Cedric Kushner Promotions, Ltd. v. King, 533 U.S. 158, 2 (2001)

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Cite as: 533 U. S. 158 (2001)

Syllabus

Linguistically speaking, an employee who conducts his corporation's affairs through illegal acts comes within 1962(c)'s terms forbidding any "person" unlawfully to conduct an "enterprise," particularly when RICO explicitly defines "person" to include "any individual . . . capable of holding a legal or beneficial interest in property," and defines "enterprise" to include a "corporation," 1961(3), (4). And, linguistically speaking, the employee and the corporation are different "persons," even where the employee is the corporation's sole owner. Incorporation's basic purpose is to create a legal entity distinct from those natural individuals who created the corporation, who own it, or whom it employs. See, e. g., United States v. Bestfoods, 524 U. S. 51, 61-62. The precedent on which the Second Circuit relied involved significantly different circumstances from those here at issue. Further, to apply RICO in these circumstances is consistent with the statute's basic purposes of protecting both a legitimate "enterprise" from those who would use unlawful acts to victimize it, United States v. Turkette, 452 U. S. 576, 591, and the public from those who would unlawfully use an "enterprise" (whether legitimate or illegitimate) as a "vehicle" through which unlawful activity is committed, National Organization for Women, Inc. v. Scheidler, 510 U. S. 249, 259. Conversely, the appellate court's critical legal distinction—between employees acting within and without the scope of corporate authority—would immunize from RICO liability many of those at whom this Court has said RICO directly aims, e. g., high-ranking individuals in an illegitimate criminal enterprise, who, seeking to further the enterprise's purposes, act within the scope of their authority, cf. Turkette, supra, at 581. Finally, nothing in the statute's history significantly favors an alternative interpretation. This Court's rule is no less consistent than is the lower court's rule with the following principles cited by King: (1) the principle that a corporation acts only through its directors, officers, and agents; (2) the principle that a corporation should not be liable for its employees' criminal acts where Congress so intends; and (3) antitrust law's intracorporate conspiracy doctrine. Pp. 161-166.

219 F. 3d 115, reversed and remanded.

Breyer, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Richard A. Edlin argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs was Ronald D. Lefton.

Austin C. Schlick argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. With him on the brief were Acting Solicitor General Underwood, Acting Assist-

159

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