Deep History


Corporate Crime


The primary problem with corporate capitalism (and probably capitalism generally) is that it allows for the unlimited accrual of wealth, and therefore power, into the hands of a very small minority. No matter how just and well-meaning any political system may be, this power disparity means that the system will invariably be corrupted to favor the elite minority over everyone else. And since corporate charters mandate that shareholder profits trump any other concern, we can be sure that our own interests will not be economic or political priorities. It is true that corporations compete with one another to a certain extent, but their interlocking Boards of Directors know full well that they have a strong common interest in keeping the rest of us from upsetting the status quo. The influence of corporate money over American politics has become so pervasive and normative that it is no longer even hidden to any true extent. Corporations are granted greater rights and privileges than real citizens, but bear none of their civic responsibilities. On the rare occasions that corporations are actually fined for their illegal activities, the fines are often less than the profits that they made from the illegal activities in the first place. The government, intelligence agencies, and the military are no longer serving our interests. We no longer live in a republic. We live in a corporatocracy.

1942 - The U.S. government seizes the assets of Union Banking Corporation under the Trading With the Enemy Act for its dealings with the Nazis. Prescott Bush [322], father of George H. W. Bush [322] and grandfather of George W. Bush [322], is serving as a director of the corporation at the time.

1943An explosion and subsequent cave-in at the Smith Coal Mine in Montana kills 75 people.

1947 - Executives of IG Farben, the company which produced Zyklon B for gas chamber in Nazi death camps, are placed on trial. A number of those convicted go on to become executives in other companies, including Hermann Schmitz, who would join the board of Deutsche Bank, and Fritz ter Meer, who would join the board of pharmaceutical company Bayer.

1947An explosion at the Centralia Coal Mine in Illinois kills 111 people.

1955They Berkeley Pit copper mine is opened in Butte, Montana. After being abandoned and having its pump system shut down, the mine will slowly flood, becoming one of the largest toxic Superfund sites in the country.

1959The Sodium Reactor Experiment nuclear facility suffers a partial meltdown releasing radioactive gas into the atmosphere.

1967An oil tanker operated by British Petroleum sinks off the coast of England spilling 80,000 to 119,000 tonnes of oil.

1969blowout in a Union Oil offshore well in California leaks 80,000  to 119,000 tonnes of oil.

1972A coal slurry impoundment owned by the Pittston Coal Company bursts in West Virginia. 132 million gallons of black waste water, cresting over 30 feet high, floods into surrounding communities killing 125 people, injuring over 1,000, and destroying the homes of over 4,000.


1976Investigations reveal that residents of the Love Canal district of Niagra Falls, New York are being poisoned by the over 21,000 tons of toxic chemicals buried there decades ago by Hooker Chemical (now Occidental Petroleum). Industry-funded "scientists" from the American Council on Science and Health will claim that residents are being sickened not from toxic exposure but from hysteria and stress caused by media coverage of the situation.

1978 - Hollywood director Roman Polanski flees to France upon learning that he will be found guilty of raping a 13-year-old girl.

1978The Amoco Cadiz runs aground near France, spilling 1.6 million barrels of oil into the ocean.

1979A containment pond for nuclear waste breaches its dam in Church Rock, New Mexico. Over 1,000 tons of solid radioactive waste and 93 million gallons of radioactive water flow into the Puerco River in the largest release of radioactive material in U.S. history.

1982Banco Ambrosiano collapses amidst a massive fraud and corruption scandal tying into a wide range of conspiratorial activities from the P2 Masonic Lodge and Operation Gladio to the possible assassination of Pope John Paul I.

1984A Union Carbide pesticide plants leaks methyl isocyanate gas and other chemicals in Bhopal, India. From 3,700 to 16,000 people are killed and over half a million are injured in the world's worst-ever industrial disaster. 26 years later, seven executives are sentenced to two years of prison time and given a $2,000 fine apiece.

1985The Blackstone Group is founded by Peter Peterson and Stephen Shwarzman [322], who had previously worked together at Lehman Brothers.  It will evolve into one of the world's largest private equity firms and become involved in a wide variety of murky, quasi-legal business dealings, sometimes tied into major political events. In 2000, for example, they will acquire the mortgage of World Trade Center Building 7.

1987October 19th becomes known as Black Monday when the Dow Jones Industrial Average loses the greatest percentage of its value in a single day in history.

1988Fires and a series of explosions at the PEPCON plant in Nevada kill two people and injure 372.

1988The Franklin Credit Union in Omaha, Nebraska, is closed after investigators find that millions have been embezzled from it. A trial results in a prison sentence for manager Larry King, a once-prominent figure in local Republican circles who had also been accused of running a child prostitution ring for the rich and powerful.

1988An oil tank ruptures at a facility owned by Ashland Oil Company in Pennsylvania spilling 10,000 tonnes of oil.

1988An oil tanker explodes off the coast of Canada, killing 27 people and spilling 132,000 tonnes of oil.

1989During the Savings and Loan Crisis, a group of senators known as the Keating Five are accused of corruption for improperly intervening on behalf of a savings and loan institution which was under investigation.

1989Nelson Hunt is fined $10 million for attempting to manipulate the silver market.

1989The Exxon Valdez hits a reef near Alaska and spills between 260,000 and 760,000 barrels of oil, contaminating 1,300 miles of coastline and over 11,000 square miles of the ocean.

1990General Electric is convicted of defrauding the Department of Defense.

1990Michael Milken, the billionaire who largely invented high-yield bonds (junk bonds) pleads guilty to various financial crimes.

1991The Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) shuts down amidst a scandal over a massive money laundering operation and other financial crimes.

1991An oil tanker owned by Amoco explodes near Genoa, Italy and kills six crew members while flooding the Mediterranean with up to 50,000 tonnes of crude oil.

1992An oil tanker accident off the coast of Spain spills 74,000 tonnes of oil into the Aegean Sea.

1992An oil well blowout in Uzbekistan leaks 285,000 tonnes of oil, one of the worst spills in history.

1993Four children are killed and over 700 other people are sickened by E. coli-contaminated hamburgers from restaurant chain Jack in the Box.

1993A barge collision into an improperly designed railroad bridge near Mobile, Alabama results in one of the worst train wrecks in history. 47 are killed and 103 others are injured.

1993An oil tanker runs aground in Scotland spilling 85,000 tonnes of oil.

1995The Senate Whitewater Committee investigates allegations of corruption in certain real estate investments made by Bill and Hillary Clinton in the 1970's and 80's. The Clinton's business associate Susan McDougal is eventually sentenced to prison for contempt of court for refusing to answer questions about the matter, but is pardoned by President Clinton just before he leaves office.

1996The U.K. suffers a major outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (better known as Mad Cow Disease) which soon spreads to other countries, including the U.S.

1996An oil tanker runs aground near Wales spilling 40,000 to 72,000 tonnes of oil.

1997Bayer and three other pharmaceutical companies agree to pay $660 million to over 6,000 hemophiliac patients who received HIV-tainted blood products. In the 1980's, after it was discovered that a heat-treatment process was needed to make blood products safe, companies had continued to sell old, untreated products to Asian and Latin American markets.

1999An oil tanker sinks off the coast of France spilling 15,000 to 25,000 tonnes of oil.

2000In Kentucky, a coal slurry impoundment owned by Massey Energy ruptures, spilling over 300 million gallons of coal slurry. Hundreds of miles of rivers are contaminated along with the drinking water of 27,000 nearby residents. All aquatic life in nearby Coldwater Fork and Wolf Creek is killed.

2001Enron Corporation files for bankruptcy following a massive corruption scandal. Many of the Security and Exchange Commission's investigative files on Enron were destroyed in the collapse of WTC 7 on 9/11.

2002Accounting firm Arthur Andersen is convicted of obstruction of justice for its complicity in the Enron scandal. Although the conviction is eventually overturned, the firm's faulty auditing of other companies is brought to light and the firm is crippled.

2002Telecommunications company WorldCom files for bankruptcy amidst an accounting fraud scandal showing that they had inflated reporting of their total assets by some $11 billion.

2002An oil tanker sinks off the coast of Spain. 63,000 tonnes of oil are spilled, contaminating over 1,000 kilometers of the coasts of Portugal, Spain, and France.

2003Tyson Foods is fined $7.5 million for dumping untreated waste water from a poultry plant in Missouri. They will be fined an additional $7.4 million the following year for another environmental crime.

2003James Giffen is indicted for a $78 million bribe to Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev to help ExxonMobil win a 25 percent share of the Tengiz oilfield, third largest oilfield in the world. It is the largest criminal case ever handled under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

2003The Tasman Spirit oil tanker runs aground in Pakistan, spilling 28,000 - 30,000 tonnes of oil.

2004Riggs Bank is fined $25 million for laundering money for terrorists. The president's uncle, Jonathan Bush [322], was for many years an executive in the company.

2004De Beers is fined $10 million for fixing the price of diamonds.

2005Financial Services company Refco collapses amidst revelations that it hid $430 million in bad debt. The following year it will also be revealed that the company held $525 million in fake bonds in offshore accounts.

2005Bayou Hedge Fund Group founder Samuel Israel III and CFO Daniel Marino plead guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges for defrauding investors.

2005Chevron, BP, and ExxonMobil are sued for their part in the Greenpoint oil spill, which leaked 17 to 30 million gallons of petroleum products into the soil over the course of several decades.

2006A ruptured BP oil pipeline spills around a quarter million gallons of oil in Alaska.

2007The U.S. enters the Great Recession amidst the bursting of a housing-market bubble, a subprime mortgage crisis, and rampant fraud and corruption amongst financial institutions and insurance companies.

2007Nestle is fined $9 million for a price-fixing scheme. Over the next several years, even more serious crimes will come to light including contamination of products with melamine and E. coli, animal abuse, and the use of child slave labor.

2008Following years of crime, corruption, and malfeasance, investment bank Lehman Brothers collapses. It is the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, and it drastically worsens the existing recession.

2008Following years of crime, corruption, and malfeasance, savings bank Washington Mutual collapses. It had been the largest savings and loan association in the U.S.

2008Following years of crime, corruption, and malfeasance, insurance and financial services corporation AIG is bankrupted but ultimately saved by a taxpayer-funded bailout from the federal government.

2008Following years of crime, corruption, and malfeasance, investment bank Bear Stearns collapses but is bailed out by the federal government with taxpayer money and bought by JP Morgan Chase.

2008Following years of crime, corruption, and malfeasance, mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac nearly collapse but are taken over by the federal government.

2008The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act is passed, creating the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Up to $700 billion of taxpayer money is authorized for the purchase of distressed assets, especially mortgage-backed securities, and supply cash directly to banks.

2008A dike at the Kingston Fossil Plant in Tennessee ruptures and over a billion gallons of coal ash slurry spill into the surrounding area, destroying a number of houses and dealing massive environmental damage in the process.

2008Tyson Foods is found to be lying about its use of antibiotics in chicken products.

2008CVS pays a $38.5 million settlement for deceptive business practices.

2009Following years of mismanagement, notably the decision to focus on producing huge fuel-inefficient vehicles, both General Motors and Chrysler go bankrupt. The federal government bails them out with taxpayer money.

2009GE is fined $50 million for accounting fraud.