THE PRIMARY DOCTRINE by which organizations have been held legally responsible for their employees' actions is taken from civil tort law, and is known as respondeat superior (let the superior respond). The rule originated in England in the late 17th century (although it is traceable to more ancient times), and was meant to deter employers from escaping financial responsibility for the actions of their employees. Respondeat superior was first used in England in the mid-19th century to justify a criminal indictment, and it was first used for that purpose in America a short time later.

By the end of the 19th century, there was ample precedent to prosecute corporations under respondeat superior. Congress passed the Elkins Act in 1903, which outlawed shipper rebating and contained ...

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