The Justice Department just entered into the largest criminal settlement in U.S. history with the giant oil company BP. BP plead guilty to 14 criminal counts, including manslaughter, and agreed to pay $4 billion over the next five years.
This is loony.
Mind you, Iím appalled by the carelessness and indifference of the BP executives responsible for the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that killed eleven people on April 20, 2010, and unleashed the worst oil spill in American history.
But it defies logic to make BP itself the criminal. Corporations arenít people. They canít know right from wrong. Theyíre incapable of criminal intent. They have no brains. Theyíre legal fictions ó pieces of paper filed away in a vault in some bank.
Holding corporations criminally liable reinforces the same fallacy that gave us Citizenís United v. the Federal Election Commission, in which five justices decided corporations are people under the First Amendment and therefore can spend unlimited amounts on an election. Even if 49 percent of their shareholders are foreign citizens, corporations now have a constitutional right to affect the outcome of American elections.