Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 154, Issue 4, pp 955–966 | Cite as

Corporate Essence and Identity in Criminal Law

  • Mihailis E. DiamantisEmail author
Original Paper


How can we know whether we are punishing the same corporation that committed some past crime? Though central to corporate criminal justice, legal theorists and philosophers have yet to address the basic question of how corporate identity persists through time. Simple cases, where crime and punishment are close in time and the corporation has changed little, can mislead us into thinking an answer is always easy to come by. The issue becomes more complicated when corporate criminals undergo any number of transformations—rebranding, spinning-off a division, merging, changing ownership, changing management, swapping lines of business, etc. These changes are common among all corporations, including those trying to conceal or limit liability for past crimes. This article takes a first step toward developing a workable and philosophically satisfying theory of corporate personal identity and discusses its prospects for fulfilling the retributive, rehabilitative, and deterrent purposes of criminal law.


Personal identity Corporate crime Successor liability 



Many thanks to my industrious research assistants, Gabriel Fox and Curtis Underwood, and to Kiel Brennan-Marquez, John Rudisill, and Steven Weimer for valuable comments.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Mihailis E. Diamantis declares he has no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Law, Department of PhilosophyUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA

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