Corporate Essence and Identity in Criminal Law

27 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2017 Last revised: 28 Feb 2018

Mihailis Diamantis

University of Iowa - College of Law

Date Written: February 26, 2017


How can we know whether we are punishing the same corporation that committed some past crime? Though central to corporate criminal justice, legal theorists and philosophers have yet to address the basic question of how corporate identity persists through time. Simple cases, where crime and punishment are close in time and the corporation has changed little, can mislead us into thinking an answer is always easy to come by. The issue becomes 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, and discusses its prospects for fulfilling the retributive, rehabilitative, and deterrent purposes of criminal law.

Keywords: Corporate Crime, Personal Identity, Philosophy, Cognitive Science

Suggested Citation

Diamantis, Mihailis, Corporate Essence and Identity in Criminal Law (February 26, 2017). U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017-19. Available at SSRN: or

Mihailis Diamantis (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Melrose and Byington
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States

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