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What is Malfeasance?

The definition of malfeasance is basically a crime committed by a high status individual, typically a government employee. However, malfeasance can be used in lieu of the word crime when an officer of a corporation has committed an unlawful act, not just public officials.

malfeasance court hearing
  • The legal term malfeasance is often used when an individual in an authority role uses their authority for illegal personal gain.

Malfeasance is a term commonly used in legal and ethical contexts to refer to wrongful or unlawful conduct. It describes any intentional or negligent act that is in violation of the law, ethics, or established rules and regulations. The term malfeasance can take various forms:

  • fraud

  • embezzlement

  • corruption

  • abuse of power


illegal or unethical activities that harm:

  • individuals

  • organizations

  • society as a whole.

This wrongful conduct can occur in various settings, such as government, business, healthcare, and non-profit organizations. In the legal system, malfeasance may lead to civil or criminal liability, depending on the severity and nature of the offense. It often requires proof of intent or gross negligence to establish legal culpability.

Efforts to prevent and address malfeasance typically involve implementing transparent systems of accountability, robust internal controls, and mechanisms for reporting and investigating wrongdoing. Ethical guidelines, codes of conduct, and professional standards also play a crucial role in deterring malfeasance and promoting responsible behavior within organizations and institutions. Addressing malfeasance is essential for maintaining trust and integrity in both the public and private sectors.

Examples of Malfeasance
  • A politician taking bribes to intact policies that benefit the individuals offering the bribe.

  • A corporate officer knowingly producing a dangerous product by circumventing legal regulations.

  • Embezzling funds from a company's accounts for personal gain is a clear example of malfeasance.

  • A government official accepting bribes in exchange for favorable treatment is engaged in malfeasance.

  • A doctor performing unnecessary medical procedures to generate more revenue is committing medical malfeasance.

  • Manipulating financial records to overstate a company's profits is a form of malfeasance in accounting.

  • Police officers using excessive force against unarmed individuals are involved in malfeasance.

  • An elected official using public funds for personal vacations is guilty of malfeasance.

  • A CEO concealing safety hazards in a product to boost sales is engaging in malfeasance.

  • Falsifying research data in a scientific study is a serious act of malfeasance.

  • A teacher altering students' test scores to improve their school's reputation is committing malfeasance.

  • A charity executive siphoning donations for personal use represents a case of malfeasance in the non-profit sector.

About the Author

definition of malfeasance

Peter Sandru is an Instructor & Co-Founder of NDIL with over 15 years as a Professional Private Investigator. Peter has spent more than a decade conducting investigations throughout the world, primarily for corporations, legal firms, and government agencies. Peter has assisted in the creation of numerous investigative & security training programs in various capacities.

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