Corporate Criminal Liability And the Way Forward

Abstract: In the era of modernisation and technological evolution, corporate criminal liability has emerged as an area that needs a definite determination. A huge outrage in malfeasance on the part of large corporations, and the difficulty in attributing ‘mens rea’ to an artificial person like a company, has resulted in great lacunas in contemporary criminal law. Even where this is overcome by treating corporations as ‘natural person’ for the purpose of the criminal act, limitations like no deterrence value by means of punishment prove to be challenging. This paper seeks to explore the role of corporations in economic crime and answer the question as to whether a corporation can vicariously be held liable for the actions of its employees and agents, especially when both the corporation and its shareholders materially profit from the criminal act. This question regarding the criminal liability of corporations opens doors to an extensive interpretation of corporate responsibility. The paper propounds upon the various theories on corporate criminal liability applicable worldwide. The paper seeks to show the transformation in the sphere of corporate criminal liability by elaborating upon judicial precedents over the course of time.
Keywords: Corporation, Criminal liability, Legal person, mens rea, vicarious liability, deterrence.