Robert Kennedy speaks out against Retroactive Immunity
The very idea of "retroactive immunity" for lawbreaking corporations is so radical, so repugnant to the most basic principles of the "rule of law," that only one prior attempt can be found in recent history (at least from my research): the efforts by some in Congress in 1965 to enact a law retroactively legalizing the mergers by six large banks which clearly -- as a federal court found -- were illegal under our nation's antitrust laws.
The banks knew when they merged that they were almost certainly violating anti-trust laws. But they did it anyway. And when courts began ruling that their behavior was illegal, they ran to Congress to demand that a law be passed granting them amnesty, claiming that the consequences would be ruinous if they were held accountable under the law.
But the very concept of retroactive amnesty -- the idea that corporations could break the law and then have Congress pass a special law legalizing their lawbreaking conduct -- was so profoundly offensive to Sen. Robert Kennedy (who had been the Attorney General when the banks broke the law with their mergers), as well as then-Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, that they engaged in extraordinary efforts to try to put a stop to this Congressional travesty.
The circumstances between then and now are virtually identical. Just like then, the corporations seeking retroactive amnesty knew at the time they broke the law that their conduct was illegal, and -- just like now -- a court had so ruled, which is why they ran to Congress asking for a special law to be passed legalizing their criminal behavior (on the ground that the American economy would be crippled if the mergers were undone):