My name is Clint Cohen. I want to be the hero of conservatives, neoconservatives, Ronald Reagan fans of all ages, all those who think the law coddles criminals. I have a new movie for you. It's called "Custard 44" and in it I go outside the law to hold corporate executives accountable for their misdeeds. This is going to make your day.
First on my list are the top officers of General Dynamics. Pow! I pie 'em. This is the third-largest defense contractor. It gave almost $68,000 in improper gratuities to Adm. Hyman G. Rickover and it also overcharged the government something like $75 million. This is the same outfit that asked the taxpayers to pay for the boarding of a dog at a kennel and allegedly issued a false press release about the completion date of a contract. Pow! Pow!
For these and other irregularities, the Defense Department's inspector general, Joseph H. Sherick, recommended that the chairman of General Dynamics, David S. Lewis, and two other corporate officers be suspended from doing any business with the Navy. That would be in line with the apparently outrageous notion that since corporations are run by people, then people ought to be held responsible for what corporations do. This is why people and not cars are ticketed for drunk driving. Lewis indicated agreement with that. He resigned.
Not so Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. He overruled the inspector general and instead fined General Dynamics $676,283, cancelled two contracts and ordered the megacorporation to go into a corner and not come out until it had a "rigorous code of ethics" for its officers. Without such a code, it apparently would never occur to these executives that it is wrong to cheat the taxpayer.
In "Custard 44," I do nothing at first. I let the audience stew. I want it to get mad. I show the executives going back to their offices, stone-faced and somber. Then they close the door, slap their knees and exclaim, "Rigorous code of ethics? What's that?" And then, after one of the executives says, "Have the government fly my dog here for the weekend," they all break up laughing. It's then that I put my considerable shoulder to the door and break it down: Pow! Pow! The pies fly.
Next I move on E.F. Hutton. Here is a corporation that pleaded guilty to 2,000 counts of fraud. It wrote billions of dollars worth of checks against deposits that had not yet been collected by its banks -- doing to the banks what the banks do to us all the time. It used the float. No matter. This was still a crime but -- guess what? -- again it was the corporation that did it all on its own. Not a single executive was named, indicted, fined, jailed or even (as with Rickover) sent a letter of reprimand I spring into action. Pow! Pow! Pow! -- the pies fly thick and fast.
I stalk the city. I move on General Electric which pleaded guilt for cheating the government on defense contracts and I find the executives responsible. Pow! Pow! -- custard all the way. I go to corporations whose executives yell and scream about welfare deadbeats but whose companies have not paid a cent in taxes despite billions in profits. Pow! Pow!
Namby-pamby conservatives and other squeamish types complain. They demand something called due process and repeatedly mutter the phrase "innocent until proven guilty." But I remind them of how they cheered me on when I was going after street criminals.
In "Custard 44" my work is never done. For a fistful of dollars, some corporate executives will do anything. They'll pollute the environment. They'll cheat the government and, worse yet, the banks. They'll launder money, kite checks and make kids think that classy ladies and rugged men smoke cigarettes. I have a lot of people to pie. It's rough work, but somebody's got to do it.
God knows, the Reagan administration won't.