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When Business Conduct Turns Violent: Bringing BP, Massey, and Other Scofflaws to Justice

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 48 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2011 Pages: 287-333
Jane F. Barrett
Date Published
47 pages
This article focuses on the use of criminal law to hold accountable those responsible for business conduct that leads to events that seriously injure or kill workers employed by those businesses or any other person.
Section I of the article reviews two egregious case examples that illustrate the repetitive nature of risky and dangerous conduct by business leaders and managers that lead to catastrophes for workers, any other person, and the general public. The examples involve BP p.l.c., one of the world's largest energy companies, and Massey Energy, one of the largest bituminous coal producers in the United States, with mines in Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Section I also argues that corporate criminal fines are ineffective as the sole deterrent for such conduct, as they are often viewed as the cost of doing business that involves risky practices designed to save money. Section II discusses individual accountability as a critical part of the criminal enforcement of health, safety, and environmental laws. Section III reviews the criminal provisions of existing health, safety, and environmental laws. It also highlights Title 18 statutory provisions that can be used for more effective prosecution of these cases. Section IV suggests than an 1838 statute, the Seaman's Manslaughter Law, can be used as a model for new legislation that would target those who's conscious conduct results in the death or serious bodily injury of workers or the general public. This law provides for fines, imprisonment, or both for any captain, engineer, pilot, or other person employed on any steamboat or vessel whose misconduct, negligence, or inattention to his duties on such vessel results in the death of any person. The law also targets any owner, charterer, inspector, or other public officer whose fraud, neglect, misconduct, or law violation results in the death of any person. 264 notes