Did the Corporate Criminal Sentencing Guidelines Matter? Some Preliminary Empirical Observations


This paper presents an empirical analysis of the Federal Sentencing Commission's 1991 guidelines for imposing criminal sentences on corporations convicted of federal crimes.  Despite the Sentencing Commission's announced intentions of raising and restructuring corporate fines, we generally find no statistically significant change in the level or structure of corporate monetary penalties imposed under the guidelines during 1992-95, as compared with baseline data taken from preguideline cases sentenced in 1988, after controlling for the harm attributed to the criminal offense.  In an extension of that analysis, we find a marginally significant change in the relationship between corporate penalty levels and the presence of individual codefendants charged together with the corporation in the direction of attenuating that relationship in the postguidelines era.  We discuss the implications of these findings from the perspective of the limited role played by corporate criminal sentencing determinations in the overall public law enforcement effort.