My law school classmate and nice guy Stuart Green is the Louis B. Porterie Professor of Law at Louisiana State University and has written a book called Lying, Cheating, and Stealing: A Moral Theory of White-Collar Crime. The explains why he's blogging at the OUPBlog on Sex, Lies, and Petroleum: Lord John Browne.
It's a strange case: the CEO of BP resigned suddenly after it apparently emerged that he'd lied in court about his relationship with a male prostitute.
Assuming that he did lie under oath, Stuart's conclusion is that the balance of factors suggests that Lord John Brown nevertheless should not be prosecutied for perjury.
Stuart's argument seems to me to turn on two things, one overt and one not mentioned. Here's the first turning point:
When asked whether he had had a sexual relationship with a 27-year old former male prostitute, Browne did what any 58-year old titan of industry would do: he lied. It seems unlikely that his perjury significantly hindered anything. As it happened, there was other, compelling evidence of Browne’s relationship with Chevalier, and it did not take long for the truth to come out. His perjury, therefore, did little to harm the judicial process.
Is that right? Browne did what any 58-year old titan of industry would do: he lied. And even if it is the case that standards of veracity among titans of industry are so low, or their reflex against admitting sexual shennanigans so well developed, must the legal system bow to it?
The second point, the one not mentioned, has to do with the identity of the perjurer. There is a strong argument that all, rich and poor, should be held to the same standard so that social position must not be a factor in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. If fact, the Judge's Oath taken in the US makes it clear that wealth (and presumably social position) are not to be factors considered in the provision of equal justice under law.
But there's another view. Just as, as a practical matter, being a titan of industry gets you lots of advantages —
deferenticaldeferential cops, a reservoir of credibility in court and so on, so too should those who abuse society's trust be made examples to the others. Stuart's analysis doesn't seem to me to factor this in at all.
I guess I should read Stuart's book to find out why…