Like the child who kills his parents and then begs for mercy because he is an orphan, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce now is begging President-elect Barack Obama to protect corporate interests in the nation’s civil litigation system as a way of restoring jobs and bolstering an economy shattered largely (as we now know) by corporate greed and misfeasance. – Andrew Cohen, CBS
In a desperate attempt to plead for mercy to the new President-Elect, The chamber of commerce is merely renewing an argument that has failed for decades. The Chamber has been pushing tirelessly for almost half a century now to rein in plaintiffs’ attorneys (who look to punish corporate negligence or fraud with civil lawsuits), deregulate industry and commerce (we all know how well Wall Street did with its freedom), and nullify important consumer protection laws (like the one in Maine which is allowing smokers to go after tobacco companies for false advertising).History has shown us how devastatingly successful the Corporate interest machine can be. Because of the Chamber’s organization, innocently named The Institute for Legal Reform, the Securities and Exchange Commission backed off its scrutiny of screwy deals and schemes, the Congress was lax in its oversight of the mortgage industry, litigators were thwarted or punished, and the White House and Justice Department pushed a legal doctrine (“preemption”) that almost always helped employers over employees.
Results such as this put public interest on the loosing side. The American legal system over the past 20 years has been a victim of unremitting advances for the Chamber and its fellow travelers in law, politics and governance. The Chamber has labeled “abusive litigation” as the cause of almost every economic problem to face the modern United States. Could the lawyers who enforce corporate responsibility truly is the cause every economic disaster of our modern economy?
CBS Correspondent and Attorney Andrew Cohen thinks not:
Plaintiffs’ attorneys aren’t responsible for the mortgage-fueled economic meltdown. Class-action litigation isn’t, either. And don’t blame overzealous regulators or greedy employees who want better pay or conditions in their own factories. The people with whom the Chamber and the Institute do battle are not the people who invented or allowed the great pyramid schemes, which brought down Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. They did not force consumers to spend more than they earned or save less than they should. Corporate America is directly responsible for what has just happened to corporate America, and if you don’t believe me, ask the folks at Ford, GM and Chrysler.The economic meltdown came about because business interests were able to greatly decrease the vital tensions between industry and regulation, between oversell and oversight. And it will take the restoration of those tensions by government leaders not just to help bring us out of our slump but to help ensure that the next downturn doesn’t come again for a long time.