Does movie hitman stuff happen in real life?
December 27, 2017 4:12 PM   Subscribe

I just read a novel where people bilk a large corporation out of $70mn and the corporation sends really bad guys after them. Does this happen in real life, in the US?
posted by ftm to Law & Government (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I can't think of any example of a US corporation hiring someone to kill someone. Wikipedia has a page on contract killings that does not have any examples like that.

Usually, the "really bad guys" that a corporation sends after someone are lawyers or private investigators, who are definitely unpleasant but usually not murders.
posted by Mid at 4:34 PM on December 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

Well, back at the beginning of 2017 I immediately noticed a pair of flaggy deaths at the Russian Embassy (one onsite, one offsite) and the first was the head of security, but apparently he was some kind of fixer. In a few months you will hear more in the MSM about international money laundering and these deaths will never get directly connected for you. When I read the very first NYC local report about the first death, I KNEW major shit was going down. You might educate yourself about the Magnitsky Act if this is confusing to you...

Yeah, sadly. I'm pretty sure this stuff happens in the US. I only thought of this example because of things I am familiar with. Other people that watch corporations vs geopolitics (there's a lot of overlap there now) can probably give you examples that are more direct? A lot of corporations with multinational ties in the US and abroad are related to the example I gave you, so I think it counts.
posted by jbenben at 4:34 PM on December 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

Well, generally speaking, US corporations have not usually had to resort to violence (at least while operating within the US) to get their way. However, one notable exception is the use of their own private security and/or outside "detective" agencies like the Pinkertons to bust unions although, as often as not, these private forces would get an assist from some kind of public security body like the police, Army, or National Guard.
posted by mhum at 4:55 PM on December 27, 2017 [10 favorites]

One a smaller scale: one of my best friend's uncle is currently in prison for hiring a hit man. According to my friend, they were business partners and after a large business deal went sideways, her uncle wanted his colleague out of the picture. He was caught after paying the "hit fee." It has been incredibly embarrassing for his family and social circle.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 5:03 PM on December 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Karen Silkwood?
posted by glonous keming at 5:11 PM on December 27, 2017 [12 favorites]

Inside the US? Never heard of it. US or multinational corporations killing inconvenient people o interfering with their operations outside the US? It happens all the time, esp with mining operations.
posted by smoke at 5:13 PM on December 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

Not quite the same thing, and I can't remember a name or time frame, but there was a US CEO who assembled a strike team for an international hostage rescue raid.

And to take your question quite literally, since the mob owns some businesses, I'm sure there havd been some hits in the US for business reasons.

And there have been rogue businessmen who have hired hit men. I believe Mickey Thompson, a race car guy, was the victim of one.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:48 PM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

As glonous keming points out, Karen Silkwood would be the primary (or lone) example of what you describe.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:07 PM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

A few years ago there was a string of odd deaths of higher-ups in finance. I remember reading about it, but don't think any pattern or link was ever established.

Just speculating, but I think it's unlikely that a large corporation would do this in the U.S. Why do it at all unless there's some reason you don't want the authorities involved? If uncovered, imagine the ensuing PR fiasco. And if you knew someone ran with the money and did not report it to law enforcement, especially for an institution that's regulated, I imagine there would be some repercussions.

*If* they did do it, there'd have to be some shady, underhanded way of doing it, so that the corporation itself would have probable deniability and a fall guy "Oh Bob said he called the cops, we didn't know he called the hit man company instead. Bad Bob! You're fired!"

If they *are* doing it, they're really good at either doing it or covering it up or both because it really doesn't hit the news that much (Karen Silkwood aside).

Googling, I found this Cracked article which mentions a small-business owner who hired a hit man. The New Yorker profiled a hit man who says he mostly killed drug dealers. And according to the New York Post a hip hop mogul was recently found guilty of hiring a hit man.
posted by bunderful at 7:12 PM on December 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Not quite the same thing, and I can't remember a name or time frame, but there was a US CEO who assembled a strike team for an international hostage rescue raid.

Ross Perot. Iran, 1978. The TV Movie of the Week is complete fantasy. The "nonfiction" account is On Wings of Eagles, by Ken Follett, although there is some quesitionable myth-making of Perot there, too. There are also a few more details in this 1992 Chicago Tribune article.
posted by seasparrow at 7:14 PM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Assuming this kind of thing goes on, hitmen in the US seem to be pretty good at not getting caught.

I think the most clear-cut recent case would be Gus Boulis, who was murdered by Mafia hitmen who received over $250,000 in payments from Jack Abramoff's company right before the murder. He was in the process of selling a cruise ship/casino company that he founded to Abramoff.

Cliff Baxter may have been murdered for being an Enron whistleblower, but it was officially ruled a suicide. (He was shot in his car and left a short, unsigned suicide note -- a few days before he was supposed to testify to Congress.)

There seem to be a lot of murders of sketchy real estate developers. Andrew Kissell was murdered after stealing $4.7 million from a co-op board, although it's still unsolved. Menachem Stark was a roughly similar victim who stole and was probably murdered in retaliation.

Roger Wheeler was killed after discovering a Mafia embezzlement operation at his own business in 1981.

Someone killed Jack Wheeler (not related) but we'll probably never know who or what their motives were.
posted by miyabo at 7:54 PM on December 27, 2017 [11 favorites]

Judi Bari wasn't killed but was very seriously injured by a bomb under her car seat when she was fighting the logging industry. Suspicion was thrown on her and Darryl Cherney, who was also in the car, as the bomb-makers but neither Judi nor Darryl were that sort of person (I knew her a little, but enough to know that). So I'd put Judi in the same category as Karen Silkwood, and Darryl too, as being subject to a hit probably originated from some corporate stuff.
posted by anadem at 8:04 PM on December 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

I suspect that cases like that of David Mockett - about 2/3rds of the way down that very interesting story about a ship that was allegedly hijacked - are more typical. Bad dudes run a questionable corporation; do something illegal; wait till someone investigating their crime/insurance fraud goes to a chaotic place like Yemen; blow that person up.
posted by clawsoon at 9:46 PM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Karen Silkwood raises the question of anti-union violence generally, but I think what you're getting at is a directly targeted assassination rather than less directed but still intentional deadly violence.

So it would include, for example, Frank Little (Dashiell Hammett claimed Anaconda offered him $5000 to kill him) or Jock Yablonski; but a lot are harder to pin down, like the kidnapping, torture and beating death of cigar-worker organizer Joseph Shoemaker by Tampa police and the Klan (whose killers' $9,500 bail was posted by cigar manufacturers), or the murder of strike leader Louis Tikas by a Colorado National Guard officer at Ludlow, much less the random and unspecific death of the Italian Hall disaster.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 11:00 PM on December 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure anyone really knows how directed anti-union violence was -- it's not as though companies would have announced it if that was the case, and the dead can't speak to it -- but you can read more about it here:
posted by yohko at 11:36 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I mean it's sort of a self contained fantasy. Movie/Fiction hit men are super skilled professionals who don't get caught, otherwise how would they even be in the profession and have developed a good reputation? If they don't get caught then it could be real. If such folks exist for the right price, who's to say they are not killing all manner of corporately inconvenient people.

most real life examples involve people already connected to crime also being engaged in business. These cases if you strip out the business deals operate more or less like traditional mob violence.

rare cases like Karen Silkwood show a potential scenario where a corporation killed someone to keep corporate style misdeeds under wraps.
posted by French Fry at 5:41 AM on December 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

As people have said, we don't know about the perfect crimes, but I'd honestly be shocked if this ever happened at a large corporation. Corporate crimes rarely result in imprisonment, even ones that result in deaths. If you're found to have hired a hitman, you'd almost certainly go to jail.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:55 AM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Remember how trump said he could shoot someone in broad daylight on 5th Avenue and get away with it? Well one of his tenants who was cooperating in a federal money laundering probe was assassinated in broad daylight on 6th Avenue a few years ago and the killer hasn't been found.
posted by GregorWill at 7:24 AM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank y'all so much for the fascinating (if morbid) reading! I think it sounds like this probably happens but there hasn't ever been a 100% cut and dried "busted" moment for a large corporation trying to actually kill someone because they are careful.
posted by ftm at 10:55 AM on December 28, 2017

What was the book?
posted by mlis at 9:27 AM on January 17, 2018

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