All the major features of Purdue's handling of OxyContin conform to similar acts of corporate fraud perpetrated in recent years. Still the story is peculiar in some key respects. Many times corporate fraud originates in some fairly innocent business model. Not so with OxyContin, a dubious affair from the start.
When is someone at General Motors going to go to prison for the lives lost thanks to their cheating? Or Toyota? And although we may not be able to count the bodies today, we know that Volkswagen's cheating harms the environment, and that the dirtier air for which they are responsible will cut lives short.
You know the statistic. We incarcerate a higher proportion of the population than any other country does. Hundreds of thousands of young, now aging, men, are doing hard time for possession of small amounts of drugs. More and more people find themselves in jail because they got caught with bench warrants for their arrest for exorbitant fines they could not afford to pay. More than a century after debtors prisons were abolished, thousands are again behind bars because of debts. But one category of felon is free on the street. I refer, of course, to corporate criminals. Consider the case of a checkout clerk at Walmart who puts her hands in the till and walks off with a couple of hundred bucks of the company's money. That clerk could expect to face prosecution and jail. Now consider her boss, who cheats her of hundreds of dollars of pay by failing to accurately record the time she clocked in, or the overtime she worked.