No-Fault Criminal Liability for Executives

by Leonard Goldberg, Kenneth Walters



According to traditional criminal law principles, a person cannot be found guilty of a crime unless his or her conduct was blameworthy. But in the case of regulatory crimes there has been a growing trend toward circumventing the problem of assessing moral responsibility by simply doing away with the traditional legal requirement that blame is necessary to impose criminal liability. The U.S. Congress, state legislatures, and the courts have often turned to the criminal law to discourage antisocial business behavior. Corporate officers and managers are held criminally responsible for the failure of their firms to attain social goals stipulated by law-such as achieving certain standards of product quality and safety, environmental quality, and job safety. Especially significant is the inclination to hold high-level executives and officers criminally liable for the lapses of lower-level employees. The issues of fault and responsibility are especially important today. Some urge that federal criminal laws extend no-fault criminal liability to a vast range of activities. The author examines whether no-fault criminal liability is the most effective way to regulate business? How can top managers effectively oversee and monitor vast enterprises so as to avoid illegality and the stigma of criminal liability? And would society benefit from spreading no-fault criminal laws to new areas of business regulation?

California Management Review

Berkeley-Haas's Premier Management Journal

Published at Berkeley Haas for more than sixty years, California Management Review seeks to share knowledge that challenges convention and shows a better way of doing business.

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