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Can corporations be charged with white-collar crime?

The emphatic answer to the question above is, yes. If you are up to date on current affairs, you have heard of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That case declared that corporations, being people, have the First Amendment right to donate funds as they wish to election campaigns.

That 2010 ruling wasn't the first regarding the concept of corporations having personhood. The idea of corporations, a group of people united for a purpose, has been around for hundreds of years. So, just as corporations have rights of individuals, they are subject to the same laws all individuals are, such as white-collar crimes, and the need to present a strong defense is just as important.

What this means

To understand the implications, it is helpful to review how the U.S. Justice Department discusses the subject. One particular memo makes clear that just as corporations can be sued, they can also commit crimes. They can also be held responsible for the criminal actions of individuals acting as company agents.

If a corporation is charged, tried and convicted, there is no practical way to send the business to prison. That fate could fall on the individuals who participated in the alleged illicit activity, however. More likely is that the corporation found guilty of white-collar crime faces significant fines and be obliged to pay victims restitution. The business could also be placed on probation and put in the control of a court-appointed administrator.

White-collar crime manifests in many ways and violations are usually prosecuted under federal law. Considering the possible consequences in the event of a conviction, such allegations need to be taken seriously and addressed promptly.

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