Criminal liability of corporations has become one of the most debated topics of the 20
The debate became especially significant following the 1990s, when both the United
States and Europe have faced an alarming number of environmental, antitrust, fraud, food and
drug, false statements, worker death, bribery, obstruction of justice, and financial crimes
involving corporations. The most recent and prominent case in the United Sates has been the
Enron scandal in which one of the largest accounting firms in the world, Arthur Andersen LLP,
was charged with obstruction of justice.
Some corporations, including Dynergy, Adelphia
Communications, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Health South, Parmalat (in Italy), and Royal
Ahold (in Netherlands) falsified their financial disclosures.
Other corporations, among which are
Royal Caribbean, Olympic Pipeline, Exxon, Pfizer, Bayer, and Shering-Plough Corporation,
breached the environmental or health and safety laws. McWane Inc., one of the world largest
manufacturers of cast-iron pipes, has an extensive record of violations causing deaths.
corporate crimes resulted in great losses. The consequences that most directly affect our society
are the enormous losses of money, jobs, and even lives. At the same time, the long-term effects
of these crimes, such as the damaging effects upon the environment or health, which may not
severely affect us now, should not be underestimated.
The reaction to this corporate criminal phenomenon has been the creation of juridical
regimes that could deter and punish corporate wrongdoing. Corporate misconduct has been
addressed by civil, administrative, and criminal laws. At the present, most countries agree that
corporations can be sanctioned under civil and administrative laws. However, the criminal
liability of corporations has been more controversial. While several jurisdictions have accepted