Corporate Sector Association

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While the Corporate Sector Association is jointly owned by a number of corporations, the Association can be quite independent. The Association is run by the Direx Board, which is composed of executives from the outside controlling companies. However, their only concern is simple: profit.

The Corporate Sector Association is not a political body; it is an economic entity. The Association makes every attempt to avoid the image of a traditional government. A conscious effort was made to use business titles and terms wherever possible and avoid corresponding civic terminology. For example, instead of the term president, Prex is used.

Residents are not "citizens," but are "consumers" or "employees." They have no "rights"; the Association grants them "privileges." The Association has the right to restrict or eliminate privileges at any time and for any reason. The Association doesn't answer to the people it governs; instead, it answers only to its parent corporations and stockholders. However, the Association puts in a reasonable effort to keep order. This is not due to public pressure or politics, but because safe employees are more productive employees.

The Corporate Sector Association administers its own self-imposed laws, provides for the protection of colonies and facilities, presides over all intercorporate conflicts and serves as the proxy of the Emperor's will. The Association has fairly broad latitude in enforcing the Emperor's general directives - however, Direx Board members have no illusions about their own position. The Corporate Sector Charter is only legally binding as long as Altharra wills that to be the case and avoiding his wrath has always been a top priority.

History

The Corporate Sector has existed for several centuries. Hundreds of years ago the Valcarian Republic experimented in an area of corporate-controlled space, known as the Expansion Region. While the profits from the region were enormous, internal strife and disturbances continually upset the region. Residents of the region were forced to live under horrible conditions, while the corporations stripped the star systems of all resources. Because the corporations had strict control of communication and transportation, few outside the Expansion Region were aware of the conditions in that area of space. Eventually, the anger of the people peaked and civil unrest spread from system to system. Due to mounting pressure from constituents, the Republic Directory took control of the Expansion Region, limiting or evicting the corporate interests.

Still, the Republic had to placate the corporate interests. The Corporate Sector was established in a far-flung and minimally explored corner of Valcarian space. The Sector encompassed a few hundred systems, all of them devoid of sentient life. The companies had a right to lease or buy whole systems of space, and develop those systems as they saw fit.

In the Corporate Sector, the Republic took a much more active role than in the Expansion Region. The Republic placed itself squarely between the companies and their workers. A full naval sector group was deployed to the Corporate Sector with a dual purpose. The primary concern was protecting the civil rights and freedoms of those who chose to live and work in the Sector. The secondary concern was to make sure that the systems were responsibly managed: companies were not allowed to destroy entire planets for a few extra credits. The companies would have to operate in such a manner as to preserve the basic integrity of each world's natural ecosphere.

Despite these restrictions, most of the companies that did business in the Expansion Region chose to set up operations in the new Corporate Sector. Tax rates were comparably low. While a general tax was paid directly to the Republic government, the companies could avoid the myriad of sector, system, planetary, and local taxes found on most worlds. While the companies had to work within carefully defined parameters, they generally had much greater freedom than on worlds outside the Sector. The companies also knew laws would be consistent throughout the sector.

The biggest benefit of the Corporate Sector was the lack of competition. Since companies could buy whole undeveloped systems directly from the Republic, the corporations developed industrial and manufacturing facilities at a much faster rate. In brief, the Corporate Sector led to an era of unparalleled profits and industrial development. Many of the Valcarian Republic's major companies rushed to invest in the Corporate Sector.

As the Valcarian Directory began to rot from the inside, most of the unscrupulous and greedy directors joined together with corporate heads to form the innocuously named Valcarian Corporate Policy League. Not content with the vast trillions in wealth they had gained legally, or the uncountable sums netted in their shadier dealings, they hungered for more. They resented prohibitions against world-gouge mining and other "altruistic idiocies." They longed for a free hand in the outer fringes, where they could fulfill their dreams relatively unimpeded.

Then the Coup of Vhros came. With support for Altharra falling in line within the Directory, the League threw its support behind New Order policies and gave credibility to its empty promises of restored glory and prosperity. Through contacts with powerful businesses outside the League, many other companies endorsed Altharra's plans. Payback came easily enough once Altharra had complete control over the budgets of an entire empire. With the enormous military buildup Altharra planned, the most lucrative contracts could be awarded to those captains of industry who had already proven their "loyalty."

Of course, even these incalculable sums proved too small for the greed of these megacorporate titans. It was then that the VCPL conceived its boldest gambit yet. It wished to develop and expand the Corporate Sector. The League members realized how much potential there was if these countless riches could be given their unrestricted attentions. And so was born a monumental idea, linking vast and disparate corporate interests.

The Corporate Sector Charter

League members began analyzing the revenues of the existing Corporate Sector. Probes into the surrounding regions of space showed hundreds more systems, which could be easily incorporated into the Sector. Of these hundreds of systems, eleven showed signs of intelligent life, previously undiscovered by the Republic. Not only would their systems add to the wealth of the region, but available "work forces" could be enslaved.

Altharra proposed that the region of space known as the Corporate Sector be expanded to include nearly 1000 unclaimed stars. He proposed that a new corporation, the Corporate Sector Association, be formed. The Association would be the sole owner, employer, government, and military of the region. The Association would buy all the existing corporate facilities within the Sector, as well as shepherd the development of all future resources.

Companies that already had facilities would receive shares in exchange for turning over their property. These companies and others could invest in the Sector by providing funds to the Association. The Association would handle every major industrial venture, including exploration, extraction, refining, processing and manufacturing. The Association would maintain order, run the business operations, research and develop new products, and promote the sale of goods in the Sector without outside interference. Profits from the Sector's operations would be split proportionate to the shares amongst all the investing companies. Aside from profits derived directly from business operations, the Association would also supply raw materials and manufactured goods to the parent companies at greatly discounted prices.

The companies would profit handsomely from this system. The proposal also provided an operations tax directly to Altharra, himself. While the net would be considerably smaller than the taxes for comparable worlds within the Empire proper, the revenues would go directly to the Imperial government, rather than be split amongst sector, planetary and local governments. Likewise, because the Association would be responsible for maintaining order and policing the region, there would be no military investment in the region by the Empire. In Altharra's vision, the Corporate Sector would be a tremendous boon to Imperial coffers with no effort on the part of the Empire.

With his scheme developed, Altharra "gave" the idea to one of his closest advisors and a member of the Directory. The director invited all the existing Corporate Sector companies, as well as members of the League, to a week-long closed door conference on the banking world of Zarim. There, he presented the plan as if it were his own. For a week, in the splendor of the famed Dragonbird Gardens of Zarim, from dawn to late at night, they haggled and wrangled and debated. But, at the end of the week, the director and his comrades had their charter.

The proposed charter further refined Altharra's ideas. The League proposed the creation of a special non-interference region, separate and autonomous from the surrounding Empire. The region would be a limited free market fief. That meant materials restrictions, often invoked during martial law in the Empire, could be ignored. Also, there would be no content supervision over advertising and media in the Sector. There would be no need of ecological or social policy and the Association could maintain its own control over the fief worlds.

As a special incentive, there were to be no corporate taxes or import/export fees on any products transported into or out of the Sector. Companies would not pay taxes of any sort on materials and expenditures intended for sale or trade to the Sector Association. Of course, they still had to pay the usual taxes and levies on their total income and their non-Sector holdings.

As compensation to the Empire, there would be a yearly stipend of 3 percent of the total gross product from the Sector. Furthermore, all funds would be paid directly into the Imperial treasury. Lastly, 9 percent of all materials and 20 percent of strategic rare elements would be given directly to the Empire for its military buildup.

A Receptive Climate

When the League was granted audience with the Emperor (before a full court in attendance), they made their pitch. This was the first time many had ever heard of the League. Courtiers smiled pleasantly and waited for these merchants to be humiliated for their hubris. After all, they weren't functionaries or members of the Emperor's inner circle; what claim could they make on the Emperor?

Imagine their surprise when Altharra acquiesced. Few knew that he had already been involved in the process from the beginning. He saw advantages that eluded them, and was prepared to take advantage of loopholes they hardly noticed. The resources and materials provided by the Corporate Sector Association would pave the way for the Emperor to assert complete and total military supremacy over the galaxy...