Americans, it seems, are getting fed up with corporate corruption.
As Eduardo Porter explains,
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Libor scandal is how familiar it seems. Sure, for some of the world’s leading banks to try to manipulate one of the most important interest rates in contemporary finance is clearly egregious. But is that worse than packaging billions of dollars worth of dubious mortgages into a bond and having it stamped with a Triple-A rating to sell to some dupe down the road while betting against it? Or how about forging documents on an industrial scale to foreclose fraudulently on countless homeowners?
The misconduct of the financial industry no longer surprises most Americans. Only about one in five has much trust in banks, according to Gallup polls, about half the level in 2007. And it’s not just banks that are frowned upon. Trust in big business overall is declining. Sixty-two percent of Americans believe corruption is widespread across corporate America. According to Transparency International, an anticorruption watchdog, nearly three in four Americans believe that corruption has increased over the last three years.
And they’re right. According to a recent survey of 500 senior executives in the United States and the UK conducted by the whistleblower law firm Labaton Sucharow,
26 percent of respondents said they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace, while 24 percent said they believed financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to be successful.
Sixteen percent of respondents said they would commit insider trading if they could get away with it, according to Labaton Sucharow. And 30 percent said their compensation plans created pressure to compromise ethical standards or violate the law.
No wonder Americans are mad as hell and have lost faith in Wall Street banks and large corporations.
The problem, of course, is that the largest swindle never gets mentioned: the fact that a tiny group at the top gets to appropriate and distribute among themselves the surplus created by the vast majority at the bottom. The various instances of corporate corruption—from bribing foreign officials and manipulating Libor—are variations on the same theme: various ways whereby wealthy individuals and large corporations can appropriate even more surplus and get larger cuts of that surplus by using and changing the rules of the game that are already stacked in their favor.
But the original corruption, the social theft on which all other corporate crimes are based, is that a small minority is able to take and distribute the surplus they played no part in creating. It flows to them and they are able to privately decide what to do with it—when and where to create jobs, which communities to destroy and which they’ll allow to flourish, at what pace economic growth will take place, and so on.
Things will really change when Americans get made as hell at that situation and decide they won’t take it anymore.