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Of Bad Apples and Bad Trees: Considering Fault-Based Criminal Liability for Complicit Corporations


Geraldine Szott Moohr


University of Houston Law Center


American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 44, 2007
U of Houston Law Center, No. 2008-A-04

Abstract:     
Current enforcement efforts are largely directed toward individual wrongdoers within the corporate entity, or "bad apples." In many cases, however, wrongdoing is encouraged by executive directives and corporate practices and policies. These corporations are "bad trees" that will continue to produce "bad apples" even after some employees are convicted. This essay draws on the doctrine of accomplice liability to consider when and how it is appropriate to hold corporations liable for crimes of their agents. When a corporation induces or encourages criminal conduct, the firm has behaved as an accomplice, and punishment is justified because the firm shares responsibility for the crime. Relying on this standard for corporate criminal liability rather than on respondeat superior would restrict corporate punishment to cases in which the entity can fairly be said to have acted through its executives and policies. Further, the goals of providing just deserts and deterring future crime support assigning criminal liability for such fault-based conduct.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 33

Keywords: white collar crime

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Date posted: February 13, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Moohr, Geraldine Szott, Of Bad Apples and Bad Trees: Considering Fault-Based Criminal Liability for Complicit Corporations. American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 44, 2007; U of Houston Law Center, No. 2008-A-04. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1092863

Contact Information

Geraldine Szott Moohr (Contact Author)
University of Houston Law Center ( email )
100 Law Center
Suite 230 BLB
Houston, TX 77204-6054
United States
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