Corporate Misconduct: The Legal, Societal, and Management Issues

By Margaret P. Spencer; Ronald R. Sims | Go to book overview
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activity one manufacturer was convicted on felony toxic-dumping charges resulting in a criminal penalty of more than $100,000. This company's problems began when a whistle-blower informed authorities about his employer's illegal discharge of copper waste. The conviction resulted from a covert investigation initiated by local and federal prosecutors.

This increase in the prosecution of corporate crime by state and local officials and the specific increase in the prosecution of noneconomic crimes is simply another response to the growing concern about the nature and extent of corporate misconduct. These officials deem criminal prosecutions the most effective deterrent to corporate crime. One prosecutor commented:

There's only one advantage to corporate prosecution -- in terms of its deterrence value, one prosecution is worth 500. I've prosecuted maybe 50 murderers, and I've never deterred a street murderer. I've probably prosecuted one industrial murderer, and I think we've deterred a whole lot of people -- at least woke them up -- so some people are trying to do the right thing. So even with a lack of resources, one corporate prosection is much more valuable than one street crime prosecution.40

Most of the prosecutors in the Justice Department study echoed this opinion, noting the increased significance of corporate crime and that corporate offenders were more easily deterred than street offenders. Furthermore, prosecutors expressed a strong sense of moral outrage over the "arrogance and callousness" of many business offenders, particularly those involved in repeated and intentional violations. For these offenders the imposition of criminal sanctions was regarded as appropriate, necessary, and deserved.

The legal environment has clearly become more hostile as a result of corporate fraud and misconduct in the 1980s and early 1990s. This greater hostility is likely to be felt in the future in the form of more federal statutes, more regulation, and more litigation -- civil and criminal.

Edwin Sutherland, White Collar Crime ( New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1961), p. 19. See Edwin Sutherland, "White Collar Criminality," American Sociological Review, 5 ( Feb. 1940): 12.
Ronald C. Kramer, "Corporate Criminality: The Development of an Idea," in Corporations as Criminals, ed. Ellen Hochstedler ( Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1984), p. 13.


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