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The Short Arm of the Law

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the think-of-them-as-rough-guidelines dept.

Businesses 336

mindbrane writes "CNN takes a look at when companies are too big for the legal system to handle. Quoting: 'Prosecutors said that excluding Pfizer would most likely lead to Pfizer's collapse, with collateral consequences: disrupting the flow of Pfizer products to Medicare and Medicaid recipients, causing the loss of jobs including those of Pfizer employees who were not involved in the fraud, and causing significant losses for Pfizer shareholders. ... So Pfizer and the feds cut a deal. Instead of charging Pfizer with a crime, prosecutors would charge a Pfizer subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. Inc. ... As a result, Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. Inc., the subsidiary, was excluded from Medicare without ever having sold so much as a single pill. And Pfizer was free to sell its products to federally funded health programs.' IBM may have cast the mold for this sort of thing in its 1970s antitrust case, but the recurrence of similar cases speaks to ongoing concerns for legal systems."

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336 comments

Thomas Jefferson said it best: (5, Insightful)

nuclearpenguins (907128) | about 4 years ago | (#31715582)

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

Too bad no one listened to him.

Re:Thomas Jefferson said it best: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715588)

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." Too bad no one listened to him.

He had a female nigger slave and he boinked her. I bet the neighbors were listening to that.

Re:Thomas Jefferson said it best: (1)

robophilosopher (847226) | about 4 years ago | (#31715646)

Maybe you missed it, but he's not officially inspirational anymore [nytimes.com] . (Last paragraph.)

Re:Thomas Jefferson said it best: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715674)

Maybe you missed it, but he's not officially inspirational anymore. (Last paragraph.)

This is nothing new, the entire legislative and judicial branch have been ignoring his writings for years.

Re:Thomas Jefferson said it best: (3, Insightful)

causality (777677) | about 4 years ago | (#31716076)

Maybe you missed it, but he's not officially inspirational anymore [nytimes.com] . (Last paragraph.)

That paragraph was amusing, in a way. It reads:

Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)

I laughed at that. Don't these "conservatives" realize that the separation of church and state is better for the state AND the church? The best way to destroy the religion they so cling to would be to intermingle it with petty politics.

Re:Thomas Jefferson said it best: (2, Interesting)

korean.ian (1264578) | about 4 years ago | (#31716152)

It's just amazing to me that a female lawyer would choose Thomas "women are subservient" Aquinas over Thomas Jefferson. If the thought processes of Aquinas had continued to remain dominant, she would have never had the chance to become a lawyer.

Re:Thomas Jefferson said it best: (2, Insightful)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | about 4 years ago | (#31715750)

Sorry, no. We do accomplish the hope listed in that quote. Any company which directly challenges the government will be slapped down. The problem is that the people running the companies have figured this out and simply move behind the scenes to take control of key elements of government important to their industry. It's subversion not war.

The other side of the coin to Regulatory Capture (3, Insightful)

Burz (138833) | about 4 years ago | (#31715810)

...which is a sign of a failed state. Regulatory Capture is when government agencies become run primarily for the special interests they are supposed to regulate.

This CNN article shows how corporations can become too big to punish (which is similar to the oft cited "too big to fail"). The same conditions which put monopolistic corps and cartels beyond market accountability (lack of competition for those at the top of an industry) probably add to the effect of being "too big to nail" at the same time.

Corporatism has emerged in our society and become monopolistic and wildly out of control. The best remedy we may have is stringent application of antitrust law (break 'em up), although other measures (such as limiting their spending and ties with the media) will probably be necessary as well.

Re:The other side of the coin to Regulatory Captur (4, Insightful)

Znork (31774) | about 4 years ago | (#31716086)

The best remedy we may have is stringent application of antitrust law (break 'em up)

The problem in this case stems directly from pro-trust law. Without patents, there wouldn't be a problem with kicking Pfizer out of Medicare (nor would they wield monopoly-level revenue that underlies issues here ranging from buying doctors to making the legal system its bitch).

There are much better, and vastly more efficient, ways to pay for research than these monopoly rights whose side effects are damaging to the free market, the political system and the legal system all at the same time.

Re:The other side of the coin to Regulatory Captur (5, Insightful)

Blue Stone (582566) | about 4 years ago | (#31716194)

>Without patents, there wouldn't be a problem with kicking Pfizer out of Medicare

In that case, it sounds like a better way of achieving justice would be to seize their patent assets (some or all) and then nullify them.

Re:The other side of the coin to Regulatory Captur (2, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about 4 years ago | (#31716256)

Patents didn't keep the US from cashing in Bayer's patent for the Anthrax cure. Or, rather, give them the hint that they will invalidate it due to "national emergency" if they didn't offer the antidote at the US government mandated price.

Why's that impossible with Pfizer?

Re:The other side of the coin to Regulatory Captur (1)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | about 4 years ago | (#31716110)

although other measures (such as limiting their spending and ties with the media) will probably be necessary as well.

You can't really do any of these things without a new constitutional amendment that says companies are not people and do not deserve human rights. SCOTUS said so, very clearly.

Re:The other side of the coin to Regulatory Captur (2, Interesting)

korean.ian (1264578) | about 4 years ago | (#31716244)

SCOTUS has never reached the decision that corporations are "deserving" of human rights. A passing remark included by a court reporter in the case of Santa Clara County vs Southern Railroad is usually the basis for that belief. It is, frankly speaking, one of the most harmful beliefs in modern law.

Re:Thomas Jefferson said it best: (4, Insightful)

eiapoce (1049910) | about 4 years ago | (#31715926)

Easy solution, hold the CEOs accoutable for fellonies carried out by corporations. And carry also on some death penalty if needed, you'll see things change in a snap.

Re:Thomas Jefferson said it best: (1)

falconwolf (725481) | about 4 years ago | (#31716044)

Easy solution, hold the CEOs accoutable for fellonies carried out by corporations. And carry also on some death penalty if needed, you'll see things change in a snap.

Hey, the US can't follow China's lead, it can't execute corporate honchos.

Falcon

Re:Thomas Jefferson said it best: (3, Insightful)

Xyrus (755017) | about 4 years ago | (#31715948)

Anyone else here think that we are not in a corporatocracy yet? Events like this are just plain fucking insulting.

You don't even need to destroy the company. Just take every asshat involved in the fraud and lock them away for life. Or better yet, take a chunk of their patent portfolio and invalidate it, then forbid the company from downsizing anyone below a certain level/pay grade.

Why doesn't anyone have the balls to put some HURT on these assholes? This is like punishing a two year old for sneaking a cookie by letting him keep the cookie.

~X~

Too bad no one listened to him. (1)

falconwolf (725481) | about 4 years ago | (#31716014)

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

Nope, the corporate aristocracy listened to Thomas Jefferson. Now they just buy lawmakers and those who enforce the laws.

Falcon

Re:Thomas Jefferson said it best: (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31716082)

The context in which that quote appears makes it clear that Jefferson is talking about religious organisations:

Dear Sir, --I received your favor of Oct. 16, at this place, where I pass much of my time, very distant from Monticello. I am quite astonished at the idea which seems to have got abroad; that I propose publishing something on the subject of religion, and this is said to have arisen from a letter of mine to my friend Charles Thompson, in which certainly there is no trace of such an idea. When we see religion split into so many thousand of sects, and I may say Christianity itself divided into it's thousands also, who are disputing, anathematizing and where the laws permit burning and torturing one another for abstractions which no one of them understand, and which are indeed beyond the comprehension of the human mind, into which of the chambers of this Bedlam would a [torn] man wish to thrust himself. The sum of all religion as expressed by it's best preacher, "fear god and love thy neighbor" contains no mystery, needs no explanation. But this wont do. It gives no scope to make dupes; priests could not live by it. Your idea of the moral obligations of governments are perfectly correct. The man who is dishonest as a statesman would be a dishonest man in any station. It is strangely absurd to suppose that a million of human beings collected together are not under the same moral laws which bind each of them separately. It is a great consolation to me that our government, as it cherishes most it's duties to its own citizens, so is it the most exact in it's moral conduct towards other nations. I do not believe that in the four administrations which have taken place, there has been a single instance of departure from good faith towards other nations. We may sometimes have mistaken our rights, or made an erroneous estimate of the actions of others, but no voluntary wrong can be imputed to us. In this respect England exhibits the most remarkable phaenomenon in the universe in the contrast between the profligacy of it's government and the probity of it's citizens. And accordingly it is now exhibiting an example of the truth of the maxim that virtue & interest are inseparable. It ends, as might have been expected, in the ruin of it's people, but this ruin will fall heaviest, as it ought to fall on that hereditary aristocracy which has for generations been preparing the catastrophe. I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in it's birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country. Present me respectfully to Mrs. Logan and accept yourself my friendly and respectful salutations.

From http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=808&chapter=88352&layout=html&Itemid=27 [libertyfund.org]

Re:Thomas Jefferson said it best: (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 4 years ago | (#31716206)

Yup, T.J. had it right. People still see his wisdom.
Rather than concentrating on the corporations as a whole themselves, I wonder if it might not be best to punish the board of directors.
Punishing a corporations is kind of like slapping a puppet for a rude comment made by a puppeteer.
Punish those causing the problem, disallow sale of their share so they get to stew in their dirty diaper a while.
Make the infraction unattractive and allow no way to escape or protest the punishment.

Money is power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715590)

1. Pull investors.
2. Start a megacorp.
3. "I AM ABOVE THE LAW!"
4. ?????
5. Profit.

Re:Money is power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31716212)

The ????? is line the pockets of politicians and judges.

So ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715592)

They mean that big corporations runs the system ? Who knew !

These Guys get everything they deserve for Vigara (0, Troll)

axonis (640949) | about 4 years ago | (#31715604)

Tell me they can stop those Viagra spams by banning the product for all those limpies who dont deserve IT anyway.

Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (5, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | about 4 years ago | (#31715632)

And is a cop-out by prosecutors. Crimes are committed by individual people and that is who should be prosecuted for them. And no, there is no shield, exemption, or veil protecting employees of a corporation against prosecution for crimes they commit on the job.

Re:Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (4, Interesting)

Marc_Hawke (130338) | about 4 years ago | (#31715720)

That's what I was going to say.

When an individual is convicted of a 'hacking' crime, the punishment is often, 'No access to computers.'
When an male is convicted of rape, there is often a cry for him to be castrated.

I say when an individual is convicted of mis-using his corporation and corporate power that he have it be removed from him, (as well as any profits he might have earned at the time.)

Follow the signature trails, and get the people on both sides. The people responsible for oversight need to be held liable and the people who accepted the order need to be held liable. The further away from the central figure, the less their individual punishment would be. (However, emphasis goes UP, not down. We don't want any sacrificial lambs.)

Instead of a whole corporation paying for the actions of it's management, the management pays, and the punishment for the corporation is simply dealing with a management shift. (Hopefully a more carefully ethical one this time.)

Re:Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (3, Insightful)

andrea.sartori (1603543) | about 4 years ago | (#31715736)

Are you saying that by no means should a corporation should be held as liable for crimes? This is what businesses and corporations are constantly trying to achieve, especially the big ones. Commit crimes on a large scale, and then just find some moron among your employees to use as a scapegoat. No, please, no.

Re:Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (3, Insightful)

ffreeloader (1105115) | about 4 years ago | (#31715850)

No. That's not what he's saying. He's saying, and I agree with him completely, is that it's people making these decisions, and it's those people who need to be held responsible. Find them and execute them--figuratively speaking of course--on a regular basis and this problem of corrupt decision making inside corporations, and government regulatory agencies, will disappear in a hurry.

Hold these jackasses accountable.

Re:Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (2, Interesting)

Ritchie70 (860516) | about 4 years ago | (#31715892)

Not necessarily figuratively.

If a corporation's actions lead to deaths in a jurisdiction that has a death penalty for those actions if committed by a person, then the people within the corporation responsible for those actions should be eligible for that as well.

"I was just following orders" isn't acceptable in a war crimes trial, it shouldn't be here either.

Corporations are people, like it or not. (4, Insightful)

elucido (870205) | about 4 years ago | (#31715914)

If we treat Corporations as persons in any context, they must be treated as persons in every context.

Re:Corporations are people, like it or not. (0, Troll)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#31715960)

If we treat Corporations as persons in any context, they must be treated as persons in every context.

No. Let's give an example. You are being an idiot here in this context. Does that mean I should treat you as an idiot for every context? Like your job, for example? "I saw that Slashdot post last night, so here's someone to take with you when you need to perform motor functions related to your job, eat, or wipe your ass."

Re:Corporations are people, like it or not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31716070)

I think (s)he is saying that if corporations want the same rights as a person they should also have to live be the same laws that apply to people.
Corps get a lot of perks being classed as 'persons' without much of the responsibility. Corporations should be accountable for the actions of their employees.

Re:Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 4 years ago | (#31715946)

and then just find some moron among your employees to use as a scapegoat

Well, it depends how high up the organisation you start looking for that "moron". I'd suggest starting at the very top and charging that individual. If they are cleared (in court) go down to the next layer ... keep on going until some "moron" can't afford a good enough lawyer to get them off, or you find the guy who was actually the most senior person responsible and nail them.

Maybe if you can make it legal to suspend bonus payments and share dealings of all those under investigation (until someone goes to jail) the major financial impact will incentivise the people at the top to "magically" bring forward those responsible.

Re:Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31716164)

There are, in fact, laws (at least in the US) to handle the freezing and seizing of ill-gotten assets prior to a conviction. They should be applied as liberally in this context as in any other.

I just saw a news piece yesterday with the feds auctioning off some guy's car collection because it was too expensive to store and maintain. He hadn't been convicted of anything, but was awaiting trial (if I understood correctly.)

If he's acquitted, they're going to give him the money from the auction. If convicted, it will likely go to his victims.

It looked like a really nice collection, too.

Re:Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31716254)

If he's acquitted, he can sue for stolen possessions.

Re:Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (2, Interesting)

LordAndrewSama (1216602) | about 4 years ago | (#31715762)

I disagree, because it puts people between getting paid money to feed their children and walking out and getting nothing. Since corporations are "owned" in the sense that they have shareholders, I think that any corporation that commits a crime just gets partiallt or totally claimed by the state. For small infractions, say, take 20% ownership(equally from shareholders), which is a fine of millions/billions depending on the size of the company. For more serious things, the govt should just take complete ownership of the company. Also make it so that the govt has to then auction off the company, and the previous owners cannot buy any shares in that company ever again. This has three major benefits, firstly, the employees just trying to feed their families don't get shafted. secondly, it punishes those ultimately responsible. Thirdly, people know they can lose everything if they invest in dodgy companies.

Why shareholders aren't punished for the actions of a corporation is completely beyond me. They decide who the CEO/CTO is, the majority shareholders decide what the corp does. why not hold them all responsible? and even give them jail time, etc etc for more serious things.

Re:Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (1, Flamebait)

Entrope (68843) | about 4 years ago | (#31715848)

Your proposal fails to meet due process or Fourth Amendment concerns. As someone who owns 120 shares of BIGCO, why should I lose 20% of my money in the company because some branch chief bribed an Elbonian government official? (The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act bars American companies from doing that kind of thing.)

Re:Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (3, Interesting)

Yaa 101 (664725) | about 4 years ago | (#31716064)

That is called risk, starting a company or having stocks is risk taking business.
You do not have the right to be exempt of risks.

Re:Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (2, Insightful)

Znork (31774) | about 4 years ago | (#31716192)

Why shouldn't you lose your money if you've invested in a company with insufficient internal controls and ethics to prevent such behaviour? Stocks are not bonds, they confer control and responsibility; perhaps not much, but you have the option to sell them if you disagree with the board and executive over the running of the company.

Such might perhaps encourage more active boards and engagement even from the most lazy institutional owners. Losing significant parts of your customers holdings because you were at best asleep at the wheel or more commonly buddies with the exec or complicit in the violation wouldn't look so good.

Re:Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (5, Insightful)

laughingcoyote (762272) | about 4 years ago | (#31715884)

"I was just following orders" does not work. Ever. Even when disobedience might mean death, let alone just getting fired.

Now, if you want to pass a law requiring triple damages for employees who are discharged based on refusal to follow an illegal or unethical request, and establish a system whereby they can get that redress without a drug out court battle, I'll be behind you 100%. But if you perform the unethical act, you are responsible for doing so, regardless of whether it was your idea or not. The people who "gave the order" are also responsible, but to avoid complicity yourself, you must disobey it and blow the whistle.

The only case where this would not be possible is if, for example, ten people are each instructed to do one thing, each of which in itself seems innocuous but when put together add up to something sinister. Since it would not be reasonable in this case for the individuals to know what they're doing is unethical, they could not be expected to disobey and/or blow the whistle. In a scenario like that, only those who developed, approved, and/or orchestrated the scheme are responsible. But most of the time, that's not the case:

"Oh, come on, John, you know how flighty investors can get, and there's really no need to worry them. If we just count things a little differently, I'm sure we can ease their concerns..."
"Well, sure, there is a safety flaw in the product, but at this point it appears that it would be cheaper to pay off the lawsuits than to fix it."
"Well, we want to cut the workforce by half, but not deal with unemployment. Go find even the most minor flaws in whatever someone's doing, and say they were terminated for cause."

Anyone who goes along with these practices is responsible for them. People need to grow a backbone. Maybe if we start throwing some people in jail, people will worry less about having to job hunt and more about doing it right. The people you're helping cheat (or in some cases even kill, see the exploding Pinto case) may have families to feed, too. There's absolutely no excuse for not blowing the whistle when you become aware of something like this.

You can get away with murder. (0, Troll)

copponex (13876) | about 4 years ago | (#31715776)

Especially if you're a private military contractor in Iraq.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5xT1DGJMoQ [youtube.com]

Re:You can get away with murder. (3, Informative)

falconwolf (725481) | about 4 years ago | (#31716186)

Especially if you're a private military contractor in Iraq.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5xT1DGJMoQ

DynCorp [corpwatch.org] was operating like that in South America throughout the 1990s. These private military contractors are not held accountable [alternet.org] , which is why they're used. They can get away with things the military would have a hard tyme getting away with. And I bet that's one reason Bush pushed to privatize the military. About the only way these corporations can be held accountable is via the Alien Tort Claims Act [wikipedia.org] , which Bush [globalpolicy.org] tried to get rid of.

Falcon

Re:Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715798)

Where have you been? Corporations are individuals now.

Re:Prosecuting corporations for crimes is asinine. (1)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | about 4 years ago | (#31715832)

IANAL, but aren't all the salespeople guilty of conspiracy? I think it might prevent this type of behavior in the future if the Pfizer sales force was gutted as a result. It would also be interesting to watch if the Pfizer legal department decides to help any one of those salespeople.

patents (4, Insightful)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 4 years ago | (#31715640)

Maybe they should rewrite the rules for big pharma so that if they're convicted of doing something outrageously illegal, the patents they own which were involved in the crime become public domain. That way, they will not risk a damn thing when it comes to marketing and promotion of their products, and there's no way that suing a company will screw up the nation's health care system.

That's the real story here... (4, Insightful)

raehl (609729) | about 4 years ago | (#31715886)

While one may not agree with the particulars, this seems like a pretty standard case of prosecutorial discretion. The reality of the law is that the maximum penalty prescribed by law - and sometimes even the minimum penalty prescribed by law - is not appropriate for the crime committed. And prosecutors plead out criminals for sentences less than those allowed by law all the time.

And in this case, some sales agents in the army of sales agents misrepresented one product out of an arsenal of products. Ok? Of course not. Deserving of a big fine, and probably one larger than the company got? Sure.

But cutting off access to Medicare/Medicaid for the entire company, even if it is an available legal penalty, is not the appropriate legal penalty in this case.

The real problems here are that:

1) The law is not appropriate. A better penalty would be loss of patent protection on a lucrative drug, or 10x profits made on the drug that was mis-marketed.
2) Those selling drugs in a manner that can harm patients are not personally liable for their actions. If your doctor prescribes you a drug that they should know might harm or kill you, they are liable. And if a pharma rep orchestrates or participates in a sales campaign designed to hide the hazards of a drug, they should also be personally liable. If all the pharma reps knew that off-label marketing got 30 days in jail the practice would be curbed considerably.
3) Corporations are designed to separate business assets and actions from personal assets and actions. There is value to this. But using shell corporations to protect parent corporations seems to have gotten a bit crazy.

One and two could be fixed by competent legislation. Three is probably a ship that has sailed.

Re:That's the real story here... (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 4 years ago | (#31716002)

This case was a really badly handled one in particular, though. How the hell are you going to let someone make a 1.7 dollar profit off of doing something illegal, and when the time comes to fine them, only fine 1.2 billion?? Not including legal fees, Pfizer came out 500 million ahead because they committed a crime.

I pretty much say that on top of the fine being larger to account for all of that profit, they lose their patent on the drug, which doesn't get sold, it becomes public domain. You played irresponsibly with it, you lose it, just like a kid with a cap gun.

Re:patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31716088)

Hah, that's a clever way of punishing this "untouchable" (and intangible) body known as a corporation :)
Pfizer's hundreds subcontractors - from chemical producers, marketing, and even cargo delivery companies - wouldn't get shafted with unpaid invoices if Pfizer went down. Their bills would be paid by the public owning and purchasing the drug that's in the public domain.

I know someone who sells parts for automobile companies, GE being the main customer. As with any US company these days, they purchase on credit (Europe and Asia doesn't as much). If GE went down in flames, my friend's company would surely follow.

Just the beginning of the government corporatism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715642)

The medical-industrial complex is only going to get stronger with universal healthcare.

There will be special rules for those to big to fail and too big to regulate and barriers to entry to potentially good new actors will be so high and so many will be lobbying to protect the status quo that change will never happen.

Just like with our well intentioned educational system we are cutting the individual consumer out of the loop. And just like with education we will get less than optimum outcomes will no ability as a consumer to effect change.

Rule of Law (5, Insightful)

headkase (533448) | about 4 years ago | (#31715656)

By letting Pfizer get away with this the US government has set an example. There is no reason to obey the law if you have enough tentacles. They could have chosen the high-road and smacked them down and then out of the rubble a new generation of companies would have emerged that would have had reason to obey the law. No, instead corruption is institutionalized.

Re:Rule of Law (1)

the_humeister (922869) | about 4 years ago | (#31716022)

I suppose the other scenario is:

1) government goes after Pfizer
2) Pfizer declares bankruptcy
3) another company comes along and acquires all of Pfizer's assets
4) other company renames itself to Fizer
5) ???
6) Profit!

Personal Incorporation? (3, Insightful)

Manip (656104) | about 4 years ago | (#31715658)

Can I incorporate myself? I was born a human and in our society we're second class citizens, let's look at some facts:
  - We have to pay tax
  - We have to follow the local laws
  - We have to deal with issues like morality and ethnics
  - We are second class citizens in terms of political power (even as a group)

Also, if I put on enough weight can I become "too big to fail?"

Re:Personal Incorporation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715716)

- We have to deal with issues like morality and ethnics

And if we deal with the ethnics wrong we're accused of having no "ethics"

Re:Personal Incorporation? (1)

maxume (22995) | about 4 years ago | (#31715778)

According to The Simpsons, you can put on enough weight that the government will bail you out.

Re:Personal Incorporation? (1)

the_humeister (922869) | about 4 years ago | (#31716052)

Actually, you can incorporate yourself although in the area I'm in you'll also need to have another employee to get decently priced health insurance. I know some people who do that and then add their spouse as an employee.

lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715660)

2 simple solutions

A) give away all their patents and nullify their copyright

B) nationalise it with an aim to split it up and sell it.

Grow some balls prosecutors!!!

Too big to sue (5, Insightful)

PlanetX 00 (623339) | about 4 years ago | (#31715676)

Is this just the latest application of the Golden Rule? He who has the gold makes the rules...

Not seeing the problem here (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715680)

So, DoJ decided that, in the interests of justice, what amounts to a corporate death pnealty was disproportionate punishment given the nature if the offense. Instead, they, in the interests of justice, worked out a deal that still had Pfizer pay a massive fine as a penalty for their offense. And that's bad...how?

Shouldn't we be encouraged when prosecutors, rather than acting like mindless robots, take into account the larger picture, and the consequences of what they do, and thereby exercise their prosecutorial discretion? Isn't that what they *should* do? If you were accused of a crime, wouldn't *you* want to be prosecuted by someone who's going to take the entirety of your circumstances under consideration, rather than behaving like an automaton?

Re:Not seeing the problem here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715730)

Because the next time they will factor in the fine as a cost of doing business, and if they don't get caught, they come out ahead.

Re:Not seeing the problem here (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | about 4 years ago | (#31716174)

(The punishment amounted to more than a fine, by the way.)

Can't you say the same thing about people, though? If people commit a premeditated crime, they're usually considering the possible sentences and the risks of getting caught. For some, it's worth the risk.

You seem to be advocating a figurative death penalty regardless of the nature of the crime? Why not apply that to people as well?

Should have died. (1)

headkase (533448) | about 4 years ago | (#31715766)

Its about maintaining healthy capitalism. They were aggressively marketing drugs for purposes where there was no FDA approval. How many normal people had to die before Pfizer deserved the corporate death penalty? If they were smacked down their assets and people would have migrated to other companies and new business' would have emerged that would theoretically have more respect for playing with the lives of your customers. This ruling just makes it into a game: will we make more net money potentially killing people minus the eventual fine? What about next time? Another way to put it is that Pfizer should have died and were spared and now a new generation of entrepreneurs has been denied the ability to compete in the space that would have been made. These smaller, nimbler, and more likely to obey the law companies were snuffed out before they even had a chance to begin.

Re:Not seeing the problem here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715824)

So, DoJ decided that, in the interests of justice, what amounts to a corporate death pnealty was disproportionate punishment given the nature if the offense.

No, they decided that applying the law as it was written would cause too much problems, so they'd apply a separate, lesser punishment and ignored what what written in the lawbooks.

Had it not been a company as large as Pfizer the law would have been applied as written, it was the nature of the CORPORATION that made them change their minds, not the nature of the offence.

That's why "too big to fail" was used instead of "crime not serious enough to be punished"

Captcha: uneven

Re:Not seeing the problem here (1)

feuerfalke (1034288) | about 4 years ago | (#31715980)

The "massive fine" that Pfizer was charged amounted to 3 months' worth of profit (FTFA.) As others who replied pointed out, this lighter "punishment" wasn't levied to fit the crime - it was because Pfizer is "too big to fail."

As others have suggested, there are many other ways to actually punish Pfizer: the government takes over a percentage of ownership of the company; the government forces some of Pfizer's patents to become public domain or to be sold off to another company; etc... A relatively tiny fine, in the context of how much profit pharmaceutical companies make, is not a punishment; it's a cost of doing business. Hell, why not take a percentage of Pfizer's profit for x amount of years? To put it in context, Pfizer made $13 billion in profit from the sale of Bextra alone - twice as much as they would have made had they promoted and sold the drug only for FDA-approved purposes. Factoring in the fine, Pfizer made a net $4.5 billion additional profit by ignoring FDA regulations and then simply dealing with the "punishment" when they were caught. Where, exactly, is the disincentive for this sort of disgusting behavior?

Furthermore, regardless of the punishment the company receives, the actual INDIVIDUAL PERSONS responsible for this travesty should also be prosecuted and punished separately. Discourage the company from hiring these conniving salespeople by punishing it, and discourage conniving salespeople from being conniving pieces of shit by punishing them.

Re:Not seeing the problem here (1)

feuerfalke (1034288) | about 4 years ago | (#31716128)

...wow, I have no idea where that $13 billion figure came from. I RTFA a few days ago before it was posted on /. and didn't read it again. Ignore my post.

Re:Not seeing the problem here (1)

LanMan04 (790429) | about 4 years ago | (#31716042)

The problem is the company should never have gotten to the point that they were "too big to prosecute".

I agree that the solution may have been the best available given the circumstances, but those circumstances should not have been allowed to occur.

Re:Not seeing the problem here (1)

Ritchie70 (860516) | about 4 years ago | (#31716222)

I don't know about everyone else, but I'm sick of "too big to ___________."

No company is too big to fail, or to prosecute. I just don't buy it.

If Pfizer couldn't have sold drugs to the government, well, maybe they would have had to sell their drug lines or license them to drug companies who could.

I'll bet another drug company would be glad to manufacture the drugs under license and make most, but not all, of the profit that Pfizer is making off those drugs.

Probably one of the big name companies, but there are a ton of smaller companies that primarily manufacture generics, too.

More: Their to big to fail (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715706)

Sound more like they are to big to fail and we are to little to matter.

Snow Crash (1)

Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) | about 4 years ago | (#31715718)

Snow Crash, or at least it's corporateocracy setting, looks more and more plausible every day.

Re:Snow Crash (1)

jeffasselin (566598) | about 4 years ago | (#31715896)

Welcome to last century. It's just becoming so obvious that the densest people are finally realizing what's going on.

Re:Snow Crash (1)

Kuroji (990107) | about 4 years ago | (#31716184)

Plausible? Hell, where have you been the last twenty years?

Nobody cares for cyberpunk anymore, because the corporations quietly took control. It's just not as blatant as it was in any of the games and stories; who needs standing armies when you've got lawyers?

Short Term (2, Insightful)

Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) | about 4 years ago | (#31715726)

However many people this will help in the short term, the precedent this has set and it's long-term implications are incredibly dangerous.

Not For Citizens (1)

b4upoo (166390) | about 4 years ago | (#31715756)

Many people have very valid cases that can not be dealt with simply because the costs are so great that the injured party will never have access to the justice system. And that doesn't even include the lawyer's fees. For example the documentation, research, depositions an typing may well go past $100,000 and then there is the lawyer on top of that.
              So just why is it a revelation that justice may be rare when large companies are involved? It is even more rare when Joe Sixpack needs the law.

Justice was served -- RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715790)

Obviously no one has read the whole article. Pfizer didn't get off with a "slap on the wrist." Pfizer merely was allowed to keep selling drugs to Medicare/Medicaid. Pfizer was still fined *billions* of dollars -- the equivalent of 3 *months* profits. That's an entire quarter's profits.

Or to think of it another way, when it came time to report quarterly earnings, Pfizer had to announce no earnings, or even an operating loss, because they were guilty of violating FDA regulations. You think their stock price continued to soar? Probably plummetted like a rock. Most of those executives are paid in stock options too, so their compensation imploded.

End result, Pfizer was allowed to continue selling drugs to Medicare/Medicaid, but they, and their executives, got hit where it hurts -- the pocket books. Justice, in my mind at least, was served.

Death is pretty final. (1)

headkase (533448) | about 4 years ago | (#31715820)

Did anyone die this time? How about next? Perhaps they should not have flaunted what the FDA approved the drug for. Mis-marketing it in dangerous doses hurt their bottom line but can you truly tell the family of grandma that justice was served by money when she is rotting six feet under?

Re:Justice was served -- RTFA (1)

Jiro (131519) | about 4 years ago | (#31715964)

Obviously no one has read the whole article. Pfizer didn't get off with a "slap on the wrist." Pfizer merely was allowed to keep selling drugs to Medicare/Medicaid. Pfizer was still fined *billions* of dollars -- the equivalent of 3 *months* profits. That's an entire quarter's profits.

All you're pointing out is that they still did get punished. That's true, but the fact remains that while they got punished, the punishment was less severe than it would have been if they hadn't been a big company. The fact that even this reduced punishment was still big enough to notice doesn't change that.

Pull Their Patents (1)

ISoldat53 (977164) | about 4 years ago | (#31715812)

Go ahead and try them. If convicted, pull their patents and let other companies provide the product.

Jobs? What Jobs? (3, Insightful)

methano (519830) | about 4 years ago | (#31715842)

I don't think we need to worry about the Fed causing job loss by doing anything to Pfizer. Pfizer is doing a great job by themselves. Just ask the former employees of Park-Davis, Warner-Lambert, Pharmacia, Upjohn, Searle, Wyeth and too many to mention small bio-techs which were dissolved on acquisition. For chemists, Pfizer is a job loss machine.

Re:Jobs? What Jobs? (2, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | about 4 years ago | (#31716172)

Slow down there, skipper. You're under the misapprehension that Pfizer exists to make pharmaceuticals. Pfizer exists to make profit with advertising, and they happen to sell pharmaceuticals.

People commit crimes, not companies (2, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 4 years ago | (#31715874)

While an organisation may be too big to prosecute, the people in it never are. Crimes are commited by individuals and it's them who should be identified and prosecuted, not the companies they work for. The easiest way to do this is for the police to send a note (summons?) to the CEO listing the charges and stating that either he/she turns over the individuals responsible, or takes the hit themselves.

Should clarify the mind and make directors / VPs realise that they must take responsibility for the organisations they run id they want to keep earning the big bucks.

Re:People commit crimes, not companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715910)

The CEO would only give them scapegoats. As ignorance of the law is not an excuse, ignorance of what your company is doing is no excuse. The buck stops with the board and the CEO and they should be charged for any wrongdoing of the company, since they should always know what the company is doing. If your company is too big for you to know what your company is doing, then YOUR COMPANY IS TOO BIG. No excuse.

Re:People commit crimes, not companies (1)

Corbets (169101) | about 4 years ago | (#31715954)

While an organisation may be too big to prosecute, the people in it never are. Crimes are commited by individuals and it's them who should be identified and prosecuted, not the companies they work for. The easiest way to do this is for the police to send a note (summons?) to the CEO listing the charges and stating that either he/she turns over the individuals responsible, or takes the hit themselves.

Should clarify the mind and make directors / VPs realise that they must take responsibility for the organisations they run id they want to keep earning the big bucks.

You had me until the "or takes the hit themselves". I'm hoping you mean "be arrested for obstruction of justice if you fail to cooperate" rather than "take punishment for a crime if you can't tell me who did it."

You're right on the key point, though: responsibility. Just as we want to take credit for our achievements (billions in profits) we must take responsibility for our failures (i.e. crimes).

Re:People commit crimes, not companies (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 4 years ago | (#31716166)

You had me until the "or takes the hit themselves"

What I meant was to be charged with the crime, themselves if no-one else comes forward (or is discovered). There is a precedent for this in vehicle crime (at least in this country, can't say about yours) where the keeper of a vehicle which has been recorded doing something naughty - but not stopped at the time (e.g. going through a speed camera or red-light camera), where the keeper gets a summons to either identify the driver or be charged[1] themself: there's no third option. Just do the same with "anonymous" corporate crime, with the CEO in the place of the vehicle's "keeper". It may sound like rough justice, but it does tend to get results.

[1] note: charged, they still get a day in court if they don't admit it, but they are there to prove their innocence with the proof of guilt being the original evidence of the offence.

Corporate Incarceration - by stock ownership (2, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | about 4 years ago | (#31715894)

Simply create new stock in the company that is owned by the government. The new stock would be a significant fraction of existing stock even to a multiple of the current existing public stock.

1) This potential loss/shock to stock holders would have the incentive to make stock holders pay attention and keep the company from violating laws
2) Government would be a stock holder and able to provide direction and observation
3) Government would eventually be able to sell the stock "release from jail" and realize a profit

Minor offenses less than 100% of stock is newly created as government stock
Major offenses 101% of current stock is newly created at government stock, instantly making the government the majority share holder and causing 50% loss to current stock holders.
Even higher multiples 200% etc for more grievous actions.

This does not hurt employees, customers or any other corporate relations. It directly damages share holders and executives who are responsible for company behavior . It encourages proper oversight and control. The government eventually gets some money back for enforcement.

Re:Corporate Incarceration - by stock ownership (1)

karnal (22275) | about 4 years ago | (#31715976)

Employees are typically shareholders, through 401k and stock options. There's no way to not hurt employees if the company is hurt. See Enron - I know it's a wild example, but I know if my company gets into legal trouble and the stock price goes down, it can affect my stock price.

Now, I can move my stock out and transition it to non-work-related stock, but by the time the employee catches wind of anything happening it's pretty typical for the stock to already have taken a hit.

Pay now or pay a hell of a lot more later! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715912)

If the fine is large enough to really hurt PFizer, then that is sufficient punishment, since that is all big corporations care about. Otherwise you could auction off their patents to other pharmaceutical companies who'd be happy to rid themselves of a competitor, and get their hands on IP they did not have to pay the research bill for.

Do the Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715928)

Do The Math:
Estimated 308 Million people in the US
435 House Representatives
100 US Senators
That equates to 1 representative for every 575,700 how the hell can 1 person represent that many people. Based on the 1790 census and number of representative we had in Washington it was 1 representative for approximately every 23,000 people now that not that great but it is better then what we have now. Our government has stayed small and created an elite class of 535 people who for the most part are above the law and serve the needs of large corporations. I wonder if we even need a house of represenatives anymore seeing how we now can all vote and communicate in a blink of an eye. Our technology has evolved but our government has not.

The step by step solution: (3, Insightful)

laughingcoyote (762272) | about 4 years ago | (#31715958)

  • Identify companies which would have a catastrophic effect due to their size if they were to fail for any reason.
  • Develop a step by step plan to make an orderly split of those companies into truly independent, separate companies that are not "too big to fail". Absolutely no exceptions for any reason, even if some temporary pain will result.
  • Split them up.
  • Ensure that antitrust law is updated to prevent ever creating a "Too Big to Fail" again.

So WHAT? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 4 years ago | (#31716038)

Prosecutors said that excluding Pfizer would most likely lead to Pfizer's collapse, with collateral consequences: disrupting the flow of Pfizer products to Medicare and Medicaid recipients, causing the loss of jobs including those of Pfizer employees who were not involved in the fraud, and causing significant losses for Pfizer shareholders

Any other company would fill that space in an instant. As there are many competitors, and they would buy Pfizer out. And need new employees to handle the new bigger workload.

Also, a collapse of a evil company is a GOOD thing! It is an essential part of a free market.
Also, 90% of the products that Pfizer, Eli Lily & co sell, aren’t needed at all, since they are only symptom suppressors, taken with total ignorance of the actual causes of the diseases, that will only make people think they are healthy, as long as they continue taking the stuff. Fix the cause, and you’re done! But hey, your physician will not even understand what you mean, when you talk about actual causes nowadays. I noticed this with every doc in the last 5 years. I deliberately demand that they find and prove the cause. They look at me with a blank stare, as if I had said something that made no sense. Or they name a symptom, like a organ problem. Idiots.
That’s why I stopped going to docs, except for tests or prescriptions which I make them do, by telling them something that forces them do do that.

By the way: 90%+ of your diseases go away, when you walk for an hour a day, go to bed in the evening and wake up with the sun, and stop eating a one-sided diet (e.g. lots of sugars) or defective (heated/processed to destruction) proteins/vitamins, and process your suppressed horrors by facing them. The rest is genetic, environmental toxins, and injuries. Done. It’s that easy.

To Big To Not Be Broken Up Into Manageable Pieces (1)

that this is not und (1026860) | about 4 years ago | (#31716040)

When are we going to see the above title used more often?

There is this attitude that Big is Good, and that we can't ever, never, nope, never ever break up a big monolithic giant.

Bankruptcy is a process of correction, not an end point. GM and Chrysler should have gone through the housecleaning process of bankruptcy. Instead politicians kicked that can down the road and we'll have to deal with it later, in a bigger collapse.

Going on for years (1)

Mybrid (410232) | about 4 years ago | (#31716098)

Remember the Enron debacle? Aurther Anderson didn't make the "too big too fail" cut, but the banks did.

If a financial institution gets found guilty of even on felony then they can no longer do business with the feds.

Citibank, a few years ago, paid a 600 million dollar fine for breaking the law and "admitted no wrong doing" because

if they had admitted any wrong doing and been convicted of a felony, goodbye Citibank.

No institution should be so big it can break the law with impunity. The "company" paying a fine is not the same as the officers being thrown in jail for malfeasance.

They should change the way the law currently stands and strip all personhood from corporations. That's the only way you are going to truly solve this problem. If you can't sue the company, then you have to sue the individuals responsible, which is the way it should be. Why should the thousands of employees of a failed company like Aurther Anderson pay for the crimes of the few?

Strip corporations of the same legal rights as a US citizen. Corporations should not have personhood.

First "too big to fail"... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 4 years ago | (#31716234)

...now "too big to prosecute"?

What's next, "too big to not be allowed to make laws"? I mean, 'til now they need proxies, but politicians should be wary, corporations have always been very keen on cutting corners to eliminate waste and slack.

A corporation is essentially above the law if you cannot "afford" to hold them accountable for their crimes.

Regime Change (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 4 years ago | (#31716242)

So the basic problem is that a large corporation is like a hydra, and can just generate a new subsidiary to be lopped off by the authorities, then move on unharmed.

To deal with this problem, maybe the courts need a corporate decapitation remedy. The idea is that the court could impose a requirement that the entire senior executive and board of the corporation be replaced by unrelated people. The corporate identity and product line could continue, but the top leadership of the overall corporation would be fired for the corporate sin.

This is kind of similar to what happened to GM et al as a condition for Federal bailout money.

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