Blankenship Verdict – Mixed Message For Corporate Crimes
“Just as a federal jury split on what crimes former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was guilty of, opinion is split on the message sent by his conviction Thursday on one charge that will, at most, result in a one-year prison sentence.
To some, the fact that a Charleston, W.Va., jury ruled Mr. Blankenship was guilty of conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws, a misdemeanor, sets an important precedent for holding corporate executives responsible for their behavior.
For those who believe Mr. Blankenship’s pursuit of profits at the expense of safety contributed to the 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, it’s another indication that corporate executives are largely prosecution-proof….”
“More recently, safety activists were outraged by a U.S. Department of Justice deferred prosecution agreement with General Motors over the automaker’s faulty ignition switch that caused more than 170 deaths.
The company admitted to concealing a potentially deadly safety defect from regulators and misleading consumers about the safety of their vehicles. GM, the beneficiary of a government bailout during the recession, agreed to pay $900 million.
If the automaker abides by the terms of the agreement for three years, prosecutors will seek to dismiss two criminal charges against the company.
Here’s what the Center for Auto Safety said about the agreement: “GM killed over 100 people by knowingly putting a defective ignition switch into over 1 million vehicles. Yet no one from GM went to jail or was even charged with criminal homicide.” See