American General Anthony McAuliffe sent a terse one-word response to the Nazi army that had surrounded his forces in Bastogne, Belgium and demanded his surrender:
The American public needs to send a similar message to Corporate America the next time it proposes to limit its accountability through "tort reform."
Free market principles work. They increase productivity and maximize freedom, but they don't protect the public from thieves and wrongdoers. Many corporations today have manipulated the language of the free market (think "deregulation") in order to conceal their misdeeds and to protect themselves from accountability. They deceive, steal, or act in a negligent or reckless fashion, then lobby for laws that protect them from their victims. Examples abound:
Worldcom cost its shareholders $191 billion by reporting profits when it had losses. Enron hid debt through unreported deals, costing its shareholders $68 billion. Qwest posted fake revenues and cost its shareholders $108 billion (while CEO Joseph Nacchio cashed out a pretty $248 million of his own stock options). These scams were enabled by the shady audits of accounting firms like Arthur Andersen. Nevertheless, when Enron shareholders sued to receive compensation from the companies that participated in the fraud, the Bush Administration argued that imposing liability on all of the wrongdoers would inhibit the ability of American businesses to compete in the marketplace. Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court ruled against the victims and threw their cases out of court.
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