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Journal Article

Corporate Criminal Intent: Toward a Better Understanding of Corporate Misconduct

Ann Foerschler
California Law Review
Vol. 78, No. 5 (Oct., 1990), pp. 1287-1311
DOI: 10.2307/3480748
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3480748
Page Count: 25
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Corporate Criminal Intent: Toward a Better Understanding of Corporate Misconduct
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Abstract

Although corporations can be "persons" in certain legal contexts, they cannot so easily be criminals. Recognition of criminal liability for corporate entities has been slow in coming in the law. The prosecution of corporations for intent crimes has been particularly problematic. For such crimes, the law has attempted to anchor the criminal liability of corporations to the intent of individuals within the corporation. Organizational theory, through its several models of corporate decisionmaking, confirms that borrowing intent from individual corporate actors may not be productive, since some corporate acts can never be traced to the intent of any one individual. This Comment suggests a framework to replace the conventional rule of imputing criminal intent directly from individuals to the corporation. The author adopts a framework with a nonreductionist approach, looking solely to corporate practices and policies for the inquiry. The author creates a three-part test to determine corporate intent, asking whether a corporate practice or policy violated the law, whether it was reasonably foreseeable that such a policy would lead a corporate agent to violate the law, or whether the corporation adopted that agent's violation of the law. The author argues that this framework more accurately identifies culpability for criminal acts within complex corporate structures.

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