If you’re anything like me you’re probably getting pretty annoyed/baffled by how brazen crony capitalists have been about completely screwing you over and stealing your money. The latest big example of this was Loblaw’s giving away a measly $25 gift card as restitution for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from Canadians by systematically fixing bread prices. The company is using the card as a way to protect themselves against future class-action lawsuits (the value of the card can be deducted from any future settlement, and the average payout in such cases is about $20-25). We also learned that they weren’t alone in their criminal scheming – newly released court documents have shown that George Weston Ltd, Canada Bread Company, Walmart, Sobeys, Metro and Giant Tiger were all actively colluding for 16 years to artificially inflate bread prices across the country.

The companies allegedly agreed to raise bread prices together and meet in person to approve the higher prices, keeping them 10% higher than they otherwise would be. To put this in terms of raw numbers, if your family bought one loaf of bread a week they’ve lost out on hundreds of dollars since 2001 (you might recognize that number as “a lot more than the $25 gift card they’re offering”). It’s impossible to know exactly how much money corporations pilfered from regular Canadians, but Loblaws website says they expect 3-6 million people to sign up for the free gift card (meaning a maximum payout of $150 million). If 6 million people were cheated out of 50 cents per week for 16 years that means the company easily raked in over $2 billion.

At the very least, these companies should be forced to pay back every cent of that money to the people they took it from. They should also be slapped with massive fines (like, in the several hundred million dollar range) to deter this sort of thing in the future – because you can be absolutely sure they’ll try this bullshit again as soon as we stop paying attention. I would even go a step further and have the executives who were responsible for this put in jail for fraud, in addition to having their bonuses seized as the proceeds of a crime just as we do with the money drug dealers make from their illegal enterprises. Think about it like this – if you or I stole a few hundred dollars from Walmart or Sobeys, we’d probably be facing serious jail time; if we offered to give less than 10% of that back as restitution, we’d be laughed out of the courtroom. These companies took billions from us and are facing a shocking lack of punishment by the government for their blatantly criminal actions, on top of being allowed to keep the money they stole!

This is absolutely unacceptable, and all but guarantees that this sort of massive fraud will happen again in the future. I urge you all to make your opinion on the matter known to those with the power to actually do something about it: sign petitions, call your government representatives, and if you can join in the $1 billion class-action lawsuit that’s already underway.

 

Matt Pond

Photo by Mike Mozart

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