(KOHR.puh.rit perp wawk)
A brief appearance by a recently arrested business executive for the benefit of media photographers, reporters, and other bystanders.
Another week, another corporate perp walk. Two former WorldCom executives were led by government agents to federal court in Manhattan, where they face charges related to that company's misstatement of billions in expenses. Scott Sullivan, former chief financial officer, and David Myers, former controller, join top officers of Adelphia Communications and Imclone on the list of those recently arrested in the crackdown on corporate crime.
Kurt Eichenwald, "Perp walk," The New York Times, August 4, 2002
The day started like every day other day this time, with the founder of Adelphia doing the corporate perp walk, arrested for treating the company like and I quote "a personal piggy bank."
Mike Littwin, "Red is bad, green is good," Rocky Mountain News, July 25, 2002
The origin of today's phrase begins with the police slang term perp - short for perpetrator which will be familiar to anyone who's watched a standard amount of crime dramas and documentaries. The word has probably been a fixture in cop circles for many years, but the media only picked up on it in the early 1980s (first cite: 1981).
In certain jurisdictions, once you've processed a perp, the next step is to parade him or her before the waiting media hordes. (The size of the horde depends on the notoriety of the perp or the perp's crime.) This is called the perp walk. The earliest citation I can find for this phrase is from 1986, but the following citation claims that it's very old, indeed:
How old is the perp walk? The term has been used for at least five decades by New York police and photographers, and some experts point to images of protowalks captured long before photography. In paintings of the expulsion from Eden, Adam and Eve are modestly trying to cover their bodies from public view, and the sword-wielding angel's stern expression anticipates the look on a homicide detective walking an accused cop-killer. Other paintings of Achilles ceremonially dragging Hector behind his chariot, of the Stations of the Cross, of French aristocrats being carted to the guillotine display elements of the perp walk, although the spectators appear far more polite than the New York press corps is.
John Tierney, "Walking the Walk," The New York Times, October 30, 1994
So that brings us to corporate perp walk, a welcome addition to the language now that some of the perps responsible for the recent spate of corporate malfeasance are at least being arrested. This one's very new, with the earliest citation being not quite two weeks young.