Friday, April 20, 2012

The crime of "doing nothing" 

The Obama Administration has so aggressively expanded the personal criminal liability of corporate officers that the American Bar Association can now charge money to teach people how not to get prosecuted for "the crime of doing nothing."

It started as a rarely-used prosecutorial theory for imposing strict criminal liability for Food & Drug Administration (FDA) misdemeanors, but now the Responsible Corporate Officer Doctrine has expanded as a means to establish the liability of corporate officers for administrative and civil penalties, among other things. Aptly called the “crime of doing nothing,” this doctrine focuses on a person’s position in an organization to impose a non-delegable duty to prevent violations.
There are many reasons -- both utilitarian and moral -- to object to the criminal (as opposed to civil) prosecution of corporate officers for mere omissions, even if negligent. Suppose, though, that there actually is a sensible basis for the "crime of doing nothing". Should not the same justification support similar liability for the executives who run governmental agencies? If not, explain why.


By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sat Apr 21, 12:51:00 AM:

Because heads of government agencies are wise and decent people who have only our best interest at heart, while corporate executives want only to make money and deserve to be punished on general principles anyway.

Sheesh. How often do I have to explain this?  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Sat Apr 21, 02:10:00 AM:

Jeez, if "doing nothing" were a crime they'd have given me the chair a long time ago (rimshot).  

By Anonymous tyree, at Sat Apr 21, 01:26:00 PM:

"Should not the same justification support similar liability for the executives who run governmental agencies? If not, explain why."

First, I would assume that everyone has a duty to at least call the police if a woman is screaming outside their window. However, the government really needs to be careful when placing itself in the role of judge on peoples actions in cases like that. After all, no system can be made large enough to prosecute a fraction of the cases possible due to inaction on everything.

We have to be very careful here. Government already seems to collect more than it's share of people who think the are above the laws that bind the 99%.  

By Blogger Lynn, at Sat Apr 21, 09:40:00 PM:

Why not? It appears we can now be penalized for the crime of not engaging in commerce....  

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