The State of Environmental Enforcement

Climate change is the most pressing environmental issue of our time, but we still have to contend with plenty of air pollution, water contamination and hazardous waste proliferation. That task will be easier now that the EPA is abandoning the lax practices of the Trump Administration and is once again getting serious about enforcement.

Yet the federal agency will not be taking on the challenge by itself. Enforcement of laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act is a function shared by the EPA and state environmental agencies. Not all states are equally enthusiastic about this responsibility.

Evidence of this can be found in the latest expansion of Violation Tracker consisting of more than 50,000 penalty cases my colleagues and I at the Corporate Research Project collected from state environmental regulators and attorneys general and just posted in the database. An analysis of the data is contained in a report titled The Other Environmental Regulators.

These cases include $21 billion in fines and settlements (limited to those of $5,000 or more) imposed against companies of all sizes, with the largest amounts coming in actions brought against BP in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

It should come as no surprise that the oil and gas industry accounts for much more in aggregate penalties — $8.2 billion – than any other sector of the economy. Utilities come in second with $6 billion. The worst repeat offender is Exxon Mobil, which was involved in 272 different cases with $576 million in total penalties. Those cases were spread across 24 different states.

That last number might have been even higher if all states were diligent about their enforcement duties. Instead, we found disparities that go beyond what might be expected from differences in size. There were unexpected results at both ends of the spectrum.

Given its reputation for being hostile to regulations, we were surprised that Texas turned out to have far more enforcement actions than any other state—over 9,500 since 2000. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Railroad Commission of Texas (which oversees pipelines and surface mining) may be cozy with industry when it comes to rulemaking and permitting, but they seem to be serious about enforcing regulations that are on the books.

At the bottom of the list are states such as Oklahoma and Kansas that appear to have brought only a tiny number of enforcement actions over the past 20 years. That is the conclusion we reached because the states post no significant enforcement case information on their websites and denied our open records requests for lists of cases. Little also turned up in news archive searches. It is difficult to believe that the many oil and gas operators in Oklahoma, for instance, hardly ever committed infractions.

Given that state environmental agencies are, to a great extent, enforcing federal laws, there should be much greater consistency in their oversight activities and their disclosure of those efforts.

Note: When using Violation Tracker you can locate state environmental cases by choosing one of the environmental listings in the Option 1 state agency dropdown, or you can do an Option 2 search that includes State as the Level of Government and Environmental Violation as the Offense Type.

Inconsistencies in State Environmental Disclosure

We all know that state governments vary greatly in their policies on a variety of issues. I just discovered the degree to which they also diverge in their willingness to disclose data on their implementation of those policies.

I learned this lesson in the course of gathering data from state environmental regulators across the country for a major expansion of the Violation Tracker database. Next week, my colleagues and I will post 50,000 new entries from those agencies along with a report analyzing the data.

This is the culmination of months of effort to collect data on state environmental enforcement actions over the past two decades. A few state agencies made the process easy by putting the case data on their websites in a form that could be downloaded or scraped.

Others post large archives of individual case documents, sometimes numbering in the thousands. Many agencies put no enforcement information at all on their sites.

This meant we needed to file open records requests—lots of them—for lists of cases with information such as company name, penalty amount, date, category and facility location. Given that some states have more than one environmental agency and some required that separate requests be sent to different divisions (air, water, hazardous waste, etc.), we ended up filing about 90 requests.

The good news is that nearly all states ultimately came through with some information. This was not always in our requested format (a spreadsheet) or time period (back to 2000), but we made the best of what was sent.

There were half a dozen denials, which fell into two main categories. Agencies such as CalRecycle and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation declined to provide lists of case details contained in documents posted on the site. In other words, they felt no obligation to make our data collection more convenient. We thus had to sift through hundreds of documents and create our own lists.

More troubling was the situation with agencies such as the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, which turned down our requests even though they provide no significant enforcement information on their websites. For these agencies, we checked non-official sources such as the Lexis-Nexis news archive and found references to a small number of cases.

Nearly all of the agencies that denied our open records requests based their rejection on the claim that providing the lists we were seeking would, in effect, require the creation of a new record, whereas their state transparency laws only obligated them to supply existing records.

This position is antithetical to the spirit of open records laws. It is especially troubling when it comes to information on environment enforcement, an area in which states are carrying out a function delegated to them by the federal government under laws such as the Clean Air Act.

Just as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency posts data (through ECHO) on the enforcement actions it carries out on its own, so should the state agencies partnering with EPA be fully transparent about their activities. That would mean not just responding favorably to open records requests for comprehensive data but also posting their enforcement data on the web, ideally in a standardized format.

Accessibility is an essential part of meaningful transparency. It should not be necessary to file 90 open records requests to discover how a key government function is being carried out.

Happy Sunshine Week.

EPA’s New Leadership Will Also Encourage More State Enforcement

The confirmation and swearing in of Michael Regan as administrator of the EPA creates an opportunity for the agency to repair the damage done during the Trump years. Part of that effort will be to change the dynamic between the EPA and state environmental regulators.

It is often forgotten that responsibility for enforcement of laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act is actually shared between the federal and state governments. I was reminded on this in the course of preparing the latest expansion of Violation Tracker, which will consist of more than 50,000 state-government environmental enforcement actions dating back to the beginning of 2000. The new data will be posted later in March along with a report examining the relative level of activity among the states.

Regan ran the Department of Environmental Quality in North Carolina, one of the agencies from which we collected data. The DEQ has brought around 1,500 successful enforcement actions over the past decade, putting it among the top ten states according to our tally, which is limited to cases in which a penalty of $5,000 or more was imposed.

The DEP and the North Carolina Attorney General have collected more than $950 million in fines and settlements, putting it among the top five states in terms of aggregate penalty dollars. North Carolina’s penalty total was boosted enormously by an $855 million settlement reached with Duke Energy earlier this year involving coal ash cleanup.

Regan is not the first state official to head the EPA. But consider the contrast with the person Donald Trump chose to be his first EPA administrator: Scott Pruitt, who had served as the attorney general of Oklahoma and who made a name for himself in that position by repeatedly suing the EPA to bring about regulatory rollbacks. Oklahoma, by the way, came in at the bottom of our tally of state enforcement caseloads.

Under Pruitt and his successor, the former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, the EPA backed away from aggressive enforcement in favor of voluntary compliance, which for many corporations is an invitation to ignore regulations. This not only affected enforcement work at the federal level but also encouraged a hands-off approach by the states that emboldened environmental scofflaws.

Fortunately, places such as North Carolina went their own way. Now that Regan is running the show at EPA, states will feel encouraged to pursue meaningful enforcement of the laws governing air, water and hazardous waste pollution. Maybe even Oklahoma will be inspired to change its ways.

Exxon’s Environmental Baby Steps

Exxon Mobil would have to be included in any list of the large corporations that have done the most environmental damage over the decades.

Part of the reason would be specific events, such as the 1989 accident in which the company’s supertanker Valdez went aground off the coast of Alaska and spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into the Prince William Sound, polluting more than 700 miles of shoreline. Although much of the guilt was laid to the captain of the vessel, who was intoxicated and away from his post at the time of the accident, Exxon was faulted for not acting quickly enough in dealing with the spill and for not adequately cooperating with state and federal officials.

Then there is the fact that Exxon was for many years one of the key corporate ringleaders in the climate denial effort. In 2015 Inside Climate News published an exhaustive expose on the company’s decades-long campaign, including the suppression of its own research showing the dangers of greenhouse gases and the associated financial risk.

Now, at long last, Exxon is changing its posture—a bit. The company has added a couple of directors with no previous ties to the fossil fuel industry, and its CEO is talking about the importance of carbon capture. In an interview with the New York Times, Darren Woods (photo) promised, as the newspaper put it, “that Exxon would try to set a goal for not emitting more greenhouse gases than it removed from the atmosphere, though he said it was still difficult to say when that might happen.”

It is frustrating to see Exxon take such tentative steps when the climate crisis is so dire and other companies such as General Motors with strong historic ties to fossil fuels are announcing much more ambitious initiatives.

Along with getting serious about climate change, Exxon needs to be a lot more diligent about basic environmental compliance. This has come home to me as I have been processing the data for a major expansion of Violation Tracker involving the addition of tens of thousands of cases from state government environmental agencies.

Exxon will end up high on the list of companies that have paid the most to states for violations of clean air, clean water, hazardous waste and other regulations. My preliminary calculation puts its total fines and settlements with state agencies at more than $540 million since 2000. That amount comes from more than 240 different cases in 22 states.

That total does not include a class action lawsuit brought in connection with the Exxon Valdez disaster. In 1994 a jury ordered the company to pay $5 billion in punitive damages to thousands of Alaskans but the company fought the award all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which slashed the damages to about $500 million.

I suppose it is progress that Exxon has abandoned its total refusal to acknowledge the issue of climate change, but it needs to do a lot more before it can be removed from the environmental rogues gallery.

The Opposite of Sustainability

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell is one of the many global corporations, especially those based in Europe, that profess to be devoted to sustainability in their operations. Shell claims that its commitment in this area dates back to 1997.

For most large corporations, these assertions of environmental virtue are dubious at best. In the case of Shell, they are especially far-fetched, given the company’s history in countries such as Nigeria.

In the early 1990s Shell began to face protests over its oil operations in Nigeria. In 1994 the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, then led by Ken Saro-Wiwa, began blockading contractors working on Shell’s facilities to bring attention to the large number of pipeline ruptures, gas flaring and other forms of contamination that were occurring in the Ogoniland region. The group described Shell’s operations as “environmental terrorism.”

The Nigerian government, a partner with Shell in the operations, responded to the protests with a wave of repression, including the arrest of Saro-Wiwa, who was hanged in 1995. Shell denied it was involved, but critics pointed to the role played by the company in supporting the military dictatorship. Protests against the company continued.

A lawsuit brought on behalf of the Saro-Wiwa family was later filed in U.S. federal court under the Alien Tort Claims Act. In 2009, just before a trial was set to begin, the company announced that as a “humanitarian gesture” it would pay $15.5 million to the plaintiffs to settle the case. By contrast, a 2011 United Nations estimated that an environmental cleanup of the Niger Delta would cost $1 billion and take 30 years.

A separate Alien Torts Claims case brought on behalf of the Ogoni people against Royal Dutch Shell in 2002 made its way through the U.S. legal system to the Supreme Court, which in 2013 ruled that the U.S. courts could not be used to bring claims against overseas acts by foreign companies.

Another case–this one brought by Friends of the Earth Netherlands and four Nigerian farmers–was filed in a Dutch court, alleging that spills from Shell pipelines damaged the livelihood of the farmers. The case, which represented the first time a Dutch multinational has been sued in the Netherlands for overseas activities, was mostly dismissed in 2013 but the plaintiffs persisted.

Recently the Hague Court of Appeal finally issued a decision on the case, ruling that Shell has to pay compensation to the farmers and install equipment to prevent future pipeline leaks. The amount of the compensation has yet to be determined.

It is unlikely that Shell, which generates more than $300 billion in annual revenue and ranked number 5 in the most recent Fortune Global 500 list, will have difficulty paying whatever the Dutch court mandates. Perhaps the bigger problem is that Shell has never acknowledged responsibility for the ecological damage and still insists that the leaks were caused by sabotage.

Until it fully owns up to its culpability for human rights and environmental damage in Nigeria, Shell has no business presenting itself as practitioner of sustainability.

Toxic Corporations

Given the Biden Administration’s focus on the climate crisis, the announcement by General Motors that it will transition to an all-electric fleet, and the growing emphasis on sustainability among institutional investors, one might be tempted to think the United States is embarking on an environmental rebirth.

Despite some good signs, it is worth remembering that many large corporations—including ones that tout green credentials—are still spewing vast amounts of dangerous emissions into the air, land and water. Perhaps the best reminders of this reality are the data compilations produced by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

PERI recently released the latest version of its Toxic 100 lists, which cover air, water and greenhouse gas emissions. The lists are based on data from the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory and its Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. The EPA publishes the data only for individual U.S. facilities, whereas PERI combines the emission amounts by parent company and thus reveals which large corporations account for the largest pollution shares. PERI’s approach is much like the one we use in Violation Tracker. It helps a lot that database wizard Rich Puchalsky of Grassroots Connection works on both projects.

There are a total of about 220 parent companies that appear on one or more of the three PERI lists. The Netherlands-based chemical company LyondellBasel Industries, which owns heavily polluting plants in Texas and other states, is at the top of the air list. Military contractor Northrop Grumman tops the water list, mainly because of the massive emissions at its subsidiary Alliant Techsystem’s facility in Virginia. The parent with the most greenhouse gas emissions is, ironically, Vistra Energy, which is heavily involved in renewable power generation and storage.

I was interested to see which corporations appeared on all three lists. I found that 16 firms have that dubious distinction. Not surprisingly, they include the country’s largest petroleum, chemical and steel producers.

Five of the group appear in the top 50 on each of the three lists: Dow Inc., Koch Industries, Berkshire Hathaway, ExxonMobil and Marathon Petroleum. Dow is the only one of these to be in the top ten of two different lists. It ranks fourth in water emissions and fifth in air emissions (as well as 44th in greenhouse gases). Koch Industries is in the top 25 of all three lists.

Dow’s position as the worst overall polluter comes as no surprise, given that the company has a toxic history that dates back decades and includes its notorious role in the production of napalm and Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Its reputation only worsened after its 2001 acquisition of Union Carbide, which refused to pay adequate compensation for the thousands of victims of the 1984 disaster at its pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. Dow was also embroiled in a major scandal involving faulty silicone breast implants.

The blots on Dow’s record are not all in the distant past. In 2019, for instance, it reached a $98 million settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, the State of Michigan and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe to restore areas damages by hazardous releases from Dow’s operations in Midland, Michigan.

You wouldn’t learn any of this background by reading the history section of the company’s website, which includes a page headlined “Sustainability from the Start: Dow’s Rich History of Environmental Stewardship.” As for the present, the site declares: “At Dow, we’re working to deliver a sustainable future for the world by connecting and collaborating to find new options for materials that make life better for everyone.”

This sort of greenwashing language is all too typical in the materials large corporations publish about themselves. PERI’s Toxic 100 shows that these companies have a long way to go before they can accurately depict themselves as paragons of environmental virtue.

Solving the Corporate Identity Crisis

Like the Republican Party, Corporate America is embroiled in a battle between its evil impulses and its better angels. Nowhere is this clearer than with regard to environmental policy.

On one side are the ESG proponents such as BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink, who according to the New York Times, is using his firm’s role as a massive institutional investor to pressure corporations to embrace sustainable practices. In his annual letter to companies, he called not just for vague aspirations but specific plans that are incorporated in long-term strategies and reviewed by boards of directors.

General Motors has just announced that it will phase out gasoline-powered cars and trucks and will sell only zero-emissions vehicles by 2035. The company will spend $27 billion developing about 30 types of electric vehicles.

At the same time, fossil fuel companies are going ballistic over the Biden Administration’s plan to suspend oil and gas leasing on federal lands, despite the fact that some 90 percent of exploration occurs on private property and is not affected by the executive order. Biden has also not called for a ban on fracking, despite allegations during the presidential campaign that this was his real plan.

The conflict within the business world was epitomized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which issued a press release that welcomed the Biden Administration’s focus on climate change while rejecting the leasing action.

There is also a corporate identity crisis with regard to employment practices, especially those in the high-tech sector. For many years, Silicon Valley companies had reputations as great places to work and were even accused of coddling their employees.

Now companies such as Amazon have replaced Walmart as the exemplars of bad employers. That image has intensified as groups of workers have begun to turn to collective action to address their concerns. Rather than embracing the right of employees to have a real voice at work, high-tech employers are adopting old-fashioned union-busting tactics. Amazon has even taken a move from the Donald Trump playbook by opposing mail-in voting during a representation election in Alabama.

The one clear lesson from the corporate inconsistencies is that ESG and other voluntary business practices are no substitute for strong government oversight. We should not have to wait until big business decides whether it really wants to help save the planet or will cling to fossil fuels as long as possible.

We should also not have to wait until giant companies decide whether they will treat their workers with respect or continue to regard them as little more than vassals.

It is thus encouraging that the Biden Administration is taking decisive action to restore effective regulation of both the environment and the workplace as well as areas such as consumer protection. Once agencies such as the EPA, the NLRB and the CFPB go back to enforcing the law in an aggressive manor, corporate ambivalence will become much less relevant and we can be confident that the entire private sector will feel pressured to do the right thing.

Trump’s Environmental Charade

When challenged about their climate denialism, President Trump and Vice President Pence tend to respond with a claim that the United States has the world’s cleanest air and water, thereby implying that their administration is doing a good job enforcing environmental regulations. Aside from being a separate issue from climate change, the claim is false in two ways: our air quality and water quality are far from the best, and enforcement has been on the decline.

The latter should come as no surprise, since regulation-bashing has been one of the hallmarks of the Trump Administration. It is one of the few areas in which traditional Republican values have been preserved.

Much of the administration’s focus has been on reversing the environmental initiatives of the Obama Administration, yet there has also been an erosion in the enforcement of longer-standing laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

The latest evidence of this comes in a new study by David Uhlmann of the Environmental Crimes Project at the University of Michigan Law School. The analysis, which has received prominent coverage in the New York Times, finds that during the first two years of the Trump Administration the number of criminal prosecutions under the Clean Water Act fell 70 percent and those under the Clean Air Act declined by more than 50 percent.

It should be noted that criminal prosecutions represent a small subset of environmental cases, the large majority of which are brought as civil matters. Criminal charges are often brought against individuals rather than corporate polluters, and they often involve specific offenses such as ocean dumping of hazardous wastes.

Uhlmann’s analysis is based on the number of cases and the number of defendants, which will differ given that some cases have multiple defendants. His findings are consistent with the data in Violation Tracker, where we focus more on the penalties paid by offenders, and we include civil as well as criminal cases.  

Our data shows that the total penalties (both fines and settlements) collected by the EPA and the Justice Department have been trending downward during the Trump years. In the period from 2009 to 2016, environmental penalties averaged over $7 billion a year, an amount boosted by major cases against corporations such as BP for the Deepwater Horizon disaster and Volkswagen for emissions cheating.

Penalties during the Trump Administration have averaged $974 million per year. The average would be much lower if not for the $1.5 billion settlement announced in September with Daimler for its emissions cheating. It is encouraging that this case was resolved during the current administration, but it is one of only a small number of mega-settlements reached over the past few years, and most of these represented the culmination of enforcement initiatives begun under the previous administration.

Thanks to career public servants in the EPA and the Justice Department, environmental enforcement has not disappeared during the Trump Administration. Yet the downward trend in penalties suggests that political appointees are probably thwarting more aggressive action against polluters.

Foreign-Owned Regulatory Violators Found Among PPP Recipients

The massive Paycheck Protection Program was depicted as a necessary measure to save American small businesses, yet the list of recipients of the forgivable loans released by the Treasury Department contains numerous companies that are neither small nor American.

These include firms such as Jindal Saw USA LLC and JSW Steel (US) Inc., two affiliates of the Jindal Group, a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate owned by one of India’s wealthiest families. JSW Steel’s investments in the United States have been touted by Donald Trump, though the company later sued the U.S. Commerce Department when it was denied permission to import steel from India without paying a steep tariff.

Continental Carbon Company, owned by Taiwan’s International CSRC Investment Holdings Company (formerly China Synthetic Rubber Corporation), received a PPP loan worth between $5 million and $10 million.

These are two examples that have emerged from an examination of the PPP recipient list my colleagues and I have been doing as part of the integration of the data into our Covid Stimulus Watch website. Here are some others:

Giti Tire Manufacturing (USA) Ltd and Giti Tire (USA) Ltd, subsidiaries of Singapore’s Giti Tire.

Sekisui Voltek, LLC, a subsidiary of Japan’s Sekisui Chemical.

The U.S. subsidiary of Korean Air Lines (owned by the Hanjin Group).

Asahi Forge of America Corporation, a subsidiary of Japan’s Asahi Forge.

It does not come as a complete surprise that foreign-owned companies appeared on the PPP list. There was discussion of this possibility at the time the program was debated and enacted.

The issue then was whether such entities would be eligible for the loans if they were part of foreign companies with a workforce that surpassed the PPP employee limits. The muddled guidance provided by the Trump Administration has apparently allowed funds to go to firms linked to foreign corporations that are far from small businesses.

Another concern has come to light as we match PPP recipients to the data my colleagues and I have assembled for our other database, Violation Tracker: some of these foreign companies getting PPP loans have a history of misconduct.

The U.S. operations of Jindal Group have paid more than $1.4 million in penalties, mostly resulting from workplace safety and health violations.

Continental Carbon has paid over $2 million in penalties, nearly all of which involved Clean Air Act violations. Giti Tire, Sekisui, and Asahi Forge have also paid penalties to OSHA and/or the EPA.

In 2007 Korean Air Lines had to pay a $300 million criminal fine to the U.S. Justice Department after pleading guilty to conspiring to fix the prices of passenger and cargo flights. In 2018 Hanjin Transportation Co. Ltd., also part of the Hanjin Group, paid more than $6 million to the Justice Department to resolve allegations relating to a bid-rigging conspiracy that targeted contracts to supply fuel to United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force bases in South Korea.

In creating the Paycheck Protection Program, Congress probably did not intend to provide assistance to entities that are owned by large foreign companies and that had a track record of repeated regulatory violations and other serious misconduct.

Now that there is consideration of extending and expanding PPP, the question is whether such companies will continue to benefit from the largesse of American taxpayers.

Getting Tough on Corporate Killing

The lead story on the front page of a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal was about the former chief executive of a Brazilian mining company not widely known in the United States. The Journal’s editors probably realized their readers would be shaken by the news that Fabio Schvartsman has been charged with homicide in the deaths of 270 people in a mining dam collapse last year.

The decision by prosecutors in the state of Minas Gerais to bring such charges against Schvartsman as well as other former executives at Vale SA shows the depth of anger in Brazil at the giant iron ore company over the accident in which a torrent of waste swept away people, submerged houses and created a large toxic wasteland (photo).

Vale and a German consulting company, five of whose officials were also hit with homicide charges, are alleged to have long known about a critical safety flaw in the tailings dam but failed to act.

Although Brazil does not have a death penalty or life sentences for civilian offenses, the filing of homicide charges against corporate executives is an aggressive measure that has rarely been applied in that country or anywhere else.

There are more precedents when it comes to corporate manslaughter, which is the idea that a business entity can be prosecuted for causing the death of employees or other persons. For example, in 2007 the United Kingdom enacted the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, though that law has not been enforced as rigorously as many advocates had hoped.

In the United States there is no such federal statute, though the principle of corporate criminal liability is well-established, and numerous companies have faced criminal charges, though they frequently end with deferred prosecution or non-prosecution agreements.

The Violation Tracker database has more than 1,600 criminal cases (compared to 395,000 civil matters). Many of these are financial in nature or involve violations of environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act that are deemed negligent or deliberate but usually don’t involve loss of life.

A much smaller number involve corporate killing, including notorious cases such as BP’s role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster or the Upper Big Branch disaster at a coal mine owned by Massey Energy.

In these matters, however, the corporations, as in civil cases, mainly paid financial penalties and their executives faced no personal liability. One exception was former Massey CEO Don Blankenship, who was convicted of conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards and was sentenced to a year in prison. Otherwise, the Justice Department has shown little interest in prosecuting corporate executives for environmental or workplace fatalities.

There has been a bit more of such activity at the local level, especially on the part of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. It has brought criminal charges against both companies and individuals in connection with workplace and other accidents. For example, in November 2019 a building owner, a plumber and a contractor were convicted of manslaughter by causing a 2015 explosion resulting from unauthorized natural-gas connections installed in a rental building.

Three years earlier, the Manhattan DA won a conviction against a construction supervisor accused of ignoring warnings about unsafe conditions on a building site that resulted in a fatal accident.

The approach of the Manhattan DA and the prosecutors in Brazil points to a promising way forward in the handling of corporate misconduct that results in serious harm or death. If they know they may end up behind bars for a long time, corporate executives and managers may become more serious about their responsibility to abide by health and safety laws.