Corporations Keeping Themselves in the Dark

Alexander Sarch

in Criminally Ignorant

Published in print July 2019 | ISBN: 9780190056575
Published online June 2019 | e-ISBN: 9780190056605 | DOI:
Corporations Keeping Themselves in the Dark

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Sometimes corporations keep themselves in the dark. This chapter argues that a corporation can incur culpability when its employees block themselves or others within the corporation from obtaining knowledge they should have had. The chapter argues this can provide an equal culpability rationale for imputing knowledge to the corporation itself. One obvious way this could happen is through willful ignorance by the employees. Beyond this, knowledge can be imputed to the corporation when employees culpably prevent others in the company from obtaining information they should have had. Determining when corporations can be deemed to know what their employees kept themselves or others from learning is the task of this chapter. The chapter argues that both these kinds of interference with the information flow within the corporation can, in extreme cases, ground the imputation of knowledge to the corporation. Perhaps controversially, the chapter argues this can sometimes be done even for knowledge that no individual within the company actually possessed. The chapter considers how the willful ignorance doctrine overlaps with the collective knowledge doctrine. Roughly, this rule permits different pieces of information known separately by various employees in the corporation to be stitched together to impute the aggregate of this knowledge to the corporation. The collective knowledge doctrine is best seen as an equal culpability imputation principle. Thus, the same rationale that underlies the willful ignorance doctrine also supports applying the collective knowledge doctrine at least some of the time. Nonetheless, the two doctrines come apart in places. Hence, the two doctrines at bottom are different applications of the same normative principle: equal culpability imputation.

Keywords: corporate crime; corporate mental states; respondeat superior; collective knowledge doctrine; duty to inform; corporate culpability; corporate knowledge; knowledge aggregation; corporate mental-state imputation

Chapter.  15625 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law ; Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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