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Corporate Culpability and the Limits of Law


Ethicists and legal theorists have proposed models of corporate culpability that shift the standard of guilt determination from vicarious attribution of individual action and intention to an assessment of culture, policies, as well as organizational action and inaction. This paper briefly reviews four prominent models of corporate culpability, arguing that each makes claims that extend well beyond the limits of existing law. As an alternative to these models, a constructive corporate fault is described that relies on both objective and subjective reasonableness judgments. The paper concludes with a consideration of constructive corporate fault in relation to an Accountability model of corporate liability.

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J. Braithwaite and B. Fisse (1985) “Varieties of Responsibility and Organizational Crime,Law and Policy, vol. 7, pp. 315‐43.

A. Foerschler (1990) “Corporate Criminal Intent: Toward a Better Understanding of Corporate Misconduct,California Law Review, vol. 78, p. 1287.

M. Keeley (1981) “Organizations as Non-Persons,Journal of Value Inquiry, vol. 15, p. 149.

R. C. Manning (1984) “Corporate Responsibility and Corporate Personhood,Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 3, pp. 7784.

L. May (1983) “Vicarious Agency and Corporate Responsibility,Philosophical Studies, p. 69.

Note (1979), “Developments in the Law—Corporate Crime: Regulating Corporate Behavior Through Criminal Sanctions,Harvard Law Review, vol. 92, p. 1227.

P. H. Robinson & J. A. Grail (1983) “Element Analysis in Defining Criminal Liability: The Model Penal Code and Beyond,Stanford Law Review, vol. 35, p. 681.

M.G. Velasquez (1983), “Why Corporations Are Not Morally Responsible for Anything They Do,Business & Professional Ethics Journal, vol. 2, pp. 117.

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Business Ethics Quarterly
  • ISSN: 1052-150X
  • EISSN: 2153-3326
  • URL: /core/journals/business-ethics-quarterly
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