Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Johnson & Johnson: Another example of big company with small morals


In 2009, the FDA told Johnson & Johnson it could no longer sell an unsafe hip replacement in the United States. That didn’t stop the New Jersey health care giant from selling the device in other countries.
Now, the New Brunswick company faces up to $3 billion in legal and medical costs over the device, which J&J finally recalled in 2010 after evidence was revealed that it was leaving tiny, painful slivers of metal in many of those overseas patients.
Inside J&J, workers take pride in the corporation’s famous credo. Summarized, it says: Act ethically and responsibly, no matter the cost, and profits will follow.
J&J is proof that profits follow bad corporate behavior, too.
In 2010, the company earned a record $13 billion. At the same time, it paid roughly $750 million in government fines and settlements for a laundry list of wrongs. It was fined $70 million for overseas bribery, shut down a children’s drug factory for safety violations and was investigated for a “phantom” recall of tainted Motrin.
Defenders of the 1 percent insist corporations and their executives have every right to amass whatever fortunes they can in America’s free market.
But the headlines reveal that many big businesses are raking in billions without conscience. What we’re seeing is a grotesque shift in corporate values that undermines Corporate America’s image as the benevolent job creator.
Occupy Wall Street zeroed in on the enormous gap in pay between corporate executives and the so-called 99 percent. But not enough was said about the erosion of corporate citizenship and the lengths to which Big Banking, Big Pharma and Big Oil, just to name a few, will go to increase profits at the expense — even the victimization — of humanity. (See accompanying chart for some awful offenses.)
We see deadly accidents in coal mines and on oil rigs as owners cut corners on worker and environmental protections; patients put at risk when pharmaceutical companies take already successful drugs and try to drive profits even higher by selling them for diseases the FDA never studied nor approved; taxpayers footing fraudulent bills as contractors look at government like a blank check, overcharging millions or more.
It is understandable for companies to pull back on their charitable works in tough times, or even trim the workforce. In the throes of the Great Recession, even companies with a social conscience often did that. Who could justify million-dollar gifts for charity when employees are being laid off?
But this is different. This is despicable behavior, and it’s widespread. If the same acts were committed by an individual, that person would likely find himself in prison. Corporations typically face only the loss of cash. Don’t worry, they’ll make more.
The U.S. Supreme Court is inching toward full personhood for corporations — see Citizens United vs. FEC, which granted them freedom of speech. Perhaps it’s time they were punished like people, too.

Posted via email from Jack's posterous

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