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A corporation may be guilty of a specific intent crime committed by its agent if: (1) the agent was acting within the course and scope of his or her employment, having the authority to act for the corporation with respect to the particular corporate business which was conducted criminally; (2) the agent was acting, at least in part, in furtherance of the corporation's business interests; and (3) the criminal acts were authorized, tolerated, or ratified by corporate management. This test is not quite the same as the test for corporate vicarious liability for a civil tort of an agent. The burden of proof is different, and, unlike civil liability, criminal guilt requires that the agent be acting at least in part in furtherance of the corporation's business interests. Moreover, it must be shown that corporate management authorized, tolerated, or ratified the criminal activity.
Defendant was a corporation that operated a car dealership. The manufacturer of certain automobiles offered a rebate as an incentive for selling certain vehicles during a specified period of time. It was alleged that an agent for defendant forged the signatures of certain customers and falsified the dates of car purchases in order to submit applications to the manufacturer for rebates, which were credited to defendant. Defendant was convicted of theft by swindle and aggravated forgery, pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 609352(2) (1982) and Minn. Stat. § 609.625(1) (1982), and sought review, arguing that a corporation lacked the intent required to be convicted of the crimes.
Under the circumstances, did the corporation lack the intent required to be convicted of theft by swindle and of aggravated forgery?
On appeal, the court held that a corporation could be liable for the crimes and possess the requisite intent where the actions of an agent for the corporation were undertaken for the benefit of the corporation or in accordance with corporate policy. The court found that there was sufficient evidence that the corporation's agent had undertaken the acts for the benefits of defendant to sustain the trial court's conviction of defendant. Accordingly, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.