Arthur Andersen and the Myth of the Corporate Death Penalty: Corporate Criminal Convictions in the Twenty-First Century
15 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law 797 (2013)
46 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2012 Last revised: 7 May 2013
Date Written: August 20, 2012
The conventional wisdom states that prosecuting corporations can subject them to terrible collateral consequences that risk putting them out of business and causing massive social and economic harm. Under this viewpoint, which has come to dominate the literature following the demise of Arthur Andersen after that firm’s prosecution in the wake of the Enron scandal, even a criminal indictment can be a “corporate death penalty.” The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has implicitly accepted this view by declining to prosecute many large companies in favor of using criminal settlements called deferred prosecution agreements, or “DPAs.” Yet, there is no evidence to support the existence of the “Andersen Effect” and the much-hyped corporate death penalty. Indeed, no one has ever empirically studied what happens to companies after conviction. In this Article, I do just that. Using the database of organizational convictions made publicly available by Professor Brandon Garrett, I find that no publicly traded company failed because of a conviction in the years 2001-2010. Moreover, many convictions included plea agreements imposing compliance programs that advocates have pointed to as a key justification for using DPAs. Because corporate convictions do not have the terrible consequences they were assumed to have, and because they can be used to obtain compliance programs just as DPAs can, the DOJ should prosecute more lawbreaking companies and reserve DPAs for extraordinary circumstances. In the absence of some other justification for using DPAs, the DOJ should exploit the stronger deterrent value of corporate prosecution to its full capacity.
Keywords: White-Collar Crime, Deferred Prosecution Agreements, Non-prosecution Agreements, Arthur Andersen, Enron, Corporate Crime, White Collar, Corporation
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