Monday, March 20, 2006

Corporate Offenders Not Paying Fines

The government regulatory agencies enforce regulations by imposing fines on those who violate the regulations. This ability to fine violators puts teeth into the rules.

Therefore if the violators can escape the fines, the regulations have no teeth. According to an Associate Press story in the Washington Post Sunday, corporations are stiffing the government on fines. Some examples: A $3 million fine to a pipeline company after a deadly fire was reduced by 92 percent. Coal firms were charged more than $1.3 million for deadly violations. The penalties are largely unpaid.

According to the AP, criminals and civil offenders owe the government more than $35 billion in fines, based on Justice Department figures, more than five times the amount owed a decade ago. This is enough to cover the annual budget of the Department of Homeland Security.

The ability to impose penalties is the heart of the ability of the government to protect workers and other citizens. When the government does not effectively collect the money owed, it is not only cheating taxpayers but is giving up its ability to protect us.