Prosecution and Punishment of Corporate Criminality

Posted: 13 Nov 2019

See all articles by Mihailis Diamantis

Mihailis Diamantis

University of Iowa - College of Law

William S. Laufer

University of Pennsylvania - Legal Studies Department

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 2019


This article offers an overview of and commentary on the US approach to corporate prosecution and punishment. Though the United States purports to have a vigorous system of corporate criminal law enforcement, one could reasonably ask whether that system actually takes corporate crime seriously. Corporate prosecutions, convictions, and punishment continue to be rare events. Sanctions leveraged against corporations range from those whose effectiveness remains unproved, to those that are provably ineffective, to those that are conceptually and practically incoherent. One could also reasonably ask to what extent the United States even has a corporate criminal law to enforce. The recent history of corporate criminal law enforcement reflects a discernable shift in discretion from judges to prosecutors. This period is marked by the importance of extralegal prosecutorial guidelines, the absence of controlling case law, large gaps in statutory law, and long-called-for law reforms. One result is a systematic shift from reliance on public enforcement to private self-regulation. Not only are the resulting costs to the private sector substantial and growing, but the problems with relying on corporations to police themselves are plain to see. Amid these challenges, the thirst for private-sector responsibility and accountability should motivate continued debate over the prosecution and punishment of corporations.

Suggested Citation

Diamantis, Mihailis and Laufer, William S., Prosecution and Punishment of Corporate Criminality (October 2019). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 15, pp. 453-472, 2019, Available at SSRN: or

Mihailis Diamantis

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Boyd Law Building, rm. 442
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States

William S. Laufer (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Legal Studies Department ( email )

3730 Walnut Street
Suite 600
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States
(215) 898-7693 (Phone)
(215) 573-2006 (Fax)

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