The Arrival of Justice Gorsuch May Bring Opportunity to Reform the Collective Entity Doctrine

Business Crimes Bulletin
12 minute read | June.01.2017

A little over 100 years ago, the Supreme Court declined to extend the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination to corporations responding to grand jury subpoenas for documents, establishing what has been termed the “collective entity doctrine.” Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43, 74-76 (1906) (corporate officer, who had been immunized in his individual capacity, attempted to assert Fifth Amendment right on behalf of his employer). Some Justices have expressed discomfort with the application of the collective entity doctrine to small corporations responding to grand jury subpoenas, and recent decisions by the Court have extended First Amendment rights to corporations that had previously been limited to individuals. These developments suggest that the Court, particularly with the arrival of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, might be receptive to reconsidering the scope of the collective entity doctrine, a rule whose principal virtue seems to be that it is a bright-line, particularly in the context of small, closely-held corporations.

Originally published in the Business Crimes Bulletin; reprinted with permission.