The Great Conciliator is showing possible signs of growing a spine. Sources report that notorious financial firm Goldman Sachs and mine operator Massey Energy Company are being probed for potential criminal charges.

For far too long, Corporate America has had the privilege of paying fines to resolve the consequences arising from behavior that would be classified as criminal were it conducted by private citizens. Frequently, these fines are paid “without admitting guilt,” a technicality that permits corporations to use the fine as the basis for significant tax write-offs.

For many corporations, breaking the law is standard operating procedure, and paying fines is merely a business expense. A few prominent examples include Merril Lynch, Virgin, Massey, AIG (2003, 2004 and 2006), Bank of America and so on. Corporate management and board members face little to no exposure for the implementation of misdeeds they direct; in response to public outrage, a wayward executive frequently receives a publicly announced termination coupled with a discrete six-figure “golden parachute” separation bonus.

The genuine possibility of criminal charges is needed to restore accountability and decency back into the boardrooms of Corporate America. CEOs like Massey head Don “Big D” Blankenship and Goldman Sachs boss Lloyd “Cash Money” Blankfein need to be investigated and, if necessary, tried for their offenses. I’d love to see the insidious and frightening power of the RICO Act imposed upon these vultures, but I’d be willing to settle for some Arthur Andersen style treatment.

The Obama Administration is far from perfect, but it must be lauded for these initial “baby steps” and encouraged to go further.

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