Deterring corporate crime at all costs? : the relevance and appropriateness of risking sanction-induced bankruptcy
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- Master Thesis 
To combat the widespread affliction of corporate crime, a more effective corporate liability framework for optimal crime deterrence is required. At the core of this framework lies the trade-off between the social benefits of optimal crime deterrence on one side, and the societal harm from the fines that are sufficiently harsh to deter crime, which can in turn lead to corporate bankruptcy on the other. In this thesis, I evaluate whether the harshest corporate fines, the benchmark penalties, can be a relevant and appropriate tool in an ensemble of 50 completed enforcement cases. The relevance of this penalty is defined from the crime deterrence perspective, according to the extent with which firms collaborate with enforcement agencies, in terms of self-reporting their crimes and fully cooperating with the authorities. In contrast, the appropriateness of the penalty is defined from the government's perspective, according to the collateral consequences of this penalty on different stakeholder groups and how the government regards them. I find that the benchmark penalty could have been relevant in 16 cases from a deterrence standpoint, out of 38 with sufficient data. From these 16 cases, in no more than three cases would governments find the enforcement of the benchmark penalty, and its associated risk of corporate bankruptcy, appropriate according to the damage it creates for the group they put the highest degree of emphasis on. These findings highlight the burden that the current status quo of corporate liability presents for crime deterrence, and demonstrate the unfeasibility of the reliable enforcement of harsh penalties that could lead to corporate bankruptcy.