Volume 17

The Real Danger of the Responsibility Surplus

by John Hasnas

The Responsible Corporate Officer doctrine permits the criminal punishment of an executive who neither participated in nor was aware of a criminal offense committed by a subordinate in limited circumstances. Some theorists argue for expanding the scope of the doctrine as a means of discouraging corporate wrongdoing. In this article I argue that this is mistaken as a matter of fact. Extending such vicarious criminal liability would not only fail to reduce corporate crime, it would be likely to both increase it and retard efforts to create non-criminogenic corporate cultures.

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