Corporate Malfeasance: Getting Away with Bad Behavior is as American as Apple Pie
Am I surprised to hear Wells Fargo would blackball its employees from the industry for revealing corporate efforts to commit fraud? Absolutely not. It is a corporate tradition which spans the century. Ever since corporations has grown to the point they have become their own financial ecosystems, they have pretty much been immune to all forms of prosecution.
They mitigate it by maintaining lobbyists in the halls of government. The lobbying of powerful corporate interests have made it very difficult to hold corporations accountable for anything by keeping lawmakers in their debt through campaign donations and other forms of soft-core bribery through lobbying efforts. The amount of money organizations spend can be staggering.
Big Pharma, for instance, has spent $3.5 billion lobbying from 1998-2016 (OpenSecrets.org). Three billion dollars can buy a lot of goodwill, head turning and "legislation and policy crafting support" through affiliated think-tanks and policy houses in cooperation with such pharmaceutical companies.
Most large corporations and industries also maintain large legal firms to help them navigate lawsuits levied by other industry players, lawsuits from consumers or competitors. Keeping a list like Wells Fargo has been accused of: the U5, would not be a surprise to anyone who has worked for any time in corporate America.
Corporations have long memories and if you aren't willing to toe the line, or worse, decide you want to report them for activities generally known but unspoken in public, they can and often assuredly mark you, making it impossible for you to work in large industries where the players all know each other and have been known to collaborate, even when they might appear as competitors to the general public.
Whistleblower laws are supposed to protect people who turn evidence against corporate malfeasance or alleged criminality but in recent years, whistleblowers are often punished more than the people they blow the whistle on because the corporations, using their legal clout and financial capacities, settle out of court denying any wrong-doing. The whistle-blower on the other hand loses their livelihood, their option to work in their industry unless a player chooses to overlook their transgression.
Big corporations aren't the only offenders either. Big Government has been know to be particularly vindictive to whistle-blowers who reveal how much money is often spent on government projects dubbed "pork", failures in processes which violate civil rights or in the case of the NSA the privacy rights of American citizens. Everyone knows who Edward Snowden was, but before Snowden there were other whistleblowers to tried to go through channels and they were far less successful for their efforts.
The first is Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on the very same NSA activities 10 years before Snowden did. Drake was a much higher-ranking NSA official than Snowden, and he obeyed US whistleblower laws, raising his concerns through official channels. And he got crushed. Drake was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally. The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today. Adding insult to injury, his warnings about the dangers of the NSA’s surveillance programme were largely ignored.
-- The Guardian - How the Pentagon punished NSA whistleblowers
In the modern era with all of the talk of transparency in government and big business, the price of revealing something which should be in the public eye but not, can be very high. You can find yourself going to jail, losing your livelihood, and unable to find work in your field of expertise, possibly for the rest of your life. Not to mention how many whistle-blowers happen to die in accidents, suicides or other such unfortunate and sometimes mysterious circumstances. Money can't buy happiness, but it can assuredly rent retribution at an unofficial level, of course.
Such responses as the U5 or the draconian alpha-strike of the Pentagon on whistle-blowers chills the enthusiasm of anyone to take what shouldn't be a risk at all. Reporting wrong-doing, fraud, theft, malfeasance of any kind, particularly when it puts people's economic welfare, their health, their privacy or even their lives should be a high enough priority that a whistle-blowers efforts should be recognized as a highly desired public good.
Unfortunately, like so many things associated with wealth, it is still possible in a country with laws and comparatively speaking, a low level of corruption compared to places in the developing world, to still find the legal system significantly powerful to protect people clearly involved in what should be construed as criminal activity.
Corporations and their executives use their wealth as a shield allowing them to go unpunished, their activities unrecognized and the issue revealed may be corrected by no one will be held accountable. As with so many things, the only the person shedding the light, will end up paying the price for their urge to help their fellow man.