On the Nature of the Corrupt Firm: Where to Situate Liability?
Applying the modern Property Rights Approach to depict employment and firm-internal delegation relationships, this paper addresses the question how to prevent corporate bribery. The analysis and the answers that follow take into account interaction effects between firm-internal delegation relationships, the possibly devilish side function of formal corporate ethics efforts (namely to shield firms or superiors from criminal accountability by shifting it onto their subordinate employees), the distribution of criminal liability, and the necessity for courts to rely on available evidence. From the simple theoretical framework, a bundle of implications follows: (1) conditions under which formal corporate ethics guidelines can take on a Janus-faced nature, i.e. lack credibility, (2) suggestions how firms can enhance the credibility of their corporate ethics efforts, (3) starts how to avoid the possible “second-order” lack of credibility of such credibility- enhancing measures, (4) clear-cut statements as to (a) where criminal liability should be situated within the firm and (b) how corporate and individual liabilities should be combined to both restrain corruption and to sustain the credibility of corporate ethics. These implications allow comparatively evaluating the effectiveness of international anti- corruption laws – specifically the desirability of corporate vs. personal criminal liabilities.
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