Wednesday, August 16, 2006
White Collar Crime - Punish The Criminal, Not His Corporation
The rather dense article at the link below is essentially pro-corporate. That makes it unusual fare for this particular blog, but it scores some valid points nonetheless. It argues that, although corporations may have the rights of a person in some respects, that doesn't necessarily make them eligible for criminal prosecution as persons. It also certainly shouldn't require them to take responsibility for crimes committed by their employees - even if those employees are the CEO or the CFO. Moreover, the punishments that could be given to corporations could never be the same as those meted out to convicted felons. Corporations cannot be imprisoned. They can only be fined, thus punishing the shareholders as much, if not more, than the actual criminals.
I agree with this. When an executive commits a crime, he and he alone should be brought to trial. The corporation he works for is as much a victim of his crime as anyone else. Considering that most white collar crimes are the product of human weaknesses such as greed, pride or vanity, it is also morally appropriate that a human being - not an organization - should be punished for them. Absolving corporations automatically from the crimes of their executives would relieve them of the strategic obligation to commit legal resources on behalf on those executives, which might result in swifter convictions for the guilty. Removing the corporation from the picture would put more emphasis on the actual felons, enhancing their negative image in the media and thus providing poetic justice to executive criminals whose desire for fame and attention drove them to their crimes to begin with. Last but not least, deflecting punishment from the corporations would help them remain solvent for the sake of their employees - most of whom, especially in the lower ranks, would be innocent of any charges.
"Rethinking Corporate Culpability For White-Collar Crime" from Heritage.org