Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Malfeasance


Quick Summary of Malfeasance

wrongful conduct by a public official

Video Guide For Malfeasance

What is the dictionary definition of Malfeasance?

Dictionary Definition

n. intentionally doing something either legally or morally wrong which one had no right to do. It always involves dishonesty, illegality or knowingly exceeding authority for improper reasons. Malfeasance is distinguished from “misfeasance,” which is committing a wrong or error by mistake, negligence or inadvertence, but not by intentional wrongdoing. Example: a city manager putting his indigent cousin on the city payroll at a wage the manager knows is above that allowed and/or letting him file false time cards is malfeasance; putting his able cousin on the payroll which, unknown to him, is a violation of an anti-nepotism statute is misfeasance. This distinction can apply to corporate officers, public officials, trustees and others cloaked with responsibility.

  1. Wrongdoing
  2. legal Misconduct or wrongdoing, especially by a public official that causes damage.

Doing something that is illegal. This term is often used when a professional or public official commits an illegal act that interferes with the performance of his or her duties. For example, an elected official who accepts a bribe in exchange for political favours has committed malfeasance. Compare misfeasance.

Full Definition of Malfeasance

Malfeasance is the act of wrongdoing or evil conduct. Malfeasance should not be confused with misfeasance which is the legal act of not performing something correctly or making a mistake.

Nonfeasance is the failure to perform one’s duty or take appropriate action.

Malfeasance generally is used in regards to a public official and their failure to perform their job or acting inappropriately with malicious intent. Keep in mind, malfeasance must have interfered with the officials performing their official duties. This can, however, be difficult for the courts to prove. If it is proven the public official can be removed from their job.

A good example was the 2013 IRS scandal. If it is proven that the top IRS officials specifically targeted political groups to impede their ability to get a tax-exempt status this could be malfeasance. If, however, the courts decide this effort was the misguided actions of a few low-level staff agents who made a mistake, this could be misfeasance.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Malfeasance. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd.
April 18, 2024
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Malfeasance. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: April 18, 2024).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Malfeasance. Retrieved April 18, 2024
, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Malfeasance are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 22nd November, 2021 | 0 Views.