Cite as: 533 U. S. 158 (2001)
Opinion of the Court
employee who conducts the corporation's affairs through an unlawful RICO "pattern . . . of activity," § 1962(c), uses that corporation as a "vehicle" whether he is, or is not, its sole owner.
Conversely, the appellate court's critical legal distinction— between employees acting within the scope of corporate authority and those acting outside that authority—is inconsistent with a basic statutory purpose. Cf. Reves, supra, at 184 (stating that an enterprise is " 'operated,' " within § 1962(c)'s meaning, "not just by upper management but also by lower rung participants in the enterprise who are under the direction of upper management" (emphasis added)). It 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 purposes of that enterprise, act within the scope of their authority. Cf. Turkette, supra, at 581 (Congress "did nothing to indicate that an enterprise consisting of a group of individuals was not covered by RICO if the purpose of the enterprise was exclusively criminal").
Finally, we have found nothing in the statute's history that significantly favors an alternative interpretation. That history not only refers frequently to the importance of undermining organized crime's influence upon legitimate businesses but also refers to the need to protect the public from those who would run "organization[s] in a manner detrimental to the public interest." S. Rep. No. 91-617, at 82. This latter purpose, as we have said, invites the legal principle we endorse, namely, that in present circumstances the statute requires no more than the formal legal distinction between "person" and "enterprise" (namely, incorporation) that is present here.
In reply, King argues that the lower court's rule is consistent with (1) the principle that a corporation acts only through its directors, officers, and agents, 1 Fletcher, supra, § 30, (2) the principle that a corporation should not be liable
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