Posts Tagged ‘environment’

What Should Happen To BP

May 27, 2010

Three simple words: “Corporate Death Penalty”

BP should get what Arthur Andersen got in the Enron fiasco. A fine amounting to all their U.S. assets. Their shareholders should take a bath.

If we don’t have the will or the wit to regulate companies whose operations take the environment hostage at this sort of scale, at least we can is create a precedent that will get shareholder attention.

If BP gets destroyed for their unreadiness and negligence in the Gulf, then perhaps the shareholders of Exxon, Texaco, etc. will come to regard unmitigated environmental risk as tantamount to a due diligence failure. They would presumably demand to know what corporate officers are doing to protect the environment, because environmental protection is now equivalent to shareholder-value protection — the highest (and perhaps only) mandate that is recognized by our otherwise thoroughgoingly sociopathic corporate culture. Corporate officers would then require the highest disaster readiness, because to do otherwise would invite a shareholder lawsuit.

I wish it were otherwise. I wish we could rely on Government regulation to hold corporations’ feet to the fire. But regulator quality oscillates on timescales dictated by the public’s attention span, as expressed by administration ideology. If we want a stable regime of corporate attention to environmental duty, corporate officers and shareholders must be persuaded that failures to perform those duties jeopardize their assets. The way to accomplish that is to bring BP to the brink of disaster, and then give them a push.