Capital Offenses

Business Crime and Punishment in America's Corporate Age

Samuel W. Buell (Author)


From the lead prosecutor on the Enron investigation, an eye-opening examination of the explosion of American white-collar crime.

If “corporations are people too,” why isn’t anyone in jail?

A serious defect in a GM car causes accidents; Enron scams investors out of their money; banks bet on the housing market crash and win. In the race to maximize profits, corporations can behave in ways that are morally outrageous but technically legal.

In Capital Offenses, Samuel Buell draws on the unique pairing of his expertise as a Duke University law professor and his personal experience leading the investigation into Enron—the biggest white-collar crime case in U.S. history—to present an in-depth examination of business crime today

At the heart of it sits the limited liability corporation, simultaneously the bedrock of American prosperity and the reason that white-collar crime is difficult to prosecute—a brilliant legal innovation that, in its modern form, can seem impossible to regulate or even manage. By shielding employees from legal responsibility, the corporation encourages the risk-taking that drives economic growth. But its special legal status and its ever-expanding scale place daunting barriers in the way of federal and local investigators.

Detailing the complex legal frameworks that govern both corporations and the people who carry out their missions, Buell shows that deciphering business crime is rarely black or white. In lucid, thought-provoking prose, he illuminates the depths of the legal issues at stake—delving into fraudulent practices like Ponzi schemes, bad accounting, insider trading, and the art of “loopholing”—showing how every major case and each problem of law further exposes the ambivalence and instability at the core of America’s relationship with its corporations.

An expert in criminal law, Buell masterfully examines the limits of too permissive or overzealous prosecution of business crimes. Capital Offenses invites us to take a fresh look at our legal framework and learn how it can be used to effectively discipline corporations for wrongdoing, without dismantling the corporation.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • August 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-393-24783-1
  • 6.4 × 9.6 in / 320 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Endorsements & Reviews

“[Capital Offenses] deserves attention from anyone concerned with the topic [of white collar crime]. . . . The author brings two excellent credentials to his task: a breezy writing style and deep prosecutorial experience. . . . Buell does an admirably brisk job of analyzing what’s gone wrong with a litany of corporate prosecutions.
” — Paul Barrett, Bloomberg

Capital Offenses is a groundbreaking book, one that provides a fascinating analysis of the seemingly endless phenomenon of white-collar crime. Sam Buell, a law professor at Duke University and a former federal prosecutor who handled some of the most prominent corporate criminal cases in American history, is uniquely positioned to detail the circumstances and complexities surrounding corporate crime. In an era where legal violations in the boardrooms have destroyed and even ended lives, Buell’s is an essential book that explains what every American needs to know about these offenses. It is an important achievement that will reshape the ways we think about white-collar crime.” — Kurt Eichenwald, George Polk Award–winning investigative reporter and author of Conspiracy of Fools and The Informant

“This is an extraordinary book that will make you rethink whatever you thought you knew about corporate crime and punishment. Professor Buell draws on his experience pursuing white-collar criminals to expose in plain language a system that fails to deliver for perpetrators and victims alike.” — David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter and author of The Making of Donald Trump

“[Buell] has crafted a thoughtful and thought-provoking examination of crime on Wall Street vs. crime on Main Street.” — Publishers' Weekly

“A book that will challenge conventional wisdom among readers who intuitively believe that corporations often game the system.” — Kirkus Reviews

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