The final days of summer have come to a close and thoughts are turning to cooler temperatures, holidays, and end-of-year celebrations. This also means that we’re taking a few moments to reflect on a year of news and posts that show the worst of what can happen when corporations and governments – two entities that, in many ways, have become indistinguishable from one another – put finance, profit, and politics over public safety.
It’s been a year of progress on many fronts but also a year that continues to illustrate just how far we have yet to come. At the start of 2018, the Detroit Free Press discussed a report released by the American Association for Justice that listed the nine most egregious cases of companies putting profits over people for the previous year. In looking at the list today, it reads as if it could have been written just last week.
Monsanto made the list when the AAJ asserted that the secretive corporation was ghostwriting scientific papers that were directly used in the EPA’s ruling that glyphosate was non-carcinogenic. A year later we finally got a glimpse into how far Monsanto was willing to go to bolster Roundup sales when Dewayne Johnson’s case was allowed to question not only company claims but the research that was being cited in making those claims. As it turns out, once you’re allowed to cut through Monsanto’s fog, the result is that a jury finds that Monsanto is actually causing death, disease, and misleading the public and penalizes the corporation to the tune of a quarter of a billion dollars.
Johnson & Johnson was, and still is, facing tens of thousands of lawsuits over multiple products in the company’s offerings. Faulty or defective hip implants and talc powder that may be causing ovarian cancer while simultaneously bringing asbestos into homes across the country is just the start for the world’s largest healthcare products manufacturer. Multiple deaths have been associated with J&J’s relentless pursuit of profit, yet as of this writing, the company’s stock price sits just $1.06 lower than it did at the start of the year. Still, the nearly $76.5 billion it made in revenue in 2017 shows how effective its tactics have been.
And then there’s McKesson, a company that may not shoulder 100 percent of the blame for the opioid crisis that is gripping the country but certainly bears more blame than most. McKesson’s pursuit of profits led it to ignore blatantly-clear evidence that the nation’s cities and towns were being bombarded with powerful narcotics. As the country’s largest drug and medical supplies distributor, McKesson was in a unique position to be able to act on the crisis before it had the chance to take hold. Instead, it would ride the wave to record profits and leave death, broken families, and broken communities in its wake. The penalty for its misdeeds would be a mere $150 million settlement paid to the Justice Department – a misuse of the word “justice” if there ever was one.
As the independence of critical regulatory bodies like the EPA and FDA continues to come into question, what motivation do these corporations have to start taking the safety and health of the American public seriously and to stop putting profits over people? We’re fairly certain that the 2018 list will continue to show that they don’t.