1932

Abstract

This article offers an overview of and commentary on the US approach to corporate prosecution and punishment. Though the United States purports to have a vigorous system of corporate criminal law enforcement, one could reasonably ask whether that system actually takes corporate crime seriously. Corporate prosecutions, convictions, and punishment continue to be rare events. Sanctions leveraged against corporations range from those whose effectiveness remains unproved, to those that are provably ineffective, to those that are conceptually and practically incoherent. One could also reasonably ask to what extent the United States even has a corporate criminal law to enforce. The recent history of corporate criminal law enforcement reflects a discernable shift in discretion from judges to prosecutors. This period is marked by the importance of extralegal prosecutorial guidelines, the absence of controlling case law, large gaps in statutory law, and long-called-for law reforms. One result is a systematic shift from reliance on public enforcement to private self-regulation. Not only are the resulting costs to the private sector substantial and growing, but the problems with relying on corporations to police themselves are plain to see. Amid these challenges, the thirst for private-sector responsibility and accountability should motivate continued debate over the prosecution and punishment of corporations.

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2019-10-13
2024-05-23
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