Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, a corporation may be held criminally liable for the illegal acts of its directors, officers, employees, and agents. The most common criminal cases are filed for regulatory causes, but other charges also may be brought depending on the severity of the crime and the adequacy of the civil and administrative enforcement actions, among many considerations.
On a related note, several months ago, we posted a case study from our files about one of the biggest payroll-tax frauds in U.S. history. The $200 million fraud led to the subject company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing and its subsequent federal indictment. The company’s former CEO, who was considered the mastermind of the fraud, was sentenced to 22 years in prison in 2008. Prosecutors in the case argued that a guilty plea from the company itself also was needed to deter similar crimes by other companies. However, the court ruled that, among other regards, this would lead to unnecessary costs of a trial and damage the legal claims contained in the bankruptcy.