I had considered this but everything stacks against it. Disclaimer: I am not a class action, corporate law expert, but the following is my informed (for what it is worth, I have a J.D.) opinion:
Most corporations will use any means available to limit liability (they can afford an entire floor dedicated to in-house legal). Furthermore, the laws where incorporated are usually what apply in state suits (with various exceptions). Most corporations incorporate in Delaware, where they have carved out for themselves a pro-business shelter. More than half a million business entities have their legal home in Delaware including more than 50% of all U.S. publicly-traded companies and 60% of the Fortune 500. It is a small state, with a small populace and much of its money comes from those very corporations, so it maintains very business-friendly legislation.
Of course, state class action cases are few and far between because the Class Action Fairness Act prevents certification of many classes and makes it easy for corporations to bring the suit to Federal Court, where corporations are heavily favored. In the 1990s, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a number of decisions which strengthened the “federal policy favoring arbitration”. In response, lawyers have added provisions to consumer contracts of adhesion called “collective action waivers”. In 1999 the National Arbitration Forum began advocating that such contracts should be drafted so as to force consumers to waive the right to a class action completely, and such provisions have become very popular among businesses. In the 2011 court case AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 preempts state laws that prohibit contracts from disallowing class action lawsuits, which will make it more difficult for consumers to file class action lawsuits.
First and foremost, in order to bring any legal claim, you have to have standing. So for securities claims, you have to be part of the class of shareholders. As a consumer, you have to prove causal injury. To have standing as a class, you have to have commonality of issue (similar injury, similar redress sought). It is hard to find an attorney willing to take on the risk and time associated with bringing a class action suit of this caliber.
If you can prove standing, you next have to link a corporation’s involvement/actions to an actionable offense under the law. Good luck. The most affective strike would be against the head/heart, i.e. the holding companies. However, it is rarely the holding company with dirty hands. Corporate limited liability allows stockholders to create a protective veil, limiting personal liability. Furthermore, many corporations create subsidiaries that are legally separate, though controlled by, the holding company. That means that a corporation can, in practice, create “shell” subsidiaries to do their dirty work and then limit liability to those subsidiaries. Technically, activities like this should pierce the corporate veil, but corporations get away with this all the time. Stockholders are insolated from claims, subsidiaries are often created and sacrificed, and then on with business as usual. Unless we can prove a direct link to insidious actions from on high (i.e. a memo from the CEO or CFO or some other evidence linking the parent to some actionable offense or exposing the subsidiary as a shell (undercapitalized)) this is a difficult task to accomplish, especially when you are up against a powerful entity with money, lawyers and politicians lining their pockets.
Congress and conservative judges have made it really hard for consumers to bring class action suits against corporations. Even if, as an individual, you have standing to sue, getting a class certification is tough.
There are citizen suits permitted under many environmental laws. However, even then, we have to prove we have suffered an “injury in fact” - a violation of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) “actual or imminent, not ‘conjectural’ or ‘hypothetical.’” We also have the burden to prove there is a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of - the injury has to be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant, and not the result of the independent action of some third party. Lastly, we must show that it’s likely, as opposed to merely “speculative,” that the injury will be “redressed by a favorable decision.” This isn’t money into the hands of people, but usually the discontinuance of some harmful activity (i.e. an injunction rather than an award of damages). Furthermore, their lobbying efforts have chipped away at the laws that protect us from many of these egregious actions. Regulations have been lifted or now contain loopholes.
This is why people want Citizens United overturned. We need new legislation that will limit monopoly power, increase corporate liability/responsibility to allow people to continue to sue corporations for murder, human rights violations, fraud, etc., but to remove personhood status in terms of campaign donations, etc. Because corporations enjoy this status, they can buy politicians, thus enabling them to further influence beneficial legislation and appointments.
The system allows for this corruption. THAT is the problem. Until we make that illegal, corporations can continue to buy out our government. How do we make that illegal? Petition our government. Yes, that’s right, the same government that has been bought by corporations. The same government that ignores petitions, letters, and voter promises. So we petition in public spaces using our voices and our bodies. As we have already witnessed, we are silenced, beaten, and arrested.
So then…what next?
1. We must amend the Constitution - get Citizens United overturned. End corporate lobbying power. Get money out of congress. This is no small task. (http://www.usconstitution.net/constam.html#process) This has ALWAYS been done through Congress (the very group we are trying to limit money flow to…do you think they will be eager to promote this move)? Thus, we must either support Bernie Sanders’s amendment or the never before used option of convention of states.
2. Petition so long and so visibly on congress’ front lawn that the People’s will cannot continue to be ignored without also dropping the facade of serving the People. Congress will either bow to the People’s will, or they will cause a revolution.
3. Short of a revolution, on a long term basis, we must get incumbents out of house and senate. We must clean house. All House Reps are up for re-election every two years and 1/3 of senate every two years. If we cannot impeach, we must vote out. We need to pick outside candidates who do not have a history of getting into bed with moneybags.
4. Make it possible to have a legit multi-party race. Given the developing format of information dissemination, runners should not need to spend millions on campaigns. We should plan for televised debates, where the money goes equally to all nominees and each have the same amount of time to win us over. . We already do this with presidents. Now we just need more direct control over who gets nominated. It shouldn’t be whoever can afford the most ads.
Did You Know That…
Benjamin Franklin, in a speech to delegates to the US Constitutional Convention prior to the final vote, on 17 September 1787, said, “[The U.S. Constitution] is likely to be administered for a course of years and then end in despotism … when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.”
The pro-fascist leaders of J.P. Morgan, US Steel, Remington Arms, and Standard Oil all joined the DuPont family in plotting a military coup against President F.D.Roosevelt in 1933. Twice decorated Major General Smedley Butler testified before the McCormack Dickstein Congressional Committee in 1934 that a cabal of pro-fascist Wall Street financiers had approached him to lead the coup. The Committee confirmed Butler’s testimony, but deleted extensive excerpts from their report relating to the above and other corporations.
Lawrence Summers, as Chief Econonomist for the World Bank, in a leaked memo, December 12,1991, wrote of the “impeccable economic logic” of dumping the West’s “health impairing” toxic waste in “under polluted” Africa, because the resultant cancers wouldn’t have time to develop in a population with such a low life expectancy. Brazil’s Environment Minister, Jose Lutzenburger, wrote to Summers that his proposal was “perfectly logical but totally insane”. Lutzenburger was fired for writing the letter. Summers went on to greater things, initially as Treasury Secretary in the final 18 months of the Clinton administration, and now as Barak Obama’s Chair of the National Economic Council.
And why were our forefathers concerned about separation of church and state? Because back then one of the largest non-governmental threats for abuse of power were religious corporations called churches.
Mayor Bloomberg looks like ever more the hypocrite for using “health and hygiene hazards” as his spurious pretext for the violent police action against the #occupy protests in Zuccotti Park. When you contrast his fraudulent and unsupportable statement with (1) the fact that he has no track record of or prior interest in addressing health issues in NYC, and (2) the massive scale of the environmental damage perpetrated by British Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, Monsanto and the other corporations against whose practices we are protesting … Bloomberg looks like he’s full of shit.
You had to go for the cookie, didn’t you. You had them right where you wanted them, then you went for the handout. Do you know how many sessions of Congress you’ll have to wait before the Keebler bill gets approved? You’re living in a dream world you idealistic pinko! Anyway, here’s a great example of how the whitehouse.gov’s Create a Petition feature can be a fun new way to let your government officials know that you hate them.