Once in a while you read something which doesn’t just confirm your instinct, it informs it. That happened to me bigtime today. Blogger Viridis Lumen has a post on this very sad story. The undertaker at the heart of this heartless event was our old friend Dignity plc, the company spawned by the vile, scandal-ridden Service Corporation International. And this is what Viridis Lumen has to tell us about plc’s:
Under corporate governance law, including after New Labour’s botched reforms in the middle of the last decade, PLC’s have one sole objective – to maximise the financial return for their shareholders. Any deviation from this by their Officers potentially breaks the law.
In his book and film, “The Corporation”, Joel Bakan explores the legal fiction, common to most of the western world, that allows PLC’s to claim the same legal status as human beings – a PLC is an artificial or legal personality. This ludicrous state of affairs provides all manner of protection for the entity, including being able to claim the right to privacy in its dealings. It also shelters the actual real humans who own shares and benefit from its profits and dividends from any adverse legal and financial consequences from its actions. If it does not pay its suppliers, they are personally immune from its liabilities. If it commits ecocide or manslaughter as a result of bad practices and is sued, they are not financially accountable if it cannot pay its damages. If its officers, driven relentlessly to maximise financial returns for their shareholders, break the law in doing so, it is they who face prosecution, not the often faceless shareholders whom they serve.
Here’s the big insight (my bold):
Consequently, Bakan characterises the Corporate Personality as essentially psychopathic in its essence – it operates in a totally egocentric, self-interested fashion without conscience or regard for the impact of its actions on individuals, communities, other species or the environment. Beyond those it needs to satisfy its insatiable demand for profits, it has no care for its staff and discards them as soon as they are surplus to requirements.
Though a plc may have working for it people who are altruistic, the same values can never be embodied by a plc: “as corporate entities, such benevolent behaviours would be quite inimical to their purpose.”
There’s a good story confirming just this over at the MyLastSong blog.
I’m sure there’s a case to be put in favour of plc’s. I hope someone will supply it.
Find the excellent Viridis Lumen here.