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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 76136 Find in a Library
Title: Corporate Capitalism, Corporate Crime
Journal: Crime and Delinquency  Volume:27  Issue:1  Dated:(January 1981)  Pages:4-23
Author(s): H C Barnett
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 20
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article examines how American corporate capitalism produces particular types of corporate crime, determines the distribution of these crimes among different firms, and limits enforcement activities.
Abstract: Large corporations pursue goals of profit, growth, and expanded market share subject to constraints imposed by markets and the state. Corporate crime occurs when management chooses to circumvent these restrictions illegally. Corporations are likely to adopt criminal methods when the expected costs of illegal actions are acceptably low relative to perceived gains. State regulation of corporate behavior is limited by the need to promote capital accumulation and satisfy diverse economic interests. The resolution of basic conflicts between corporate and state goals is illustrated through discussions of product safety; and environmental, antitrust, and antilabor violations. For example, Congress is unwilling to impose sanctions stronger than voluntary recalls of hazardous cars on the automotive industry lest the protection of consumers be purchased at the expense of unemployment, diminished investment, or price stability. A similar conflict between material output and enforcement benefits can be observed in environmental violations. Antitrust laws may have little impact on the consumer, but regulate relations among corporations and impart stability to the pursuit of corporate goals. Although skilled unionized labor in capital intensive industries is accorded considerable legal protection, their impact on corporate profitability has been minimized because unions have been unwilling to challenge corporate policies and are content to pass increased wage costs to the consumer. The combination of economic influence, information, and financing resources grants powers to large corporations that are far greater than those possessed by victims of corporate crime. This historical imbalance of power has been institutionalized in law and the operations of regulatory and enforcement agencies. Increased enforcement and greater public involvement in corporate decisionmaking could reduce corporate crime, but assume improved access to corporate data. The magnitude of economic problems posed by stronger legal constraints depends partly on the costs of corporate compliance. Capital needs for the consequent expenditures could be supplied by pension funds, State efforts to channel investment, or taxes. Thus, the distribution of the costs of compliance would be more equal and more subject to social control that the current distribution of monetary and physical damage resulting from corporate crime. Tables and 32 footnotes are included. (Author abstract modified)
Index Term(s): Capitalism; Corporate criminal liability; Environmental laws; United States of America; White collar crime
Note: Earlier version of this article was presented at the Conference on White Collar and Economic Crime, State University of New York College, Potsdam, New York, February 7-9, 1980
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