Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stop Making Crime Pay

I recently read how another drug company—I forget the name, but it doesn’t matter—has just been fined some outlandish-sounding sum, by the Justice Department. I think it was $46 million.  And of course, it was for some false claim or other that the company perpetrated upon the consumer.

That 46 million ought to teach them a lesson! You think so? Forty-six-million dollars is a tidy sum to you and me, but to a drug company? It may take years, or maybe only months, but I have a feeling that the fine will simply be factored back into their pricing structure, and the company—plus its stock holders—will eventually reclaim that money.

So the consumer gets it coming and going. Where’s the justice?

It’s not there. You see, as one of my instructors at the Police Academy used to say, “We don’t have a justice system; we have a legal system.” That’s why, whenever young college grads enter law school, we don’t say they’re going into the justice system; we say they’re going into the legal system.

And this all reminds me of something my publisher told me a few years back. It’s about Prohibition during the 1920s, and how most states that bordered on water—oceans, lakes, bays, gulfs—had continuing trouble with smugglers bringing contraband liquor into the state. But not so with Delaware. Delaware had less smuggling than any other state along the coast.

Delaware, he told me, still had flogging as a legitimate punishment back in the twenties. Smugglers didn’t mind spending a little time in prison with their professional colleagues, or paying a fine that they would just pass on to their customers, but they sure wanted no part of flogging.

So what am I saying here? That drug company execs should be flogged? As tempting as that may sound to some, I’m actually advocating a far less stringent penalty…but still something that cannot be passed on to the consumer.

Our legal system need only fix responsibility within the culpable company, and then deliver a prison sentence—not a fine! Deceitful company executives will do more than hesitate if they believe a possible six-month or one year term behind bars awaits them. And no de facto penalty is then passed on to the consumer in the form of a “company fine.”

If we administer regulations by enforcing penalties on those convicted of ignoring said regulations, then we force large companies to advertise legally…market legally…and price their products legally.

And by imposing those legalities on the responsible parties, we ironically start to change our legal system back into a justice system.

Folks, do yourself some justice by tuning in to “Cucina Chatter” every Tuesday between 1-2 p.m. on It’s great talk radio hosted by Lorraine Ranalli who still lets me do a weekly commentary.

And as long as there’s no law against it (yet), log on to, and consider my latest short story—Bread of Deceit.

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