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Cafe Society to discuss the role of corporations in society

By Staff | Sep 30, 2016

The Cafe Society’s next session on Oct. 4 will focus on the increasingly unconstrained role that corporations play in financial and legal aspects of society and the extent to which they appear to be able to ignore ethical standards and mores as well. They seem to be above the law, and it was seen during the 2008 financial crisis, in the case of AIG and major auto companies, “too big to be allowed to fail.”

The sensational news about predatory practices of Wells Fargo in secretly creating unauthorized bank accounts in order to artificially bolster their bottom line is a case in point, but unfortunately, not all that unique. When the adverse implications of the controversial 2010 Supreme Court “Citizens United Decision” are added in, there is a basis for a good discussion.

These informal weekly Cafe Society sessions, part of the Shepherd University Life Long Learning Program, are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every Tuesday in the Rumsey Room of the SU Student Center. There are no fees or registration requirements.

Facilitator Mike Austin said, “U.S. corporations certainly aren’t going to go away any time soon. In fact they are growing in number and complexity. They are an indelible part of our basic economic structure and influence many aspects of our way of life. However, they are becoming increasingly hard to live with as they struggle to survive and prosper in the globalized economy of today. As consumers of their goods and services, we have little influence on their programs and procedures. In fact they intentionally distance themselves from us in order to simplify management and cut costs. They deliberately live and operate in a different world separated by legal doctrines, separate accounting and tax rules and “business ethics” that bear no relation to the image they portray in their ad campaigns and publicity programs. Wells Fargo Bank is in the spot light at the moment, but if responsible people in governmental position charged with monitoring them have been listening (and that includes state and federal regulators) the WFC case should not be considered as something new or exceptional. To survive corporations have to set and meet financial goals set by them, but monitored by financial analysts on Wall Street. The old term, “patient capital” has perished as a result of predatory raiders who consider any corporation not “in the black” each fiscal quarter as vulnerable and a likely target. Thus the intense pressured to set, and meet impressive goals which demonstrate the health and success of the corporation.

“All too often it cannot be objectively measured since we have to essentially rely on the information that the corporation itself provides.”

The Vietnamese had a saying, ‘when the elephants struggle, the grass gets trampled.’ In this case we are the grass.”