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Wealth by Stealth: Corporate Law, Corporate Crime and the Perversion of Democracy

by Harry Glasbeek

In a world where corporate names like Enron and Arthur Andersen have become synonymous with greed, fraud, and illegality, there is still little structural analysis on how yesterday’s dot-com glamour boys become today’s subpoenaed congressional witnesses. Wealth by Stealth goes a long way toward bridging that gap by demonstrating how corporate capitalism’s latest credibility problems are not so much an aberration as a symptom of a systemic problem.

Corporate lawyer and York University lecturer Harry Glasbeek meticulously argues that the economic structure of capitalism, along with its core business units, is doomed to a repetitive cycle that elicits the worst sides of human behaviour. He also shows the ways in which courts and governments fail to provide a buffer between corporations and citizens, rather acting as aiders and abettors of malfeasance.

Glasbeek uses dozens of case studies – from the legendary exploding Ford Pinto to the Westray mine disaster – to bolster his case. Many of the anecdotes are jaw-dropping in both their sheer brazenness and the fact that guilty corporate heads are rarely held to account. And as Glasbeek clearly shows, petty thieves are punished far more severely than those who steal millions from vulnerable seniors or who knowingly market dangerous products.

Parts of the book get weighed down with the drier, legal aspects of corporate law. While these are necessary to his argument, Glasbeek occasionally writes as if he has a captive lecture audience who need the course credit. Readers unfamiliar with corporate shenanigans need to brave the sometimes awkward and legalistic introductory chapters; the wading is well worth it.