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Articles

Brush Up on the RCO Doctrine

November 15, 2010

Articles

Brush Up on the RCO Doctrine

November 15, 2010

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Likely fast asleep on the night of April 20, BP p.l.c.’s embattled and now dethroned CEO Tony Hayward may not have been physically present on the Deepwater Horizon, but he still could face criminal prosecution for the harm the massive oil spill caused, if federal and state prosecutors revive the responsible corporate officer doctrine. Now is a good time for in-house lawyers to brush up on the RCO doctrine.

The RCO doctrine is a long-established yet not widely used theory of criminal liability. It allows prosecutors to hold high-ranking corporate officers criminally responsible for their companies’ acts. Under the RCO doctrine, any corporate officer with the authority and responsibility to prevent certain wrongs may be criminally liable, regardless of whether she participated in or knew of its occurrence.

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