The Ethics of Deferred Prosecution Agreements for MNEs Culpable of Foreign Corruption: Relativistic Pragmatism or Devil’s Pact?

Glauco De Vita, Donato Vozza

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Deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) are legal means, alternative to trial, for the resolution of criminal business cases. Although DPAs are increasingly used in the US and are spreading to other jurisdictions, the ethics of DPAs has hardly been subjected to critical scrutiny. We use a multidisciplinary approach straddling the line between philosophy and law to examine the ethics of DPAs used to resolve cases of multinational enterprises’ (MNEs) foreign corruption. Deontologically, we argue that the normativity of DPAs raises critical concerns related to the notion of justice as punishment, with serious cases of international corruption resolved with minimal retribution for offending MNEs. Taking a utilitarian ethical perspective, we also evaluate the effect of DPAs on MNEs’ tendency to self-regulate or re-offend. Our conclusion, supported by critical analysis of the juridical literature and case evidence on MNEs’ recidivism, is that DPAs do not foster ethical behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)In-Press
JournalBusiness Ethics Quarterly
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2024


  • Deferred Prosecution Agreement
  • Negotiated Justice
  • Ethics of Justice
  • Business Ethics
  • Punishment
  • Criminal Justice

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