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Read the three cases and answer the questions that follow each case

Question 1: What is your reaction to the impact that one lie had on the emergence and formation of the modern corporation? To what extent is this relevant today?

Question 2: Have you seen one or more of each of the three kinds of managers (moral, amoral and immoral) in your career? Share your experience and observations in the context of Carroll’s model. To what extent do you believe, is the article’s use of the words “moral manager” and the term “responsible executive” synonymous, opposite or mutually exclusive?

Question 3: What is your response to Wolfe’s thesis concerning the nature and importance of apologies in corporate life? Share your perspective on whether a capacity for apology might be a necessary competence for the contemporary executive?

♦♦♦
EDITORS’ SPECIAL
Corporations, Democracy, and the Public Good
STEPHEN R. BARLEY
Stanford University
Organizational theorists have had much to say about how environments affect organizations but have said relatively little about how organizations shape their environment.
This silence is particularly troubling, given that organizations, in general, and corporations, in particular, now wield inordinate political power. This article illustrates three
ways in which corporations can undermine representative democracy and the public
good: promoting legislation that benefits corporations at the expense of individual citizens, the capturing of regulatory agencies by those whom the agencies were designed to
regulate, and the privatization of functions that have historically been the mandate of
local, state, and federal governments.
Keywords: privatization; lobbying; private military firms
T
en years ago, Bob Stern and I published a short
article in the Administrative Science Quarterly
entitled, “Organizations and Social Systems: The
Neglected Mandate.” Our agenda was to encourage
the students of organizations to pay more attention to
the role organizations, in general, and corporations, in
particular, play in our society. “Organizations have not
only become prominent actors in society,” we wrote,
“they may have become the only kind of actor with significant cultural and political influence” (Stern &
Barley, 1996, p. 148). We also suggested that the intersection between corporations and government would
be a fruitful area for organization studies to explore:
So powerful have large corporations become that
their decisions affect the welfare of entire states and
nations. Democracy itself has increasingly become
the province of organized action. Although officials
are still elected by a plebiscite, elections are disproportionately financed by organizations to which
candidates must appeal for support. Battles over legislation are fought by an army of lobbyists employed
by organizations claimed to represent the interests of
groups of citizens. (p. 147)
Today, I’d like to return to this theme and to the
concerns that Bob and I shared. Specifically, I want to
raise the possibility that the shift to an organizational
or, better yet, a corporate society has placed representative democracy as outlined in the Constitution
of the United States in jeopardy. I will confine my
remarks to the United States because it is the system
I know best. I suspect, however, that similar developments are occurring elsewhere. The place to begin,
as in all debates—whether one-sided or not—is with
definitions.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The author is indebted to George Levitte and Meredith Carpenter, both Stanford undergraduates, who
served as his research assistants during the summer of 2006. They ferreted out and assembled much of the raw material on
which this article relies.
JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT INQUIRY, Vol. 16 No. 3, September 2007 201-215
DOI: 10.1177/1056492607305891
© 2007 Sage Publications
201
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JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT INQUIRY / September 2007
According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/
wiki/Representative_democracy), a representative
democracy is
a form of democracy founded on the exercise of popular sovereignty by the people’s elected representatives. Voters choose (in free, secret, multi-party
elections) representatives to act in their interests, but
not . . . necessarily according to their wishes, but with
enough authority to exercise initiative in the face of
changing circumstances.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED; Simpson &
Weiner, 1989) tells us that a corporation is “a body corporate legally authorized to act as a single individual;
an artificial person created by royal charter, prescription, or act of the legislature, and having authority to
preserve certain rights in perpetual succession.”
Please note the phrase “artificial person.” What this
notion means is critical to my story. Although the
OED captures the essence of what it means to be a
corporation, I prefer Ambrose Bierce’s (1911/1999)
definition from The Devil’s Dictionary: “an ingenious
device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.”
Finally, the OED defines the public good simply as
the “common good.” Had an economist written the
OED, it might say that the public good is where
externalities happen. At least since Plato, the idea of
the public good and the idea of a republic have been
intimately tied. My thesis is that in our republic, people are now separated from their representatives by
an asteroid belt of organizations, and among the
most powerful of these are corporations and their
trade associations.
How did this happen? The story has been well told
in a half dozen recent books on the rise of the corporation in the United States. Today, I just want to cover
the essentials of the plot (Bakan, 2004; Hartmann,
2002; Nace, 2003; Perrow, 2002; Prechel, 2000). It is a
Pinocchio-like tale of legal legerdemain during which
an “artificial person” is transformed into a “natural
person”; except in this story, liars’ noses don’t grow.
FROM ARTIFICIAL TO NATURAL PERSON
Any telling of this story must begin by acknowledging that many of the colonists who fought the
American Revolution and several of the founding
fathers who wrote the Constitution were not particularly fond of corporations. At the time, corporations
were scarce. Most were trading companies and the
most important of these was the East India Company.
Because the Crown and members of Parliament
owned stock in the East India Company, they had
granted it a monopoly on trade with a sizable hunk of
the world, including the colonies. In India and the Far
East, the Crown let the East India Company not only
govern but maintain its own standing army and navy
to enforce its monopolies. The East India Company
even had its own flag.
In the American Colonies, Parliament granted the
Company favors in the form of taxes and tariffs to
restrain the colonists’ ability to trade when and with
whom they wished. The Townsend Acts of 1767 and
the Tea Act of 1773 were the most notorious and
important because they incited the rebellion that
became the American Revolution. The Boston Tea
Party was nothing more or less than a protest against
the East India Company’s monopoly on the tea trade.
In response, Parliament closed Boston Harbor, and
relations between the colonies and the Crown from
that point on gradually deteriorated into war on April
19, 1775.
Little wonder, then, that some of the founding
fathers, especially Madison and Jefferson, hoped to
outlaw what they called “monopolies” and “corporations.” In fact, Jefferson and Madison wanted to do so
in the Bill of Rights. In 1787, 2 months after signing
the Constitution, Jefferson wrote to Madison (cited in
Hartmann, 2002),
I will now tell you what I do not like. First, the omission of a bill of rights, providing clearly, and without
the aid of sophism, for freedom of religion, freedom
of the press, protection against standing armies,
restriction of monopolies, the external and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by
jury. . . . (p. 70)
Jefferson continued to push for “freedom of commerce
against monopoly.” That he and Madison did not succeed in outlawing monopolies or in precluding the
United States from forming a standing army with the
Bill of Rights is testimony to the political power of
Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and other
Federalists.
Madison had opportunities to express his antipathy toward corporations in the debate surrounding
the incorporation of the Second Bank of the United
States. In 1817, Madison wrote to his friend James K.
Paulding (cited in Hartmann, 2002), “Incorporated
Companies with proper limitations and guards, may
Barley / CORPORATIONS AND DEMOCRACY
in particular cases, be useful, but they are at best a
necessary evil only. Monopolies and perpetuities are
objects of just abhorrence” (p. 82). Madison’s perspective reflected policies of the day. During the early
colonial period, states granted corporate charters
only when legislators believed that doing so ensured
the completion of a project that served the public
good, such as building a road or a canal.
Madison lost the battle over the Second Bank, but
the dispute continued until it reached its crescendo in
the 1830s. Renewal of the Bank’s charter was a major
issue in the election of 1832. Andrew Jackson, who
stood against the Bank, made rechartering a campaign
issue. In his State of the Union Address of December
1833, Jackson remarked (Woolley & Peters, 2005),
In this point of the case the question is distinctly presented whether the people of the United States are to
govern through representatives chosen by their unbiased suffrages or whether the money and power of a
great corporation are to be secretly exerted to influence their judgment and control their decisions.
Thirty years later, Abraham Lincoln, who had done
much (first as a lawyer and then as president) to
transform railroads into the first modern corporations, voiced similar concerns. As the Civil War drew
to a close, Lincoln wrote to Colonel William F. Elkins
(cited in Hartmann, 2002),
We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is
nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure
and blood. . . . but I see in the near future a crisis
approaching that unnerves me and causes me to
tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of
the war, corporations have been enthroned and an
era of corruption in high places will follow, and the
money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the
people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands
and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment
more anxiety than ever before, even in the midst of
the war. God grant that my suspicions may prove
groundless. (p. 88)
Perrow (2002), Prechel (2000), and Nace (2003)
have documented how, over the next three decades,
the number of corporations grew exponentially as
state legislatures and courts altered in piecemeal fashion the “legal structure defining the corporation as an
institution” (Nace, 2003, p. 69). The enthroning that
Lincoln feared did not occur, however, until 1886
when the Supreme Court heard a case over a property
203
dispute involving fences bordering railroad easements in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad
Co. In the “Statement of Facts” prefacing the Court’s
decision, the court reporter wrote that Chief Justice
Waite had told the lawyers before their opening arguments that he didn’t want to hear the argument that
corporations should be treated as persons under the
14th Amendment, because the “court was of the opinion that it does.” Furthermore, in the headnotes to the
Decision, the reporter also wrote (Nace, 2003),
The defendant Corporations are persons within the
intent of the clause in section I of the Fourteenth
Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,
which forbids a State to deny any person within its
jurisdiction the equal protection of the law. (p. 103)
Despite the fact that Waite did not apparently
intend for his comment to be treated as a resolution
to the issue of corporate personhood and despite the
fact that in 1937, the Supreme Court ruled that headnotes are not to be part of the Court’s opinion, the
notion that corporations were protected as if they
were natural persons under the law passed into judicial history and has been subsequently used by U.S.
Courts to decide cases and grant corporations additional rights.
It is ironic that the 14th Amendment was written
primarily to ensure the liberty and citizenship of
slaves freed after the Civil War. Even more ironic,
Chief Justice Waite apparently believed that the committee that wrote the amendment had corporations as
well as slaves in mind and that, for this reason, they
had deliberately chosen to speak of persons rather
than citizens. Former Senator Roscoe Conkling, who
had previously testified before the Court on a related
case, had led Waite to this belief (Nace, 2003).
Conkling had been a member of the committee that
drafted the 14th Amendment and was legal counsel
for the Southern Pacific Railroad at the time of his testimony. He argued before the Supreme Court that he
had kept personal journals during the committee’s
deliberations on the 14th Amendment and that these
journals showed that the committee had specifically
chosen wording that would allow the Amendment’s
application to corporations. Apparently, Waite did not
ask to see the journals nor, unfortunately, was Conklin
afflicted with Pinocchio’s curse. In the 1930s, Stanford
law librarian Howard Graham found Conklin’s notebooks and proved that Conklin had lied to the Court.
But by this time, it was too late. An entire body of law
had been written assuming that corporations are
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JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT INQUIRY / September 2007
natural persons that deserve the same rights as any
other citizen under the Constitution. As such, corporations found an institutional status that altered the
notion of representative democracy in the United
States.
There are at least three ways that corporate influence can be said to have undermined the concept of
representative democracy and, by extension, the public good. The first is by promoting legislation that benefits corporate citizens at the expense of individual
citizens. Second, corporations have found ways to
hamper or redirect agencies created to protect the public good from the acts of corporations and the externalities they create. Third is the privatization of
functions that have historically been the mandate of
local, state, and federal government. Although one can
point to many cases that demonstrate each of these
three types of influence, I will illustrate them respectively with the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and
Consumer Protection Act of 2005, the Prescription
Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) of 1992, and the increased
outsourcing of military functions to private firms since
the end of the Cold War. Each case offers organizational theorists much to contemplate.
BENEFITING CORPORATE CITIZENS: THE
BANKRUPTCY ACT OF 2005
On April 20, 2005, George W. Bush signed into law a
bill known as the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and
Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA). The bill garnered
little attention in the daily newspapers or popular
magazines before or after it passed. Considerable discussion occurred, however, in the financial press, especially in the financial industry’s trade journals. Perhaps
it is not surprising that BAPCPA received so little attention outside the world of finance. The issues involved
were relatively boring and of no apparent relevance to
the vast majority of Americans. Furthermore, the
financial community had been trying to push the legislation through Congress since 1994.1
BAPCPA put into place rules and procedures that
make it more difficult than in the past for individuals
to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the
Bankruptcy Code. Under Chapter 7, debtors are
essentially absolved of their debts. Most creditors get
nothing. BAPCPA set conditions on Chapter 7 bankruptcies, including a means test, designed to push
more debtors into Chapter 15. But, BAPCPA did not
significantly alter the rules for Chapter 11 bankruptcies, the business equivalent of Chapter 7.
BAPCPA was good news for creditors. Proponents
argued that it would also be good for citizens because
it would lower taxes and prices. Advocates also
claimed that BAPCPA would make it more difficult for
wealthy people to use the bankruptcy laws to avoid
paying debts. But the data on both of these benefits are
thin. What is empirically well-established is that the
majority of debtors who apply for Chapter 7 are people of relatively modest means who have experienced
a sudden change of circumstances such as a costly
illness, divorce, or job loss (Himmelstein, Warren,
Thorne, & Woolhandler, 2005; Jacoby, Sullivan, &
Warren, 2001; Sullivan, Warren, & Westbrook, 2001;
Warren, 1998).
BAPCPA represented a fundamental change in the
philosophy of American bankruptcy law. The original philosophy was articulated in the Bankruptcy Act
of 1898, which granted debtors the right to “unconditionally discharge” their debts. Congress’s reasoning was as follows (Jensen, 2005):
When an honest man is hopelessly down financially,
nothing is gained for the public by keeping him
down, but, on the contrary, the public good will be
promoted by having his assets distributed ratably as
far as they will go among his creditors and letting
him start anew. (p. 489)
Why this philosophy would move toward one of
“when citizens owe they should pay regardless” and
how BAPCPA came to pass is a story of how corporate persons have shaped legislative processes in a
representative democracy. It is also a story that can be
told using simple network analysis.
In 1997, as Congress began revising bankruptcy legislation, financial firms and their trade associations
founded two nonprofit advocacy organizations dedicated entirely to bankruptcy reform: The Bankruptcy
Issues Council (BIC) and the Consumer Bankruptcy
Reform Coalition (CBRC). Visa and Mastercard led the
BIC, which also represented other large credit groups
including MBNA, Chase Manhattan, and Citicorp.
The American Financial Services Association (AFSA)
founded the CBRC, and Jeffery A. Tassey, its senior
vice president for governmental affairs, served as the
CBRC’s executive director. Over the 8-year process
of crafting bankruptcy legislation, the CBRC became
the National Consumer Bankruptcy Coalition, then
the Coalition for Responsible Bankruptcy Laws, and
finally the Coalition for the Implementation of
Bankruptcy Reform. Figure 1 shows, as a network,
which firms (the sources) were members of which
trade and advocacy organizations (the sinks).
Barley / CORPORATIONS AND DEMOCRACY
Figure 1:
205
Network of “X is a member of Y”
The BIC and CBRC, in turn, hired lobbyists and
commissioned research organizations to conduct
studies that supported their stance. Figure 2 adds
relationships to lobbyists and research organizations to the network. Some of these lobbying firms
employed or retained well-connected people who
subsequently worked Capital Hill on behalf of the
financial industry’s advocacy groups. Former
Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen, former
Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, and former Texas Governor Ann Richards were among
those who lobbied the Democrats. Haley Barbour,
former Republican National Committee chair and
close friend of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott,
lobbied the Republicans, as did Ed Gillespie, who
became the Republican National Committee chair
in 2003 (Jensen, 2005).
George Wallace, a bankruptcy lawyer and partner
in the law firm of Eckert, Seamans, Cherin, & Mellott,
which the AFSA retained in 1997, drafted the language of the bankruptcy bill (HR 2500) that Bill
McCollum (R-FL) and Rick Boucher (D-VA) brought
to the House in September 1997. The language of this
bill eventually became the backbone of BAPCPA. In
other words, the credit industry wrote the legislation.
Realizing where legislative power was concentrated,
the American Financial Services Association and several of the lobbying firms hired staffers who had
worked in the offices of Senator Dingell (D-MI) and
Representative McCollum. Figure 3 shows which
members of Congress sat on Senate and House committees with oversight on bankruptcy legislation,
and Figure 4 adds relationships created as lobbyists
hired Congressional staffers.
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JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT INQUIRY / September 2007
Figure 2: Network including “X hired Y to lobby or do research”
Pro-debtor advocates mainly included organizations whose members regularly had close encounters
with debtors in bankruptcy: unions, federal officials,
bankruptcy trustees, and their professional associations. Figure 5 shows the data in Figure 4, with actors
who were pro-debtor and pro-creditor shown in white
and black, respectively. As Figure 5 shows, those who
were pro-debtor were largely unorganized: They
appear as isolates in the graph. In contrast, a relatively strong network existed among actors dedicated
to passing pro-creditor legislation. Thus, the procreditor side was much better prepared not only to
lobby legislators but also to testify before the House
and Senate Judiciary Committees (or their subcommittees), which held numerous hearings between 1997
and 2006 as they debated and revised the legislation.
Figure 6 completes the emerging network of influence
by adding ties signifying who testified before which
Congressional committee.
Where does one find representative democracy in
these graphs? Perhaps it exists because debtors had
some advocates on the Senate and House Judiciary
Committees, all of whom were Democrats (but not
all Democrats on the committees were pro-debtor).2
Certainly, the clearest trace of representative democracy lies with the four farmers and the one debtor
who managed to testify before Congress over
BAPCPA’s 8-year history.
Shortly before BAPCPA was to go into effect,
Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. A number of senators and representatives introduced bills
into the House and Senate that would have given
Barley / CORPORATIONS AND DEMOCRACY
Figure 3:
207
Network including “X serves on committee Y”
victims of Katrina relief from the BAPCPA. In the
house, Representative Sensenbrenner, chair of the
Judiciary Committee and a supporter of the bill,
refused to hold hearings. According to Govtrack.us,
which provides the status on all bills before Congress,
every bill designed to relieve debt for the victims of
Katrina has languished in the committee.
The graphs in Figures 1 through 6 suggest that a
structure clearly emerged around BAPCPA’s passage.
Industry formed associations that managed its interests in Congress. Citizens, however, had to rely on
public interest groups, professionals, and professional
societies to speak on their behalf. Thus, unlike corporations, citizens would have had difficulty influencing the organizations that acted on their behalf, had
they known enough to want to exert influence.
Whether this type of network structure characterizes
other legislative battles is an empirical question. If so,
we might see the structure as evidence for what we
might call the institution of “representation by organization.” Unfortunately, it does not appear to be the
institutional structure described in the Constitution of
the United States.
FROM PUBLIC TO PRIVATE GOOD:
PRESCRIPTION DRUG USER FEE ACT
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) traces its history to the 1906 Food and Drug Act,
the FDA as we know it today was the child of the
New Deal’s Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which was
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JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT INQUIRY / September 2007
Figure 4:
Network including “X hires someone from Y’s staff”
passed in 1938 (see FDA, 2005a). The 1906 law had confined the FDA’s predecessor to issues of labeling. It
could neither certify drugs as safe nor remove drugs
from the market. Between 1906 and 1938, however, the
public became concerned about drugs that were ineffective or unsafe. Concern turned into furor in 1937
when a Tennessee drug company, Massengill, began
marketing Elixir Sulfanilamide. Clinical experience has
shown that sulfanilamide was useful in tablet form for
treating streptococcal infections. Salesmen reported
back to Massengill that there was a demand for a liquid
form of the drug that could be more easily administered to children. One of Massengill’s chemists discovered that sulfanilamide would dissolve in diethylene
glycol. Recognizing an incredible opportunity to
expand sales, Massengill began marketing an elixir
made with diethylene glycol before first testing it for
toxicity.
Unfortunately, diethylene glycol is highly poisonous. We know it best as brake fluid. After being on the
market for only 2 months, 100 people, many of whom
were children, had died from Elixir Sulfanilamide.
Many others were poisoned. The public was finally
ready for the FDA to become a regulatory agency,
which the 1938 act mandated.
In 1962, another tragedy important to the FDA’s
development occurred. Worldwide, pregnant women
who had taken thalidomide, a new sleeping pill,
began to give birth to children with serious birth
defects. The public uproar led to the passage of the
Kefauver-Harris Drug Amendments, which for the
first time required firms to prove the effectiveness of
their drugs before they could market them.
Thus, the history of the FDA until the 1980s was
one of increasing recognition that the government
needed to regulate drug companies to ensure the
Barley / CORPORATIONS AND DEMOCRACY
Figure 5:
209
Pro-corporate and pro-debtor network
safety of citizens. In fact, the FDA’s mission, which it
now posts on its Website, reads (FDA, 2005b),
The FDA is responsible for protecting the public
health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of
human and veterinary drugs, biological products,
medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics,
and products that emit radiation. The FDA is also
responsible for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medicines and
foods more effective, safer, and more affordable; and
helping the public get the accurate, science-based
information they need to use medicines and foods to
improve their health.
Although Kefauver-Harris was good news for consumers, it increased the time and expense of bringing
a drug to market. Delays grew even greater in the
1980s as the number of new drugs in development
multiplied and the FDA suffered personnel and
budget cuts. Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies began to complain vociferously that the FDA’s
procedures were too unwieldy and costly and that
they hurt consumers by keeping useful drugs off the
market. A number of academics who studied organizational innovation also trumpeted such claims.
In the late 1980s, AIDS activists joined with drug
companies to argue that the length of time necessary
for drug approvals was harmful: People were dying
unnecessarily because they could not take advantage
of promising new drugs.
By 1992, the sense that America’s competitiveness
rested on rapid innovation, protests by AIDS activists,
and lobbying by pharmaceutical industry persuaded
Congress to amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act
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JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT INQUIRY / September 2007
Figure 6:
Network including “X testified at hearing held by Y”
by passing the PDUFA. The PDUFA instructed the
FDA to speed up drug approvals for firms that agreed
to pay fees for initiating new drug applications, for
inspecting plants, and for inspecting the drugs themselves. The PDUFA also allowed the FDA to grant
firms permission to market drugs before clinical trials
were done if the firm promised to conduct the
research while the drug was on the market. If the
drug proved unsafe or ineffective, the FDA could take
the drug off the market (see Kuhlik, 1992)
The drug companies initially lobbied against the
PDUFA, arguing that it represented a tax. But by the
time the PDUFA was up for renewal in 1997 (it must
be renewed every 5 years), the biotechnology and
pharmaceutical industries had discovered that the
fees worked to their benefit. Because the PDUFA legislated that fees could only be invested in the review
process, the FDA had increased its staff devoted to
reviews by 57% and review times had fallen by 34%
to 50% (Olson, 2004b). The improvement was especially pronounced for novel drug applications (Olson,
2000). Olson (2004b) suggests that the FDA also had
incentives to reduce review times because the PDUFA
pegged performance to achieving targets and because
the agency sorely wanted to protect its new revenue
stream. Thus, in sharp contrast to 5 years earlier,
biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms lobbied
intensely for the PDUFA’s renewal in 1997 and then
again in 2002 (Dreyfuss, 1997).
Not only does the history of the PDUFA offer
insights into how corporations can affect how laws are
written and passed, it also allows us to see how corporate actors can co-opt a regulatory agency’s agenda
so that it serves the public good less effectively than it
Barley / CORPORATIONS AND DEMOCRACY
might have otherwise. The PDUFA mandated closer
working relationships between the FDA and the firms
that it regulated. In fact, in support of this provision,
Clinton urged the FDA to “trust industry as partners not adversaries” (Willman, 2000). The PDUFA
required the FDA to arrange meetings with companies
that want new drugs approved within a matter of
months. It also set performance goals for the duration
of reviews and gave the firms, which the FDA was
supposed to regulate, a role in assessing whether the
FDA has met its goals. Between 1992 and 2001, user
fees went from making up 0% to 50% of the FDA’s
drug approval budget (U.S. General Accounting
Office, 2002). Put differently, by 2001, the amount of
money allocated by Congress to the FDA increased by
35%, whereas the amount of money from fees grew
170%. As the research of contingency and resource
dependency theorists has repeatedly shown, those
who control important, scarce, and nonsubstitutable
resources wield considerable power (Hickson, Hinings,
Lee, Schneck, & Pennings, 1971; Hinings, Hickson,
Pennings, & Schneck, 1974; Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978).
The PDUFA handed the pharmaceutical firms precisely such an edge over the FDA.
To protect the public good, the FDA must balance
two types of risk: (a) the risk of approving drugs that
later prove to have harmful effects and (b) the risk of
not approving drugs that could have been beneficial.
Since the PDUFA, the FDA has clearly done a better
job of guarding against the second risk. The FDA
is approving more drugs more quickly (Olson, 2002a,
2004a). Unfortunately, carefully controlled studies
show that the rate of adverse drug reactions involving serious illness and death has increased since the
PDUFA went into effect (Olson, 2002b, 2004b):
Estimates suggest that a 1-month reduction in a
drug’s review time is associated with a 1 percent
increase in expected reports of ADR hospitalizations
and a 2 percent increase in expected reports of ADR
deaths. At the mean, a 12-month reduction in a drug’s
FDA review time is associated on average with an
increase of 10.92 ADR hospitalizations and 7.68 ADR
deaths per drug. (Olson, 2002b, p. 640)
Moreover, the incidence of serious illness and mortality is higher for novel than for standard drugs, reflecting precisely the different speeds at which drugs are
approved.
In 2002, Congress took steps to address the risk of
approving harmful drugs. The PDUFA’s third renewal
mandated that part of the user fees be earmarked for
211
the FDA’s safety activities. Specifically, one in four
new jobs were to be allocated to safety or what the
FDA calls “post approval risk management activities.”
However, in a nod to industry, the renewal required
the FDA to do whatever monitoring it intended to do
within the first 2 years a drug went to market and
exempted from monitoring those drugs that were
already on the market at the time of the act’s renewal
(Timmerman, 2002).
Data collected since 2002 suggests that firms are
not completing the post-marketing studies that the
FDA requests. In a report entitled “The Conspiracy
of Silence,” Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA;
Markey, 2005) wrote,
Based on information provided to [us] by the FDA
and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
in response to [our] inquiries, it is apparent that: The
majority of companies benefiting from accelerated
approval are failing to complete the post-marketing
studies required by law on a timely basis. Although
some companies do complete their required studies
without any intervention from the FDA, the FDA has
allowed many companies to stall or forgo completion
of their required post-marketing confirmatory studies. (p. 5)
Of the 91 post-marketing studies required by the FDA,
the report went on to note, 42 had not been completed
and half of these had not even started. However, in
1998, the FDA did approve Calgene’s request to use
thalidomide as a treatment for leprosy and granted
approval for testing thalidomide as an AIDS drug.
PRIVATE MILITARY FIRMS:
OUTSOURCING THE MILITARY3
Although the Constitution of the United States
does not explicitly state that the federal government
has the right to maintain a standing military, it certainly assumes such a right. For example, Article II,
Section 2 reads, “The President shall be commander
in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States,
and of the militia of the several states, when called
into the actual service of the United States.” Since the
17th century, nation states have held the sole legal
right to wield deadly force and, conversely, military
forces have served nation states as the states’ own
employees. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and
the end of the Cold War, however, what Peter Singer
(2003) calls private military firms (PMFs) have
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JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT INQUIRY / September 2007
Figure 7:
Types of private military firms
become more numerous and are playing increasingly
important roles in national and international conflicts.
Private military firms offer military services on the
open market to buyers with sufficient money to purchase them. The services range from boots on the
ground to tactical and strategic planning, training,
logistics, intelligence, psychological warfare, and satellite surveillance. Clients include governments and corporations (especially oil and mining companies with
interests in Third World countries) as well as drug cartels and insurgencies. The tides of several wars in
Africa, including Sierra Leone and Angola in the
mid-1990s, were turned by employees of Executive
Outcomes and Sandline—South African and British
companies, respectively. Both firms were subsidiaries of
the Branch-Heritage Group, a British multinational oil
and mining corporation, which also owned a private air
force, Ibis Air. Even more interesting is the fact that
Branch-Heritage owned diamond mines in both countries. At first glance, private military firms look like a
modern version of the mercenaries who have fought for
cash since the dawn of history. But Singer (2003) notes
that PMFs differ from traditional mercenaries in six
important ways.
First, PMFs are corporations that have corporate
structures and rights, including the right of limited liability. Second, they are motivated by corporate rather
than individual profit. Third, PMFs do not operate in
the shadows; they operate openly on the market as
legitimate global businesses. Many have Web sites.4
Fourth, PMFs provide a much wider and more integrated range of services than traditional mercenaries.
Fifth, recruitment is public and specialized, just as it is
for most professional firms. In fact, high-ranking former military officers from the United States, Britain,
South Africa, and Australia have founded the majority
of these firms and they employ highly trained specialists who have also served in the world’s best armed
forces. Finally, and perhaps most important, PMFs are
usually embedded in networks of corporate holdings
that trade on the world’s stock markets. In fact, your
pension portfolio or mutual fund may hold stock in
such companies or their corporate parents.
There are three types of private military firms
defined by the sector of the military theater they service (see Figure 7). Of course, some firms operate in
more than one sector. Military providers specialize in
delivering combat troops including air and ground
support. This is the one market that U.S. firms do not
dominate. Military consulting firms offer clients services ranging from strategy and analysis to training.
Finally, military support firms provide supply, logistic,
intelligence, transportation, and construction services.
Because of military downsizing and the spread of
the logic of outsourcing into the Pentagon, the United
States has increasingly contracted with PMFs to provide critical services in all its armed conflicts since the
late 1980s. For example, on the recommendation of
Barley / CORPORATIONS AND DEMOCRACY
the Pentagon, the Croatian government hired MPRI
(founded in 1987 by eight high-ranking, retired U.S.
officers and incorporated in Delaware) to train the
Croatian army, which was, at best, a ragtag force. The
United States sided with the Bosnians and Croatians
against the Serbs, but because the United Nations had
implemented a ceasefire and an arms embargo, the
United States could openly provide neither weapons
nor training to the Croatians. The UN embargo did
not apply to MPRI, however, because it was a corporation rather than a nation. In April 1995, the Croatian
Army launched an offensive called “Operation
Storm,” fielding an army whose sophistication surprised everyone, especially the Serbs, whose defenses
crumbled under the onslaught. Within a week, the
Croatians had recaptured all the territory that the
Serbs had previously seized (Singer, 2003).
Croatia is not the only instance of the United States
using PMFs in situations where it could not legally
deploy its own armed forces. In the late 1990s, the
Clinton administration found that the war on drugs
in Columbia was going badly, but Congress had limited the extent to which the United States could use
the military to support the eradication of the cocaine
trade. Thus, hampered, the government turned to
PMFs including Silver Shadows, Armourgroup,
MPRI, and DynCorp. The State Department hired
DynCorp to provide technical support for the
Columbian National Police and to run drug eradication programs involving the aerial spraying of defoliants. In 2001, FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Columbia) rebels downed a Columbian helicopter.
DynCorp sent out an armed search-and-rescue team
made up of former U.S. Green Berets, who rescued
the downed crew in a firefight with the rebels, while
the DynCorp’s Huey gunships provided covering fire
(Singer, 2003).
The United States has relied especially heavily on
PMFs in Afghanistan and Iraq, where all three types
of firms operate. In addition to Brown and Root,
Halliburton, and DynCorp, which together handle
almost all of the military’s support functions, at least
20 military provider firms (such as Blackwater, Triple
Canopy, Hart Group, Control Risks, and Custer
Battles) fill crucial roles. The provider firms have three
broad tasks: defend key installations, escort convoys,
and protect key individuals. Custer Battles is responsible for airport security at the Baghdad airport.
Custer Battles employs former Special Forces and
Ghurka fighters to defend the airport from mortars,
rockets, and snipers (Singer, 2004). As Singer notes, the
213
roles played by employees of military providers are
every bit as risky as those played by uniformed troops:
[Just a few days after having four of its employees executed, dismembered and burned on a bridge in
Fallujah, Blackwater personnel] defended the CPA
(Coalitional Provisional Authority) headquarters in
Najaf from being overrun by radical Shiite militia. The
firefight lasted several hours, with thousands of
rounds of ammunition fired, and Blackwater even
sent in its own helicopters twice to re-supply its commandos with ammunition and to ferry out a wounded
U.S. Marine. The same night, Hart Group, Control
Risks and Triple Canopy were all involved in pitched
battles. Unfortunately, the Hart position was overrun.
Abandoned by nearby Coalition forces, the firm’s
employees had to leave one of their comrades dead on
a rooftop on which he and four colleagues had been
fighting after their house had been captured. (p. 3)
Singer reports that neither members of Congress nor
top commanders in Iraq are fully aware of how
extensively private firms are engaging in battle.
Newspapers have recently reported major cost
overruns and suspicious financing by Halliburton and
other military support firms operating in Iraq. Less
widely known is that PMFs have been involved in
incidents of abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq. Amnesty
International reports that the U.S. Army has documented that employees of CACI International and
Titan Corporation tortured prisoners in Abu Ghraib.
In fact, Daniel Johnson, a CACI contractor, was alleged
to have directed Sergeants Ivan Frederick and Charles
Graner to torture a detainee during an interrogation
(Amnesty International, 2006).
Peter Singer (2003) has succinctly summarized
the implications of using PMFs to support military
action in a representative democracy:
Military service privatization represents a unique
step in the process of outsourcing public institutions
to the private market. The ideas of garbage collection, prison administration and even public schools
being run by for-profit firms have all become generally accepted as ways to make public services more
competitive. The use of a privatized military actor as
a foreign policy tool, however, is not just about
achieving greater cost competitiveness. In the end, it
is the outsourcing of the affairs of the state to a private corporation because it lies beyond public controls. The potential dangers are extensive. . . . PMF’s
allow leaders to short-circuit democracy by turning
over important foreign policy tasks to outside, unaccountable companies. . . . [They] offer an alternative
214
JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT INQUIRY / September 2007
mechanism for the executive body to conduct secret
operations without other branches (of government)
being involved. . . . Such marginalization of the legislature is a contravention of the role the Founding
Fathers intended for Congress in the Constitution.
(pp. 213-214)
Reserve, it was the largest mortgage package the company
reported giving to a single borrower that year.
3. This section of the article draws heavily from Peter
Singer’s (2003) Corporate Warriors.
4. For examples, see Dyncorp (http://www.dynintl.com/subpage.aspx?id=46), MPRI (http://www.mpri
.com/index.html), and Blackwater (http://www.blackwaterusa.com).
CODA
I have shared these sobering cases with you today
because I believe organizational scholars must step up
to the challenges that these cases pose. They show us
that organizations have altered and are continuing
to alter social institutions—even democracy is not
exempt. But to take on these issues, organizational theorists will have to reverse their thinking about how to
study the relationship between organizations and
their environments. Since the 1960s, organizational
theorists have spent most of their time developing theories of how environments affect organizations and,
more recently, how organizations affect each other. It is
time for organizational theorists to pay much closer
attention to how organizations alter and even create
their environments, especially institutional sectors
that lie outside the economy and that get little attention. Such a move will certainly offer tremendous
opportunities for young scholars to construct careers,
because there is nothing better for a career than mapping largely uncharted territory. But I would hope that
the incentive to do such mapping would involve more
than having a stellar career. What is at stake is the
foundation of our system of governance. It seems to
me that organizational theorists have, on this topic, an
opportunity to use their expertise to do research that
not only makes a difference but that could make
history.
NOTES
1. For a history of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and
Consumer Protection Act, see Jensen (2005).
2. Reports suggest that Representative Moran, who did
not sit on either committee, may have decided to cosponsor
bankruptcy reform in return for a loan from MBNA that he
obtained through his contact with James C. Free, an MBNA
lobbyist from the Smith-Free Group. Four days before
Representative Moran became the lead Democratic sponsor
of Representative Gekas’s bill, he received a $447,500 loan on
“highly favorable terms” from MBNA, one of the nation’s
largest credit card companies. According to the Federal
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STEPHEN R. BARLEY is the Charles M. Pigott Professor of
Management Science and Engineering, the co-director of the Center for
Work, Technology and Organization at Stanford’s School of Engineering,
and the co-director of the Stanford/General Motors Collaborative
Research Laboratory. He holds a PhD in organization studies from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to coming to Stanford in
1994, Barley served for 10 years on the faculty of the School of Industrial
and Labor Relations at Cornell University. He was the editor of the
Administrative Science Quarterly from 1993 to 1997 and the founding
editor of the Stanford Social Innovation Review from 2002 to 2004. He
has served on the editorial boards of the Academy of Management
Journal, Journal of Management Studies, and Organization Science.
He has been the recipient of the Academy of Management’s New Concept
Award. He was a member of the Board of Senior Scholars of the National
Center for the Educational Quality of the Workforce and co-chaired the
National Research Council and the National Academy of Science’s committee on the changing occupational structure in the United States. The
committee’s report, The Changing Nature of Work, was published in
1999. He has written extensively on the effect of new technologies on
work, the organization of technical work, and organizational culture. He
edited a volume on technical work entitled Between Craft and Science:
Technical Work in the United States. In collaboration with Gideon
Kunda of Tel Aviv University, he has recently published a book on contingent work among engineers and software developers entitled Gurus,
Hired Guns and Warm Bodies: Itinerant Experts in the Knowledge
Economy. He teaches courses on the management of R&D, the organizational implications of technological change, organizational behavior, social
network analysis, and ethnographic field methods. He has served as a consultant to organizations in a variety of industries including publishing,
banking, computers, electronics, and aerospace.

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