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Copyright (c) 1998 The Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University
Stanford Law Review

ARTICLE: Intracorporate Conspiracies

January, 1998

50 Stan. L. Rev. 399


Shaun P. Martin *


The doctrine of intracorporate conspiracy asserts that a corporation or other business entity may be found vicariously liable for the wholly internal agreements of its agents. Although courts have almost uniformly rejected civil intracorporate conspiracy allegations, the judiciary has overwhelmingly approved the use of the intracorporate conspiracy doctrine in federal criminal prosecutions. This article critically examines the federal judicial response to the doctrine of criminal intracorporate conspiracy.


Two areas of criminal law have assumed heightened importance in the past several decades. First, there has been a dramatic rise in the use of conspiracy laws as a means of criminal prosecution. Second, corporate actors have more frequently been subjected to criminal liability based upon the conduct of their employees. These bodies of law are not only increasingly applied, but their application also has become increasingly controversial. 1 Vicarious corporate liability is a relatively recent, analytically complicated doctrine. Conspiracy law similarly provokes substantial debates among both academicians and practitioners.

The intersection of these two bodies of law is fraught with complexity. This convergence occurs when corporate or other business entities are charged with the illegal efforts of their agents. For example, assume that John and Sue, both of whom are employed by XYZ Corporation, agree to illegally dump toxic waste from one of XYZ's manufacturing facilities. If, after dumping the waste, John and Sue are apprehended, each may be both civilly and criminally punished. Not only may John and Sue be sanctioned, but their employer - XYZ Corporation ...
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