The corporate manslaughter act came into being in 2007, 21 years after The Herald tragedy. In 11 years, there have been 25 companies convicted, none of them big.
As I wrote yesterday, justice bends to the rich and the way these companies get away with it is well-established now.
- Send out statements of condolences
- Refuse to comment on culpability until ‘all the facts come out’
- Impede any investigation/inquiry as much as possible
- Where blame has to be taken, try and shift it to others (like the firefighters or the residents in the case of Grenfell)
- Use the best lawyers money can buy and sow enough doubt to be acquitted
- Promise to ‘learn lessons’
- Make a small donation to some charity
- If a law is to be introduced in response to their criminality, make sure their lobbyists get it watered down
- Rinse. Lather. Repeat
I cannot objectively write about Grenfell. It’s still too raw. Instead I wanted to write a short play about a fictional boardroom that is informed that there has been a tragedy that they are potentially implicated in. I hope you enjoy it
Imagine the scene. A boardroom. Four men in ill-fitting but expensive suits. One woman who is there to take notes. It’s the end of the week meeting and they are discussing the last items on the agenda. Dennis and Clive went to a top university together and started the company in their early twenties. Tony went to the same university and was recommended to the company by an old school friend of Dennis’s. David is new to management, having worked his way up. All of them are ruthless operators.
Dennis: So we are all agreed, the costs of the high capacity pumps as well as lights indicating when bow doors are closed were prohibitively expensive. The proposal for their installation is therefore rejected, although if the captains of the fleet wish to present a more cost-effective proposal, we would of course look at that. (The trace of a knowing smirk plays on the corners of the lips of the men in the room). (Turning to Clive) As it’s the end of the year, Clive is going to briefly take us through the headline figures.
Clive: And what a year it has been, gents! Through necessary labour restructuring and maintaining a needed wage freeze, we have managed to streamline operations and profits are 7% above expectations. And that means…
David and Tony, in unison: Bonuses!
Clive, smiling indulgently: Thank you gentleman. As a matter of fact, I have budgeted for a small get together this evening, that is, if we can decide on where we want to go…
Dennis: I’ve made an executive decision on that. We’ll get drinks in Mayfair before heading to SoHo. Last one there has to pay for the strippers…
(There’s a pause where they look at Liz, before uproarious laughter)
Dennis: Hilarious, Clive. (Turning to Liz) That’s everything, Liz. Can you get those notes typed up before close of play? Have a good weekend and I’ll see you on Monday.
There is what seems to be a respectful hush as Liz leaves. The men watch her go, feigning nonchalance whilst (they believe) subtly looking her up and down
David: I’ve said it before…
Tony, cutting in: We all have, David, but I’m telling you she’s frigid.
David: How’d you know, eh? Try it on and get rejected?
Tony, with good humour: Piss off!
There follows some good-natured and decidedly misogynistic joking. Whilst the chatter is indistinct, the hand motions and gyrations make it clear that they are talking sex and women.
Enter Liz, flustered
Liz, looking at Dennis: Mr Parsons, sir, there has been…well…there’s (she is struggling to get her words out)
Dennis, annoyed at being interrupted, has lost much of his bonhomie: Get it out, for goodness sake!
Liz: Well, sir…it’s “The Enterprise”. It’s…well…it’s capsized sir
All hint of joking stops. For a moment there is stunned silence
Clive: David, call HR and get them to craft a statement. Make sure the usual stuff is in there. Tragedy…now is a time for reflection…we’re all in shock…thoughts and prayers. David is stunned and seems rooted to the spot. David! HR now!
Dennis: Tony, call ‘Booth and Wilkes’. I want them over here now, briefing the floor managers and captains on what they can and cannot say. No one speaks to anyone with a recording device until the lawyers have spoken to them!
Tony: On it.
Tony and David rush out.
Clive, to Liz: Liz, make sure when you type those notes up, you include that the captain’s had failed to make a compelling argument as to how those pumps and lights would have increased safety beyond current levels
Liz: But sir, you didn’t…
Clive: Dammit, Liz! People have lost their lives. I do not have the time or the patience to argue with you so just do as I say.
Dennis turns on the TV. There is a special report that is highlighting that the number of fatalities is 45 and climbing. Clive has taken out a very expensive bottle of whiskey and two tumblers. He pours a generous measure for himself and Dennis.
Clive: Heads will need to roll for this, Den.
Dennis: You’re right. We’ll need to see what the lawyers say and how many have died.
Clive: What is needed are a number of large gestures.
Clive: Well, the captain of the ship has to face responsibility…
Dennis: Absolutely! The buck stops with him!
Clive: We’ll also pay for a memorial, plant a tree, get some singers and a bishop, full works.
Dennis: I like getting a bishop, they don’t charge as much as celebrities.
Clive: Good point.
Dennis: I think when it all settles down, we get the cameras out and show the ship being sent off to scrap. Subconsciously, people will think it was the ship’s fault.
Clive: I like your thinking.
Dennis: Last one, and I know it’ll be a wrench, but I think we have to rename the company…
Clive, interrupting and sounding petulant: But Den…
Dennis: I know, I know, it really is the worst thing, but you know better than anyone what a rebrand can lead to. More streamlining – we can make people reapply for their jobs and offer less money. This will allow us to actually increase our profit margins and outbid our rivals for the same contracts. It’s a win-win.
Clive, slightly mollified: Fine. But losing our name…that is the real tragedy…
They clink their whiskey’s together and drink as scene fades to black