Commentary

Corporations Behaving Badly

Maybe society would be better off if governments spent money directly on benefits to people rather than channelling the aid through corporate incentives and subsidies.

By Jim Sweetman
Published November 25, 2015

The Hamilton Spectator recently reported that US Steel warns the former Stelco could face a liquidation sale if the US parent doesn't get a quick decision on its claim to more than $2.2 billion in debts.

Meanwhile, CBC reports that Rogers Media agreed to pay a $200,000 fine to the CTRC for allegedly sending unsolicited email advertisements.

And Volkswagen said they are cutting their capital program to help pay for the $7.4 billion they need to cover the cost of recalling 11 million cars worldwide because they were caught cheating on emissions tests.

On Monday, we learned how pharmaceutical company Novartis had agreed to pay a $370 million fine because they pressured several specialty pharmacies to hire or assign nurses to call patients and, under the guise of education or clinical counselling, encourage them to order more refills.

Novartis deemed their actions necessary because sales of their drug Exjade had fallen below internal targets, due in part to side effects that were more severe than initially expected.

And then yesterday we found out that the cholesterol-fighter Pfizer and Botox-maker Allergan are joining together to form Pfizer Plc and establish a legal domicile and principal executive offices in Ireland.

The combination will essentially be the cholesterol-fighter Pfizer but with a lower tax rate. This will save Pfizer millions each year in US taxes while continuing to keep its global operational headquarters in New York.

I know that corporations must make a profit and grow and meet their stakeholders' needs and achieve their visions and missions. I know that when corporations are successful, their benefits trickle down to society. I know these things because business and government leaders never miss a chance to tell me.

And government leaders follow up their words with real actions. They provide incentives and subsidies and tax credits, they waive development charges and sign trade agreements - all to ensure the benefits keep trickling down.

But some business leaders, while accepting all this government aid, still choose to walk away from pension obligations, break laws, promote unsafe products, damage the environment and avoid taxes.

It seems to me that society would be better off if governments spent money directly on the benefits rather than channelling the aid through corporations. Maybe the benefits would cascade down.

Corporations can declare financial bankruptcy and seek protection from their obligations to society. I think society should be able to declare moral bankruptcy and seek protection from corporate bad behaviour.

Jim is involved with a number of local food and community service organizations. He is a retired engineer living in Dundas.

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By Dalaine (registered) | Posted November 27, 2015 at 07:22:21

Well put, but what if our governments are morally bankrupt too?

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