Responding to corporate crime

October 31, 2011

According to this article in the Hankyoreh, the Fair Trade Commission of Korea recently fined 10 corporations in Korea and Taiwan, including Samsung and LG, a total of $176 million for conspiring to fix prices and delivery quantities. The conspiracy was conducted by firms that control 80% of the global LCD market. The group of firms conspired to set the timings of product price increases and price differences. 

This is of course just the latest (and by no means the most egregious) example of corporations seeking to maximize profits at the public’s expense. Ignoring these abuses only guarantees that they will continue and most likely increase in frequency. This raises the question of how one should respond to these exploitative corporations and the people who work for them. 

Samsung is a major employer in South Korea and in recent years I have gotten to know many people who work for that corporation.  I have often wondered how anyone can continue to work for a corporation that functions as a pathological institution, prepared to exploit humans, communities, and the environment in any way possible in order to maximize profits. It takes a lot of mental compartmentalization to be sure. But recently I have wondered how I, or anyone else, can maintain friendly relationships with people who work for such institutions. It takes compartmentalization on our part too, but why would we want to do that? The employees who work for these corporations have an obvious financial interest in compartmentalizing; but those of us who don’t work for those corporations do not. And conversely we do have an interest in putting an end to corporate exploitation. I think that if the law is not working in the public interest by stopping these corporations, then it is necessary for ordinary citizens to take matters into their own hands. There are two simple and entirely legal things ordinary citizens can do to help stop these abuses: 1) not buying the products of corporations found guilty of social or environmental abuse; 2) criticizing, not just the corporations or corporate executives who carry out these violations, but also the employees of these corporations. Indeed in not exercising these rights, ordinary citizens are tacitly condoning the exploitation and are really no better than the employees that work for these institutions that work contrary to the public interest.


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3 Responses to Responding to corporate crime

  1. wk
    October 31, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Maybe because we presume a certain reflecting on oneself’ job in people working for institutions like these too easily.
    Doesn’t Compartmentalization require being aware of what is to be compartmentalized in the first place? I believe that most people working in a corporation like these are much like coach horses with their blinders firmly put on both sides of their eyes. Their lack of vision for the broader picture provides them the ease of simplicity. Do only care about the very issues put in your inbox. Do not care about what the numbers and paragraphs actually mean.
    If that case, the reason to maintain friendly relationships with people like this might be to have positive influence on them. To help them remove the blinders and unmount them from the carriage.

    If however, someone was perfectly aware of what’s happening, i fall short to come up with a convincing argumentation to do so.

    • jm
      November 2, 2011 at 2:37 pm

      Perhaps, but it may be that the best or most effective way of getting these people to remove the blinders is to let them know that their behavior–decent family man on the weekend, executive at a criminal organization during the week–is not acceptable. And what this typically amounts to, in practical terms, is ending the relationships.

      • wk
        November 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm

        Yes – as the ultimate gesture. But as I’d suggest only in case someone was successfully lead to remove his blinders and fully comprehends the issue and still remains indifferent and apathetic about it.
        Therefore ending the relationship is more of a consequence and less of an effective method to “enlighten” someone – isn’t it?

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