A Marketing Pitch for Corporate Criminal Law

2 Stetson Bus. L. Rev. 1 (2023)

29 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2022 Last revised: 10 Mar 2023

See all articles by W. Robert (Will) Thomas

W. Robert (Will) Thomas

University of Michigan Ross School of Business

Mihailis Diamantis

University of Iowa - College of Law

Date Written: August 1, 2022


Corporate criminal law needs a marketing makeover. In the public relations frenzy that follows a corporate criminal investigation, authorities are outgunned and outmaneuvered. Judging by the pastiche of '90s era design choices on the website the Department of Justice uses to announce corporate penalties, authorities are either unaware of the important of marketing or do not care. Prosecutors aren’t marketing professionals. Nor, for that matter, are most scholars writing about corporate misconduct.

Humdrum publicity dilutes corporate sanctions and dulls the edge of criminal justice. Criminal dispositions should single out truly contemptible practices from merely sharp, unproductive, or undesirable ones. In this way, criminal law gives victims the recognition they deserve and deters wrongdoers who would preserve their good name. Corporate punishment today falls far short of these communicative ambitions. It is a fleeting affair diluted by civil and administrative alternatives, PR spin, and a frenetic media environment. It can be hard even to identify after the fact who the corporate criminals are. Unsurprisingly, corporations view criminal charges as inconvenient economic uncertainties and criminal sanctions as mere costs of doing business. Public perceptions have largely followed suit.

For punishment to convey its intended message, society must hear it. Some marketing savvy could help. Yet legal scholars working to improve corporate criminal justice (let alone government functionaries enacting it) rarely seek the advice of colleagues in marketing departments. This paper lays the groundwork for dialogue about how to market corporate criminal law better and thereby make it more effective.

Keywords: corporate criminal law, white collar crime, marketing, branding, corporate punishment

JEL Classification: M31,

Suggested Citation

Thomas, William Robert and Diamantis, Mihailis, A Marketing Pitch for Corporate Criminal Law (August 1, 2022). 2 Stetson Bus. L. Rev. 1 (2023), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4178259

William Robert Thomas (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States

Mihailis Diamantis

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

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

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