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Do the company's actions fit the definition of a crime?

Do the company's actions fit the definition of a crime? If so, what kind, a felony or a misdemeanor? Why or why not?


- The Department of Justice Has Upped the Ante on Criminal Liability for Employers
- Ex-WorldCom Chief Ebbers Convicted of Fraud
- Reliant Energy Services, Inc. and Four of its Officers Charged With Criminal Manupulation of California Electricity Market

This US Department of Justice opinion might be useful to you: Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations.

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Although the question just refers to the "company's actions" in general, I am assuming that it is referring to those behaviors and actions that have ethical and/or legal implications rather than all actions by the company. The legal definition of crime is this: a crime occurs when someone breaks a criminal law. (Source: http://www.legal-definitions.com/crime.htm). Some would argue that if laws are being broken, the business or corporate people involved should be persecuted in the same way as all lawbreakers, and not be allowed to hide behind the corporate name and get away with a lesser punishment (i.e., misdemeanor versus felony or criminal charges). However, not everyone would agree.

Others argue that business or corporations should, instead, be charged with a misdemeanor. In US law, a misdemeanor is an offence less serious than a felony. A misdemeanor is an offence punishable by a relatively insevere penalty, such as a fine or short term in prison or a term of community service, while a felony carries more severe penalties, such as a term of imprisonment of a year or more up to the death penalty. In this sense then, the question ties into the larger issue, that of corporate or "white collar" crime. If a business or corporation, for example, cuts costs and violates safety regulations, and causes 10 workers to die on the job, should the corporation be charged with a violation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations (i.e., misdemeanor) or should the company owner be charged with a felony (i.e., murder, manslaughter, etc.). I think the latter...what do you think? Later, we will look at the barriers to burden of proof when the corporation is hierarchical in structure and thus blame shifting occurs within the corporate structure?

However, in most states, juries are instructed that merely being present at the scene of a crime, even with guilty knowledge that a crime is being committed, isn't enough to convict a person of a crime. This would equally apply to those in business who know of a felony occurring with the business (i.e., embezzlement, cutting costs at the expense of health and safety of the workers, etc.). But there are principles of criminal liability that apply to people other than the actual perpetrator of a crime. For example, under federal law there is a crime called "misprision" of a felony, which applies to a person who has actual knowledge of the commission of a felony and doesn't report it to the authorities. Also, a person can be held criminally liable as an "accessory after ...

Solution Summary

Referring to the suggested articles, this solution responds to the questions: Do the company's actions fit the definition of a crime? If so, what kind, a felony or a misdemeanor? Why or why not?