The recent developments unfolding at News Corp challenge the idea of corporate personhood and whether justice can really be served when corporations are given the privileges of personhood. There are also the aspects of accountability that come with being considered a person.
Les Hinton, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal since 2007, who oversaw Mr. Murdoch’s British newspaper subsidiary when voice mail hacking by journalists was rampant, and Rebekah Brooks, who has run the British papers since 2009 and become the target of unrelenting public outrage, both resigned in the latest blow to the News Corporation and its besieged chairman.
Many former staffers of News Corp have been arrested in England. The FBI has begun an investigation
into whether News Corp staffers hacked or tapped the phones of 911 victims.
There are major questions in England about whether News Corp staffers bribed police and other officials. This is a federal crime– if a US citizen or his representatives engages in bribery in another country.
That raises some interesting questions based on the Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United decision.
If a corporation is rife with corruption. If numerous top officials in the company are suspected of participation in criminal activity, can the company be charged with crimes. If so, can it be tried and convicted. If so, and it is found guilty, can punishments set for individuals be applied to the company?
If the sentence for a human would be death or incarceration, would that mean shutting down or stopping the company from doing any of its usual business for the duration of the sentence? Of course, preventing a company from doing any business would be like a death penalty.
That raises the question of whether it is possible to treat a company like a person in terms of justice. We k now that companies can pursue to positive rights of personhood, but if they can not be held accountable when it comes to crimes, perhaps the supreme court should be required to take a look at its past decisions on the rights of corporate personhood. Perhaps it is time that corporations lose those rights… or that the state of personhood for corporations also include the liabilities, particularly those of facing punishment.
If there was ever a criminal corporation, then News Corp appears to be one, and we might throw in Haliburton and KBR and Monsanto as well. It is time for America to re-assess corporate personhood.