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Week in Review 143 — Corporate social responsibility?

Stephen Lewis comments on the World Economic Forum and the corporate irresponsibility that has fueled a global landscape of economic inequality, resentment and anger. (Recorded January 19, 2017).


January 20, 2017: Corporate social responsibility?

Well, I’m taping this twenty-four hours in advance of the inauguration, and I want to make a connection and please bear with me… Davos, a sleepy little town in Switzerland where every January, under the auspices of the World Economic Forum, the global political and corporate elite, (we could call them the corporate-political complex), gathers to tell us the benefits of globalization, to tell us how inequality is declining, to tell us how the developing world is flourishing, and to tell us above all that the multinational corporations have finally embraced the pinnacle of their activity: corporate social responsibility to save the world! So, I have one or two things to say about corporate social responsibility:

Deutsche Bank is being fined, paying penalty of $7.3 billion dollars for the transgressions around the sub-prime mortgage fiasco in 2008. And just this morning it was reported that Credit Suisse is paying $5.3 billion dollars for the same horrendous transgressions. And then again, today it was reported that Morgan Chase is paying $55 million dollars in fines. Now, you’re not going to believe this, because they charge their African American clients more for loans than they charged their white clients. Is it possible to think that that kind of thing still takes place?

And then there are the automobile manufacturers. Volkswagen is paying $14.3 billion dollars because of lying around emissions, and Rolls Royce is paying $800 million dollars in penalties for attempting to bribe people in six countries, and General Motors is paying over $1 billion dollars in penalties and court settlements for a faulty ignition switch, which has resulted in a number of deaths, and they knew the switch was faulty.

And then there’s the pharmaceutical industry, where Mylan Pharmaceuticals is paying $45 million dollars because they unwarrantedly raised the price of Epi-pen beyond levels that consumers were able to afford. And of course, there’s that famous fine for GlaxoSmithKline of $3 billion dollars a couple of years ago, because of misinformation around drugs. And now we have Genentech and OSI Pharmaceuticals this year required, or last year, required to pay $67 million dollars because of misleading information on a cancer drug.

And Apple is now paying $13 billion dollars in back taxes imposed by the European Commission. And we have Walmart, how could we get along without Walmart?... which is paying $75 million dollars in penalties because it refused to provide health insurance to same-sex partners.

It goes on and on and on. These multinational corporations which lay the economic landscape for the entire world don’t give a tinker’s damn about wages, about job creation, about mortgages. They care only about their balance sheets, and they have roiled enough resentment and anger around the world to result in Brexit in the United Kingdom, and the election of Donald Trump in the United States.

That was last week. I’m Stephen Lewis.