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The corporation’s ability to avoid the costs of risks that materialize as a result of its pursuit of profits is a departure from the market model. It can easily be seen as an evasion of the obligations that go with being the un-coercing, freely-acting and choosing ‘invisible hand.’ Dramatic corporate collapses and major human and economic disasters due to bad corporate conduct have strengthened the commonsense view that, if the corporate directors and officers have made the deliberate act their own in some way, they may be held responsible on the same basis that liberal law holds all individuals responsible for their intended actions in the non-corporate settings.
Accordingly, recent decades have seen an increasing number of statutory interventions worldwide that impose direct responsibilities on directors and other corporate officers in respect of a wide range of regulatory regimes: environmental regulation, occupational health and safety and other employment standards, human rights statutes, transportation regimes, consumer and competition laws, protections for creditors and workers against insolvent trading, and the like. Legitimacy crises have pushed legislators to enlarge the number of responsibilities, to increase the amounts of the fines that may be levied and to make it clear that, in some cases, prison sentences will be imposed.
This collection of essays describes and analyzes the legal regimes governing directors’ liability for corporate fault and default across eleven important trading jurisdictions.