In Defense of Imperfect Compliance Programs

18 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2004

See all articles by Amitai Aviram

Amitai Aviram

University of Illinois College of Law

Date Written: August 2004


In Organizational Misconduct: Beyond the Principal-Agent Model, Professor Krawiec argues that organizations have perverse incentives to implement ineffective compliance programs, and supports this argument with a survey of empirical research. Based on her argument she urges that organizations be held strictly liable to corporate crimes (in terms of both guilt and punishment), regardless of the implementation of a compliance program by the accused organization. Assuming arguendo that criminal law's current treatment of compliance programs gives organizations an incentive to design inefficient programs, this Article posits that corporate crime may be better deterred if criminal law embraces, rather than remains agnostic to, compliance programs.

First, Krawiec's policy suggestion overstates the impact of the legal sanction on corporate behavior. The legal sanction is only one of several sanctions imposed for organizational misconduct. The public relations effect of misconduct may harm organizations more than any legal sanction, giving them an incentive to implement compliance programs that assure the public of the organization's compliance with the law. Second, Krawiec does not consider utility that is derived from reducing the public's subjective perception of the likelihood of misconduct. This placebo effect that exists whether a compliance program is objectively effective or not, may increase utility by offsetting behavioral biases that cause the public to overestimate the probability of organizational misconduct.

JEL Classification: D10, D21, K14, K22, K42, L21

Suggested Citation

Aviram, Amitai, In Defense of Imperfect Compliance Programs (August 2004). Available at SSRN: or

Amitai Aviram (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

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