About Corporate Rap Sheets
The Corporate Rap Sheet dossiers are meant to continue the practice of tabulating corporate misbehavior that began with Edwin Sutherland’s 1949 book White Collar Crime, which was updated by Marshall Clinard and Peter Yeager’s 1980 work Corporate Crime.
Around the same time as the latter work, Milton Moskowitz, Michael Katz and Robert Levering published Everybody’s Business: The Irreverent Guide to Corporate America, which shifted from statistical summaries of corporate misconduct to profiles of the track records of individual companies. They compiled their information with the help of two pioneering research organizations: the Data Center and the Council on Economic Priorities, both of which also produced a great deal of background information on companies for activist groups and corporate accountability organizations. Similar work also appeared in the pages of Multinational Monitor, which was founded by Ralph Nader and his associates in 1978, and Corporate Crime Reporter, a newsletter published by Russell Mokhiber since 1987.
Philip Mattera, producer of the Corporate Rap Sheets, sought to continue the tradition of critical corporate profiles in his 1992 book World Class Business: A Guide to the 100 Most Powerful Global Corporations.
By the mid-1990s, corporate backgrounding had moved to the internet. The website Hoover’s began providing handy profiles of companies, though its focus was not on misconduct. The latter was emphasized much more on the website CorpWatch, which in 1996 began publishing articles, corporate profiles and other material on giant corporations. In 2007 CorpWatch, along with the Corporate Research Project and the Center on Corporate Policy, launched Crocodyl, a site designed to be a Wikipedia-type collection of critical profiles of major corporations from around the world. Crocodyl continued that effort for several years but because of funding problems ceased adding new content in 2011. (Some of the Corporate Rap Sheets draw from profiles I wrote for Crocodyl in the period 2008-2010 but have been thoroughly updated.)
In 2002 the Project On Government Oversight launched the Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, which documents litigation and regulatory violations involving the 100 largest contractors to the U.S. government. The Corporate Rap Sheets site overlaps somewhat with the excellent POGO database, but our coverage is not limited to cases with formal findings of guilt or settlements, and our range of companies goes beyond those doing the most business with the federal government. Creating an official federal government official version of the POGO database is the intention of the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System, but the content of FAPIIS is still quite limited.
Other sources of critical background information on corporations include: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Center for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), Endgame, Sourcewatch’s Global Corp Wiki and Transnationale.
The Corporate Rap Sheets project hopes to build on this tradition by providing detailed, readable and up-to-date dossiers on the giant corporations that wield so much power in today’s world.
Corporate Rap Sheets are written by Philip Mattera, who heads the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First and publishes the Dirt Diggers Digest, a blog on corporate misconduct. This website is a work in progress; new rap sheets will be added on a regular basis.