Thursday, July 31, 2008

Big Tobacco Fined $1.5 Billion for Smuggling

Big Tobacco has just been fined for cigarette smuggling activities between 1989 and 1994. This was a guilty plea and was about a complex cigarette smuggling scheme. What about pursuing them for the same activities from 1994 to the present?

The Big Tobacco culprits are Imperial Tobacco who is liable to pay a fine of $200,000,000.00 now and $400,000,000.00 more over the next 15 years. Rothmans Benson & Hedges is on the hook for $100,000,000.00 in fines now and $450,000,000.00 more in civil payments over the next 10 years. Classy operators these guys!

It is easy and appropriate to blame the companies for this illegal activity. I want more. I want to know the names of the individuals in those companies who perpetrated these illegal activities. Companies don’t make decisions by themselves or in isolation. It is the leadership and management who are the active agents of corporate decisions and such misdeeds.

There is a personal obligation here as well. Who was it exactly that aided, abetted, enabled and executed this illegal activity within these organizations? If there is not personal liability as well for this stuff the corporate cultures that drive these behaviours may never change. I am not a big fan of more government regulation but I do like personal accountability and liability for illegal corporate activities, be they civil or criminal.

Release the names of the individuals involved in this illegal activity please. We may need more legislation that will enable personal actions to be brought against corporate management and individual directors who enable this crap to happen. Then things will really change for the better. Sarbanes Oxley was a start but personal accountability for corporate actions must obviously be expanded.

For the record, I worked with a consortium of Alberta based health based organizations to get legislation passed in Alberta to get smoking banned in public and workplaces in Alberta last year. I have seen the tactics Big Tobacco used in lobbying and PR based misdeeds too.