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Are corporations people? FedEx and Hobby Lobby blur the lines

The latest news in a series of disappointing headlines about America’s corporate worship came this week when FedEx was indicted by a federal grand jury for knowingly trafficking drugs for illegal online pharmacies.

No one was surprised that FedEx would willingly deliver a questionable pill order. What was surprising was that not one corporate officer was charged with a crime. Not. One.

And before you shrug this off and accept FedEx’s defense, which is that it would be impossible to monitor the contents of the more than 10 million packages it delivers daily, you have to get a load of the details of the indictment.

First, prosecutors say FedEx knew illegal pharmacies were using its services, and FedEx even brazenly set up credit policies specific to online pharmacies in order to protect the company if the cops suddenly shut down the shady operations, according to USA Today. In other words, FedEx was doing such a huge amount of business with these black-market pill pushers that if they suddenly stopped, the loss would be so detrimental to FedEx that it needed to take special precautions.

“Many of these companies operate outside federal and state regulations over the sale of controlled drugs,” read the new credit policy, distributed by FedEx in 2006. “Drugs purchased from these sites may be diluted or counterfeit. Several sites have been shut down by the government without warning or simply disappeared, leaving large balances owing to FedEx.”

It’s pretty clear from reading this that FedEx and its management knew it was distributing illegal drugs to dealers and addicts.

But wait, there’s more. The indictment alleges that as early as 2004, FedEx knew that it was delivering drugs to dealers and addicts. What’s worse, delivery drivers complained to senior management about having to make deliveries to these drugged-out creeps.

“FedEx’s couriers in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia expressed safety concerns that were circulated to FedEx senior management, including that FedEx trucks were stopped on the road by online pharmacy customers demanding packages of pills, that the delivery address was a parking lot, school, or vacant home where several carloads of people were waiting for the FedEx driver to arrive with their drugs, that customers were jumping on the FedEx trucks and demanding online pharmacy packages, and that FedEx drivers were threatened if they insisted on delivering packages to the addresses instead of giving the packages to customers who demanded them,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office says. “In response to these concerns, FedEx adopted a procedure whereby internet pharmacy packages from problematic shippers were held for pickup at specific stations rather than delivered to the recipient’s address.”

That’s a really bad — and dangerous — day at the office. So, I guess the suits running things at FedEx thought that procedure would take care of it.

The Supremes have spoken: corporations are people. Corporations have free speech thanks to the Citizens United ruling, which equates political contributions with protected speech and corporations with citizens under the First Amendment.

Corporations have freedom of religion, which the Supreme Court just decided as part of the Hobby Lobby ruling, protecting an employer’s right to deny birth control to women employees if this conflicts with the employer’s “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

Again, not one FedEx officer or senior executive has been charged in this case.

To put this in perspective, if you were charged and convicted of a similar crime, you’d be looking at one seriously long, OITNB-type prison stretch. According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a first offense of distributing synthetic drugs would carry a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence.

It’s good to be a corporation in America. While protections for everyday citizens shrink, the rights of businesses and corporations grow increasingly bulletproof. FedEx will be back in a San Francisco federal court on July 29.

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