Disclosure-Driven Crime

97 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2019

See all articles by J.S. Nelson

J.S. Nelson

Harvard Law School; Harvard Business School; Villanova Law School (on leave 2021-23); Villanova School of Business; Institute for Corruption Studies

Date Written: February 6, 2019


As illustrated by the recent Volkswagen emissions scandal and other large-scale corporate wrongdoing, business organizations and top executives with disclosure duties learn to be willfully blind to what is happening inside their organizations. Under pressure for results without inquiry into methods, middle management coordinates large-scale wrongdoing without consequence. The resulting insulation and entrenchment of middle management to coordinate large-scale wrongdoing is a problem that our enforcement approach must better address.

The Article describes the mechanisms of this harm. It then investigates developments in two proposed fixes — conspiracy prosecutions and especially willful blindness instructions — before advocating as more meaningful encouraging the engagement of individuals at all levels of a company to combat widespread corporate wrongdoing.

Keywords: Volkswagen, criminal conspiracy, willful blindness, willful blindness instructions, middle management, disclosure, widespread wrongdoing, corporate crime, emissions control, top executives, employee engagement

JEL Classification: K22, K14, K29, K42, L14, L21, L23, L43, L52, L53, L9, L91, L98, L99, M10, M12, M14, M16, M19, M38, M

Suggested Citation

Nelson, J.S. (Josephine Sandler), Disclosure-Driven Crime (February 6, 2019). UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 52, No. 3, 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3330314

J.S. (Josephine Sandler) Nelson (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard Business School ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States

Villanova Law School (on leave 2021-23) ( email )

299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085
United States

Villanova School of Business ( email )

800 Lancaster Avenue
Villanova, PA 19085-1678
United States

Institute for Corruption Studies

Stevenson Hall 425
Normal, IL 61790-4200
United States

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