Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Did the Corporate Criminal Sentencing Guidelines Matter? Some Preliminary Empirical Observations

33 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2007  

Jeffrey S. Parker

George Mason University School of Law

Raymond A. Atkins

Covington & Burling


This paper presents an empirical analysis of the Federal Sentencing Commission's 1991 guidelines for imposing criminal sentences on corporations convicted of federal crimes. Despite the Sentencing Commission's announced intentions of raising and restructuring corporate fines, we generally find no statistically significant change in the level or structure of corporate monetary penalties imposed under the guidelines during 1992-95, as compared with baseline data taken from preguideline cases sentenced in 1988, after controlling for the harm attributed to the criminal offense. In an extension of that analysis, we find a marginally significant change in the relationship between corporate penalty levels and the presence of individual codefendants charged together with the corporation in the direction of attenuating that relationship in the postguidelines era. We discuss the implications of these findings from the perspective of the limited role played by corporate criminal sentencing determinations in the overall public law enforcement effort.

Keywords: Federal Sentencing Commission, sentencing guidelines, criminal law, corporate crime, penalty levels

JEL Classification: K14, M14

Suggested Citation

Parker, Jeffrey S. and Atkins, Raymond A., Did the Corporate Criminal Sentencing Guidelines Matter? Some Preliminary Empirical Observations. Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Part 2), pp. 423-453, April 1999; George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 07-47. Available at SSRN:

Jeffrey Parker (Contact Author)

George Mason University School of Law ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States
(703) 993-8055 (Phone)

Raymond Atkins

Covington & Burling ( email )

1201 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
1201 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. P.O. Box 7566
Washington, DC 20004-2401
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views