News Release

Should Shareholders Be Punished for Employees' Actions?

Washington, DC­ (June 6, 2008) -- The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and four other nonprofit organizations filed a “friend of the court” brief today asking a federal appeals court to throw out the criminal convictions of a shipping company for a ship’s crew’s failure to maintain proper records of “sludge” and “bilge water” discharges on the high seas.

The unlikely coalition argues that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit should reject a 99-year-old ruling that corporations can be found criminally liable for wrongful acts of lower-level employees of which the company’s management and shareholders had no knowledge.

The case is United States v. Ionia Management, S.A., No. 07-5801-CR. Other parties to the amicus curiae brief in support of the shipping company are the Association of Corporate Counsel, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Washington Legal Foundation.

NACDL White Collar Crime Project Director Stephanie Martz, who coordinated the amicus effort, explained, “It goes against every tenet of criminal law to hold individuals liable for conduct over which they had no control – and which, in fact, they tried to prevent. There is no reason to have a different, court-made rule for businesses.

“Punishing business owners for the unauthorized acts of properly-trained employees serves no constructive purpose, but instead undermines respect for the law,” she said.

The joint amicus brief, authored by Andrew Weissmann, Richard F. Ziegler, Joseph J. McFadden and Luke P. McLoughlin, of the New York office of Jenner & Block LLP, can be downloaded from NACDL’s Amicus Curiae Web page or by following the below link.$FILE/Ionia_Mgmt_Amicus.pdf

Featured Products


NACDL Communications Department

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.