Justice

Corporate fines paid from petty cash

Alberta Provincial Court penalized Suncor Energy Inc. $100,000 for releasing toxic hydrogen sulfide (H2S) at its oil refinery in Sherwood Park.

Hydrogen Sulfide is a chemical asphyxiant and mitochondrial poison. It is a colorless, flammable gas with a unique odour. Concentrated H2S can be immediately fatal, but exposure to low-levels can damage human organs, temporarily or permanently. In this Edmonton area event, a number of people were taken to hospital but no person died.

In its 2020 Annual Report, Suncor reported assets totalled $85 billion. The penalty assessed represented 0.00012% of Suncor’s assets. To a person with assets of $150,000, that’s the equivalent of an 18¢ fine.

Compare to driving fines for speeding in BC. These range from $138 to $483 and are applied regardless of ability to pay.

Judge H. Lee Sarokin, retired after 17 years on the bench of a U.S. federal court. He wrote:

The public has this view, rightfully so, that corporations guilty of killing people, harming them or depriving them of their hard-earned money reach into their petty cash drawers to pay these fines — no matter how large — while gleefully going right on doing the conduct for which they were fined.

This pervasive criminal conduct can no longer merely be the cost of doing business — freedom of the guilty corporate executives must be the cost. Fines are what you pay for over-time parking — not for major corporate criminal activity which kills, harms or steals from people.

If we expect wealthy companies to alter their business practices on safety, the environment, and other matters of corporate responsibility and integrity, punishment should fit the crime, but more importantly, it should fit the criminal.


A deep dive into regulatory issues in Alberta is linked here:

Exploring a regulatory maze

Categories: Justice

6 replies »

  1. Traffic fines are nothing more than a revenue source, used by questionable politicians to try to subdue the great unwashed.

    Politicians allow the sale of faster cars, so speeding fines will continue.

    When it comes to corporate fines, this is a different matter because it deals with elites and as everyone knows, Canadian society, the creme de la creme elites abide by a different set of rules.

    So the poor get hit with huge revenue generating fines, but the wealthy elites, get less than a slap on the wrist.

    This is how revolutions are born.

    Government in Canada has turned provinces into fiefdoms, where the elite class rule with an iron fist, Liberal, NDP, conservative, they are all the same, utterly corrupt little demigods who only treat with their own. And demigods, never ill treat other demigods or put another way, fines for corporations and the elites that run them should never amount to much.

    Money and profit is the new religion, the law is their bulwark against the great unwashed and utter corruption is the result.

    Welcome to Canada 2021, not the Canada we all grew up and once loved, as that Canada is nothing more than a dream.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In Finland handing out speeding tickets is easy; it’s based on your previous years income. The more money you make the higher the fine. Maybe we should use that method when handing out fines to corporations too? Oh yeah, and no deductions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mike, in Finland and most other places, the more money you make, the less income you declare. Anyone making, say $250 k + should automatically qualify for a thorough audit and fine. That MIGHT make them think twice about speeding.

      Like

  3. Yes, the fine/penalty should fit the crime and scale but never does.

    Prior to beginning a career as an economist I had an apprenticeship helping prepare evidence in a “Anti- Combines” case against Canadian Freight Forwarders. That was in 1967.

    Since then I have not noticed news of other anti-combines actions by the Government of Canada yet it is totally unbelievable there were not other occasions when such action was not needed.

    In 1989 or thereabouts I gave Fin. Martin evidence of bank owned brokers selling shares at prices +30 % over the subsequent open market prices . I suggested this was an outcome from concentration of the financial service sector and that further proposed concentration would make matters even more unfair. He stopped the merger talks then underway but no anti-combines action after that was taken that I was aware of.

    Recently I wrote the Fin. Min. pointing out that Canada’s then international credit rating was among the best in the World yet our 5 year mortgage rates were about 2.5% higher than others, also with a triple A and the markup over 5 year Canadian treasuries was greater in Canada than in the US where their credit score was lower than ours.

    This is another example of what I would suggest should be the topic of an anti-combines condition. The Gov. of Canada still has legislation that permits investigations into anti-combines behavior but perhaps doesn’t much care to deploy it.

    I only offer these examples of how the system works in Canada and helps explain why the lawyer for Rev. Canada felt secure enough to write in his letter to me that Rev. Can. Tax court does not do “fair” in spite of a mission statement saying they do.

    Living in Canada has nothing to do with egalitarianism but everything to do with aspirational economics.

    Like

    • Regarding Canada Revenue Agency “fairness” doctrine, I helped an elderly person file a request for moderation of interest and penalties that was deserved according to the agency’s published guidelines. CRA acknowledged the request and said they would respond by a date that was 14 months on. However, they continued aggressive collection actions against the person who had no ability to pay and, a year later, CRA “couldn’t locate” the file. They said it should be resubmitted.

      In my opinion, CRA had no intention of applying the fairness doctrine and I surmise it is seldom used to benefit needy people. CRA would rather force people into bankruptcy or punitive creditor proposals than deal fairly on a case-by-case basis.

      Like

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