An environment watchdog group has released a startling statistic. Since Donald Trump took office, fines for corporate polluters have fallen by more than 60%. Instead of holding corporations accountable when they poison our air and our water and even our people, they appear to be getting a free pass from the current administration. Of course, this isn’t much of a surprise considering how connected our government is to industry. Mike Papantonio, host of America’s Lawyer, discusses this with Farron Cousins, he’s the executive editor for the Trial Lawyer magazine.
Mike: An environment watchdog group has released a startling statistic. Since Donald Trump took office, fines for corporate polluters have fallen by more than 60%. Instead of holding corporations accountable when they poison our air and our water and even our people, they appear to be getting a free pass from the current administration.
Of course, this isn’t much of a surprise considering how connected our government is to industry. Joining me now to talk about this is Farron Cousins, he’s the executive editor for the Trial Lawyer magazine. Farron, incredible. What’s happened in the last six months. You talk about the corporate payoff.
Farron: Oh absolutely, and that’s exactly what corporations wanted. What’s happened in the last six, seven months is that they’re getting everything they’ve ever wanted, which was a 60%, they’d prefer 100% reduction in these fines when they do go out there and they dump things into our water or spew things into the atmosphere, they are not being held accountable.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Enforcement was very lax under Obama and Bush and Clinton before him, but even with that lax enforcement, things have essentially at this point just absolutely fallen off a cliff and we’re not getting those fines and punishments, essentially, that we need to have in this country.
Mike: Isn’t part of the problem … I mean, corporate America is making so much money right now. Making more than they’ve ever made in the history of this planet. Literally. That is not a statistic that’s overstated.
So, with all that money, aren’t they able to go to the agencies and they’re able to get the folks that are working for the agencies to come to work with them? They say, “Joe, when you get done with what you’re doing, come talk to us. We have about a $400,000 paycheck for you.” That goes on every day. It’s like the American public actually believes that the EPA or FDA or the SEC is out protecting them. What is your take on that?
Farron: It’s absolutely true. We’ve seen this in full swing for the last 17 years, really, where either the people running these regulatory agencies came from industry or once they leave there, they go right into industry. They’re not there to hold people accountable. They’re not there to do their jobs. They’re making job connections.
They’re trying to meet people that they know they can send a resume to once they leave office instead of somebody that they can send a fine or a subpoena to while they’re serving this country. They’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing; they’re worried about their own career and longevity at that point.
Mike: Yeah, they actually call these positions “career-holding places.” Career holding places. Really quickly, what are the important fines that we’re seeing differences with?
Farron: Well, the big thing is that we need these fines. This isn’t just about we want to take your money. We use those fines to clean up the water, to clean up the air, to clean up the environment, to provide medical monitoring for people when they get poisoned. That’s what these fines are about and if we do not pull those in, we do not clean up the mess that corporations have caused.
Mike: Taxpayers have to foot the bill. What the corporation does is they put all their garbage in a river, for example, and they say, “We made a big profit by not having to do this right. Now let’s let the taxpayers have to pay for this clean up and our stockholders are gonna make a lot more money.” Yeah, that’s exactly the process and that goes on every day in this country, and under Trump, it’s happening more and more.