BUSINESS
09/19/2012 12:17 pm ET Updated Nov 19, 2012

Presidential Candidate's Commitment To Tackling Corporate Wrongdoing Key, Americans Say

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

BOSTON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - With less than two months to go before the U.S. presidential election, a new survey found 61 percent of Americans say a candidate's commitment to rooting out corporate wrongdoing will be key in deciding who gets their vote.

Along with keen interest in knowing each candidate's plans to fix the struggling economy, voters want government to do more to fight corporate misconduct - which they say helped cause the financial crisis.

"In these difficult economic times, Americans are mad as hell about corporate wrongdoing and are going to do something about it in the November elections and beyond," said Jordan Thomas, a partner at law firm Labaton Sucharow, which commissioned the survey and which represents corporate whistleblowers.

A telephone poll of 1,015 people conducted from Aug. 16-19 found that 64 percent of Americans said corporate misconduct helped bring about the current economic crisis.

And 81 percent of respondents said the government has not done enough to stop corporate wrongdoing.

Labaton Sucharow will release the findings later Wednesday.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who made a fortune running private equity firm Bain Capital and served as governor of Massachusetts, is campaigning to replace Democrat Barack Obama as president in what pollsters are calling a very tight presidential race.

Voters have been outraged by disclosures that banks forged documents to foreclose on homeowners, financial firms packaged risky mortgages into bonds that were improperly rated triple-A, and international banks manipulated LIBOR, a key international lending rate.

The survey's release coincides with the first anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

A year after the demonstrations began, Americans remain angry about the influence of Wall Street money on politics, with 77 percent of respondents saying they believe politicians favor corporate interests over constituent interests.

Some 63 percent of Americans believe government should make more money available to regulators and law enforcement to eliminate corporate wrongdoing.

"Americans have sounded the alarm," said Labaton senior partner Thomas Dubbs. "To meaningfully repair the economy, restore public faith in the markets and hold wrongdoers accountable, we need a strong partnership between individuals, corporate entities and government," he added.

In 2011, U.S. financial regulators opened a so-called whistleblower office to encourage individuals to report wrongdoing in the workplace.

Labaton, which established a whistleblower practice more than a year ago, said this year's survey found the commitment to speak up has grown - with 83 percent saying they would report wrongdoing, compared with 78 percent a year ago. (Reporting By Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)