Sticky Liabilities: Corporate Essence and Identity in Criminal Law
30 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2017 Last revised: 25 Mar 2017
Date Written: February 26, 2017
How can you tell whether you are punishing the right corporation? Though central to corporate criminal justice, theorists have yet to address this basic question. Without a theory of how corporate identity persists through time, we cannot be sure that the corporation we punish today is the same as the corporation that committed the past crime. Nor can we even know how to go about finding the answer. Simple cases, where crime and punishment are close in time and the corporation has changed little, can mislead us to think an answer is always easy to come by. The issue becomes much more complicated when corporate criminals undergo any number of very common transformations—rebranding, spinning-off, merging, changing ownership, changing management, swapping lines of business, etc. These changes are common among corporations trying to conceal or limit liability for past crimes. This article takes a first step toward developing a workable and philosophically satisfying theory of corporate personal identity that achieves the deterrent, rehabilitative, and retributive purposes of criminal law. Along the way, it draws together threads from law, philosophy, and cognitive science bearing on identity through time.
Keywords: Corporate Crime, Personal Identity, Philosophy, Cognitive Science
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