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Edited by Stephen Tully
Chapter 11: Reforming the Doctrine of Attribution: A Canadian Solution to British Concerns?
Darcy L. MacPherson1 Introduction Public scandal and tragedy have often served as the backdrop for law reform. Nowhere is this more evident than in the law governing corporations. It is virtually certain that media scrutiny of the inner workings of Enron and others contributed to the adoption of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 20022 in the United States. Some commentators have even suggested that a fundamental reassertion of governmental authority over corporations is needed (Bakan, 2004: Ch. 6). Similarly, media coverage of tragedies in both Canada and the United Kingdom has led to calls for reform with respect to how corporations are held criminally liable for the actions of individuals acting on their behalf. This chapter begins by examining the historical roots of corporate criminal liability. The subsequent two sections review the current state of the law in each of the United Kingdom and Canada. Although the two nations have much in common, they also diverge on certain key points in this area. Attention will then turn to reforms enacted by the Canadian government in response to corporate scandal. We shall examine whether such a change would be appropriate for the United Kingdom. The chapter concludes that while the reforms are a positive development, they are not without flaws, and should therefore be viewed with caution. History The amenability of corporations to the criminal law has been in a state of evolution for some time. Early in the twentieth century, the English courts were generally unwilling to hold corporations liable...
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