Keith Obermann on Tort Reform’s influence on corporate behavior, including BP.

The 6/7/10 edition of Countdown with Keith Olbermann (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036677/#37581966) focused on the effect of Tort Reform on corporate behavior, specifically BP. Keith cited secret company documents that said BP has for years rewarded “dangerous cost cutting” in a regulatory environment that posed little danger to Big Oil because of limits to their legal liability. In addition to greed and relaxed oversight, we can add Tort Reform to the list of how we got here [in an economic recession].

Senator Durban challenged a BP employee who said that without limits to liability they couldn’t afford to drill for oil. “I happen to believe that if you’re engaged in drilling, which carries and can carry this level of damage; it carries with it a responsibility that you accept liability for the damage. If you cannot accept that liability, stage the Hell out of the business." Keith also cited a PBS and Propublica report that said liability caps promoted shortcuts at BP, including neglecting equipment, faking inspections, and punishing those who raised concerns. Cutting corners, the report said, is what got you promoted.

Next on the program was Christopher Jones, a lawyer and brother of one of the men killed by the BP accident. After showing and describing photos of his brother and orphaned nephews, he slammed the BP CEO for saying he was trying hard and “wanted his life back.” Jones tearfully said he wanted his brother’s life back.

BP said today that it would create a Wildlife Fund from the revenues it receives from the oil it has recovered so far. That’s the moral equivalent of pledging that the after-tax profits from a string of armed robberies would be used to compensate the victims of those robberies.

MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe spoke about the need for President Obama to make some sort of address to the nation but not in a typically pristine White House fashion. He said Republicans blame a regulatory failure that allowed BP to drill in the first place, but at the same time they want less regulation. [How can you have it both ways?] Less regulation is an ideology that Republicans have promoted for two decades as a way to free up business freedom and risk taking. He acknowledged that there’s a direct connection with that deregulation philosophy and ideology and BP’s behaviors.

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