Monday, February 08, 2016

Rigged justice for corporate criminals

From Elizabeth Warren:

While presidential candidates from both parties feverishly pitch their legislative agendas, voters should also consider what presidents can do without Congress. Agency rules, executive actions and decisions about how vigorously to enforce certain laws will have an impact on every American without a single new bill introduced in Congress.

The Obama administration has a substantial track record on agency rules and executive actions. It has used these tools to protect retirement savings, expand overtime pay, prohibit discrimination against L.G.B.T. employees who work for the government and federal contractors, and rein in carbon pollution. These accomplishments matter.

Whether the next president will build on them, or reverse them, is a central issue in the 2016 election. But the administration’s record on enforcement falls short — and federal enforcement of laws that already exist has received far too little attention on the campaign trail.

I just released a report (Rigged Justice: 2016) examining 20 of the worst federal enforcement failures in 2015. Its conclusion: “Corporate criminals routinely escape meaningful prosecution for their misconduct.”

In a single year, in case after case, across many sectors of the economy, federal agencies caught big companies breaking the law — defrauding taxpayers, covering up deadly safety problems, even precipitating the financial collapse in 2008 — and let them off the hook with barely a slap on the wrist. Often, companies paid meager fines, which some will try to write off as a tax deduction.

The failure to adequately punish big corporations or their executives when they break the law undermines the foundations of this great country. Justice cannot mean a prison sentence for a teenager who steals a car, but nothing more than a sideways glance at a C.E.O. who quietly engineers the theft of billions of dollars...

Last year, five of the world’s biggest banks, including JPMorgan Chase, pleaded guilty to criminal charges that they rigged the price of billions of dollars worth of foreign currencies. No corporation can break the law unless people in that corporation also broke the law, but no one from any of those banks has been charged. 

While thousands of Americans were rotting in prison for nonviolent drug convictions, JPMorgan Chase was so chastened by pleading guilty to a crime that it awarded Jamie Dimon, its C.E.O., a 35 percent raise.

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Downtown Novato station for SMART?

Tim Porter

Interesting comments to the Independent Journal's editorial supporting a downtown Novato station for the SMART train system:

A comment by Ventress Dugan:

Novato was not given any time to make this decision by SMART. We have had to make this decision in a month. So..of course we have NO studies done on ridership. Novato has to pay 100% of the cost to build. Three of the city council members are climbing all over each other to have this. It's funny how the citizens have been backed into a corner to push this through. The Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Assoc. are encouraging the merchants and promising them new people, commuters and tourists will be shopping, eating and enjoying entertainment (in the theater that has been in the works for how many years?).

What the city is not saying is what the SMART engineer said at his presentation at the city council meeting. The engineer stated the Downtown stop would NOT be a commuter stop and in all likelihood only stop on the weekend. And maybe, in the future, weekdays in the day. BUT, if this station does not perform, SMART would close the station. These decisions would be made by SMART alone, with no input from Novato. So Novato will pay $5.5 million dollars ($2.5 if we only build half of it) for a station that NO ONE knows will be an operating station or for how long.

The city staff put a survey online for citizens to fill out. The survey stated there was a "Public Workshop." Which it never had. Also left out were ALL of the details SMART stated. No mention of it not being a commuter stop, no mention of SMART closing the station if it underperformed. In other words, a rigged survey. 

This is shameful, and business as usual for City Staff and City Council Members.

Comments by critic Richard Hall of Planning for Reality are always of interest:

CARB states that under operational conditions diesel trains like SMART emit 19,600g CO2 per mile. SMART's cap and trade grant application shows the average car in Marin and Sonoma in 2017 will emit just 330g CO2 per mile...

Later: An update on the Novato station project.

Of course SPUR supports the SMART system. It also supports California's high-speed rail project.

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