Focus on the Corporation is distributed to individuals on the listserve email@example.com. To subscribe, unsubscribe or change your address to corp-focus, go to:
or send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org with your request.
Focus on the Corporation columns are posted at .
Postings on corp-focus are limited to the columns. If you would like to comment on the columns, send a message to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Report this post as:
GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE
lausd whistle blower
Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images
UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light
Change Links April 2018
Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert!
Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A.
Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released
Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups
After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video
Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights
What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It
Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down
Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29
Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf
Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development
Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine
Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents
Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters
City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre
Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling
Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present
Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police
LA Times Homicide Report
More Local News...
Doxa du lobby
Tech workers organize
Architect Stephen Francis Jones
UN Forum Wrestles with Economic Policies 10 Years After Financial Crisis Islands Call for
Shadowgun Legends Hack and Cheats
What does the Quran Say About Islamic Dress??
Biodiversité ou la nature privatisée
The Market is a Universal Totalitarian Religion
Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service
The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally!
The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder
Paraphysique de la dictature étatique
Book Review: "The New Bonapartists"
The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia
Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine
The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally!
“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize!
The World Dependent on Central Banks
Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine
March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update
Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel
ICE contract with license plate reader company
Black Portraiture(S) IV: The Color of Silence...Cuba No...Cambridge Yes
Prohibiting Micro-Second Betting on the Exchanges
Prosecutors treat Muslims harsher than non-Muslims for the same crimes
More Breaking News...