Legendary consumer advocate Ralph Nader says the U.S. is experiencing a “corporate crime wave” and that the Trump administration’s $2.5 billion settlement with Boeing over the manufacturer’s faulty 737 MAX jets amounts to a “slap on the wrist.” Boeing’s faulty planes were involved in two fatal crashes that killed 346 people in 2018 and 2019, including Nader’s 24-year-old grandniece Samya Stumo. Nader says the Biden Justice Department should reopen the previous administration’s settlement and hold Boeing fully accountable. “This is just another example of giant companies getting away with their corporate criminality — a shocking sweetheart deal, an insult to the memories of the lost ones — and further endangering the safety of air travelers in the future,” he says.
AMY GOODMAN: What about what President Biden is doing, the COVID relief bill, the $1.9 trillion he’s pushing for? Your evaluation of that and what he has done so far as president?
RALPH NADER: Well, that’s important. You know, he’s got to keep that $15 minimum wage, which is staggered over four years, by the way. And Bernie Sanders is pleading with him and Senate Democrats to keep it in. It has state and local aid. It has aid for children. It has aid to education. It has aid to health and vaccine and all the rest of that in the COVID crisis. And it’s very important. It’s got to be managed in a way so corporations who don’t deserve it or professional sports teams who don’t deserve it don’t get the money. That’s what happened last time. And then there are hundreds of billions of dollars of unspent money, still unspent, from the Trump administration that needs to be applied to the current state of the economy.
In the regulatory area, he has got to do several things. One, he’s got to roll back the dismantling and illegal shutting down of enforcement agencies, such as the workplace safety agency OSHA, environmental agency EPA, Food and Drug Administration, the auto safety agency, the FAA. He’s got to roll back those executive orders, roll back those criminal nonenforcement rules that Trump actually put in place overtly earlier in 2020.
He then has to appoint some good people and back them up. He already has appointed some good people to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Gary Gensler, and a very good appointee to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Rohit Chopra, but he’s got more to appoint, and he’s got to back them up.
Third, he’s got to expand the regulatory budget, which is so tiny, it’s absurd. The budget for OSHA is $500 million, which is what we have spent every year to pay for the embassy in Baghdad in Iraq after that criminal war by Bush and Cheney.
And fourth, he’s got to make sure that Congress elevates corporate crime reform to the highest visibility. We’re in a corporate crime wave in this country, economically, environmentally, consumer abuse, worker abuse. And there’s got to be a revision and updating of the federal corporate criminal law, which are absurdly antiquated. I mean, the fines are absurd for occupational workplace casualties — a few thousand dollars applied to an employer for the loss of life in the workplace from criminal negligence.
And I would advise Mr. Biden to retain Professor of Law John Coffee of Columbia University, who has just written an excellent book called Corporate Crime and [Punishment: The Crisis of] Underenforcement. And he’s the man to draft a federal corporate criminal law code.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Ralph Nader, speaking about corporate crime, I wanted to ask you about Boeing. In January, the company agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion to settle a nearly two-year federal criminal investigation into Boeing’s role in the two fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed all 346 on board 737 MAX airplanes, the Justice Department accusing Boeing of having concealed information about the aircraft. One of the victims was your 24-year-old great-niece, your grandniece, Samya Rose Stumo, who I had the privilege of meeting in Winsted, where you are now, and at the Tort Museum. What’s happening in these cases?
RALPH NADER: Well, this is a slap on the wrist, a just-before-midnight settlement between the Trump Justice Department and the Boeing lawyers. It was really nothing. There was about a $250 million fine. There was over a billion dollars aid to the airlines and $500 million to the scores of families who lost their loved ones in the two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. That settlement has not yet been approved by the federal district judge in Texas. There may be an intervention by the families. And I hope the new Justice Department reopens it under Biden and Merrick Garland, the new attorney general, because this is just another example of giant companies getting away with their corporate criminality — a shocking, a shocking sweetheart deal, an insult to the memories of the lost ones — and further endangering the safety of air travelers in the future.
You have to enforce the law to deter future criminality, and this wouldn’t deter Boeing in the least. And also, a lot of it is deductible under our tax system. I think people have got to realize that systematic corporatism causes a lot of problems. Systematic corporatism feeds systematic racism and feeds systematic workplace abuses. It feeds systematic ignoring of environmental health. It feeds systematic corruption of the political process. We’ve got to start using phrases like “corporate crime enforcement” and “systematic corporatism.”
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ralph Nader, I want to thank you so much for being with us. And again, condolences to you and your whole family. I know the pain never goes away. We will continue to follow the Boeing case. Thank you so much for being with us, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic, former four-time presidential candidate, author of many books, the latest, with Mark Green, Wrecking America: How Trump’s Lawbreaking and Lies Betray All.
Coming up, Sunday, February 14th, is Valentine’s Day. It also marks V-Day, the global day to end violence against women and girls. We’ll speak with the activist and playwright V, formerly known as Eve Ensler, as well as the poet Aja Monet. Stay with us.