With all the justifiable anger about the BP oil spill, some people want to see BP just “go out of business.”  While gratifying at some level, at least for a few minutes, I don’t think that would be the most effective thing in terms of business as a whole learning a lesson from this.  It would also penalize a lot of “little people” — people who have investments in BP, if only indirectly through mutual funds and, yes, pension funds and the like.

I believe the best thing is that a number of top executives and any others who made key decisions to shortcut safety procedures (and we know there were such shortcuts despite the huge risks) be fired and, most importantly, not walk away with any golden parachutes or the like.  I also think that at least some of them should be subject to criminal process, and if guilty, fined a very substantial amount of their net worth.

There is no such thing as a “corporate decision”.  All decisions in a corporation are made by individuals based on what they think will come out of it.  Only when the individuals in power know that they themselves will suffer for decisions that damage society, including perhaps spending a long time in jail, will they stop making such decisions.

It’s the same with the big bankers.  They caused massive damage to the economic well-being of millions of people, but with very few exceptions, still have boatloads of money from all their bonuses.  Therefore, given the chance, they will do it again.