U.S. companies caught cheating

U.S. companies caught cheating

By Joe Baker, Senior Editor

Word has come from the federal government that it has caught 57 U.S. corporations dealing with terrorists, dictators and tyrants.

Despite that, neither the government nor the corporations have released any details of the transactions. These businesses have been trading with the likes of Saddam, Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Sudan.

Private individuals caught doing such things would be severely penalized, but the corporations are getting off with a slap on the wrist.

The fact that the New York Yankees and ESPN were caught doing business with Castro will not appear in most newspapers or on television and radio.

The Yankees paid a $75,000 fine to the Feds because of a contract with three players from Cuba. Newsday reported the Cuban government has an interest in those deals.

ChevronTexaco is unlikely to announce it violated sanctions by trading with Iraq. Condoleeza Rice, the president’s national security advisor, is a former executive of Chevron.

Citigroup has so far declined to spell out how it helped to finance terrorist organizations.

All these dealings are violations of U.S. law, whether with certain countries considered threats to the U.S., or with organizations believed to be terrorists.

The federal government each year probes thousands of cases of individuals or companies allegedly violating the Trading with the Enemy Act and other regulations that govern free trade. Millions of dollars in fines are imposed, and perhaps 10 of these cases are prosecuted in court.

Individuals and small companies can be jailed indefinitely or have their assets frozen. But when Wal-Mart, ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical or Amazon.com admit to the government that they have violated the law, that news is submerged on some obscure government Web site.

Within a two-week period, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control announced it has fined 57 companies more than $1.35 million for violations of the sanctions laws.

While the government announced the penalties and the number of corporate offenders, it has revealed almost nothing about each company’s penalty, no dates, no other information except what country the business traded with. We are not told what was sold to the “enemy.”

“This is the maximum information that we can make available consistent with legal concerns,” said a Treasury Department spokesman, who declined to give his name.

“The Treasury is giving in to corporate pressure,” said Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter, who sued the government under the Freedom of Information law to obtain details of earlier violations of the trade laws.

“To deter future corporate wrongdoing, (Treasury) must stop protecting major American companies from the glare of adverse publicity,” Mokhiber said.

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