Should Corporations Be Prevented from Paying Ransom?

by Brian Michael Jenkins

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Abstract

Invited testimony for the California Assembly Judiciary and Criminal Justice committees on bills forbidding corporations and charitable trusts to pay ransom. Such bills are unlikely to accomplish their intended purpose of discouraging kidnappings. What discourages kidnappings is a high rate of apprehension and conviction, plus severe sentences. To apprehend extortionists, police authorities depend on the cooperation of those on whom the demands are made — cooperation that is unlikely if the hostage's welfare is jeopardized by nonpayment (or if the payer is legally liable). Where American corporate officials are kidnapped overseas, the impression of valuing money above life would damage the image of the corporation and of the United States. (The bills are appended; they were defeated).

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