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Conference: "Corporate Accountability, Limited Liability and the Future of

01 Jun 2007

20-21 July 2007 at SOAS, The Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD)

Sponsored by the Cambridge Journal of Economics (CJE); the Trade Union Congress (TUC); Friends of the Earth (FoE); the CORE (Corporate Responsibility) Coalition; Open Democracy, The Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI), India; The Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust (London, UK).

Information on Conference Accommodation now available!

Please click on 'Conference Accommodation' link in the left-hand panel.

Recent Highlights

  • Open Democracy, 'Corporate Rights and Responsibilities' by S. Blankenburg and D. Plesch, 10 May 2007
  • Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufacture and Commerce (RSA), Discussion paper and panel debate on Limited Liability: Essential Protection or Evasion of Responsibilities. With Dan Plesch, Lord Andrew Phillips of Sudbury, Patricia Peters and Polly Toynbee (Chair), 26 April 2007.

For more information, click on Recent Events and Background Papers on Limited Liability on the left-hand panel.

Conference Registration Form now available.

Please click on Conference Registration on the left-hand panel.

Keynote Speaker:

  • Mr Jack Blum - US lawyer and expert on international financial crime, money laundering and international taxation. Former positions include Special Counsel to the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, consultant to the United Nations Centre for Transnational Corporations, Chair of the experts group on international asset recovery convened by the United Nations Centre for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, General Counsel of Americans for Democratic Action, leading investigator in the BCCI Affair.

Other confirmed speakers include:

  • Mr Rodney Bickerstaffe, UNISON, UK
  • Prof. Phillip Blumberg, University of Connecticut School of Law, US
  • CORE (Corporate Responsibility) Coalition  Representatives, UK
  • Mr Nick Howen, Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists, UK
  • Prof Paddy Ireland, Professor of Law and Director of Research at Kent Law School, UK
  • Dr Photis Lysandrou, Department of Economics, Finance and International Business, London Metropolitan University, UK
  • Mr Bob Monks (in ausencia), Founding trustee of the Federal Employees' Retirement System, US Department of Labor, co- founder of the Corporate Library, founder of Institutional  Shareholder Services
  • Prof  Peter Muchlinski, Corporate Law and Limited Liability, Department of Law, SOAS, UK
  • Lord Andrew Philipps of Sudbury, OBE, solicitor, Liberal Democrats, UK
  • Prof Kurt A, Strasser, University of Connecticut School of Law, US
  • Prof Grahame Thompson, Open University and co-author of Globalization in Question, UK
  • Dr Jan Toporowski, Department of Economics, SOAS, UK
  • Prof. Edward Weisband , Edward S. Diggs Endowed Chair in the Social Sciences, Department of Political Science, School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech, US

Conference Theme

For some time now, the rapid rise of corporate power under the auspices of a neoliberal policy-agenda with global reach has been controversial. The role of corporate power in a fast changing global world is one of the key issues of international diplomacy as well as of the academic study of international law, politics and economics.

The conference brings together speakers from many different parts of the world and from multi-disciplinary academic and intellectual backgrounds to discuss the role of corporate limited liability in the context of contemporary globalization. Corporate limited liability ahs been a controversial topic since the inception of modern political economy, starting with Adam Smith. Hotly debated in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it has gained the status of a near-untouchable dogma only relatively recently, with corporate powers at their peak. Today, the main focus of the debate about corporate power is the promotion of voluntary reforms directed at an enhanced 'corporate social responsibility'. Yet, the fast spreading recognition by leading organisations in the field, such as Save the Children and Christian Aid, of the total ineffectiveness of this approach has reignited the debate about corporate regulation and legal accountability. Limited liability is at the heart of this debate.

The conference will seek discussion and anwers to questions such as: Is limited liability the key to 'power without responsibility' for giant corporations or is it an indispensable incentive to encourage innovation and technology transfer in a global market economy? How compatible is the principle of limited liability with the basic democratic principle of the equality of all before the law? Can limited liability be reconciled with the requirement of corporate accountability to society and before the law? What use do large multinational companies make of new forms of limited liability and what is the case for civil and criminal group liability? What would be the effect of unlimited liability on the finance strategies of private equity firms?

Core issues addressed at the conference include:

  • The historical origins and development of joint stock companies and limited liability
  • Recent developments in limited liability legislation, e.g. the role of limited liability partnerships
  • Limited liability and multinational companies: the role of group liability
  • Private equity and limited liability
  • States sovereing immunity and corporate sovereign immuntiy
  • The voluntary approach to corporate social responsibility and limited liability issues
  • Limited liability and the environment
  • Limited liability in emerging markets and developing countries, eg. China and India
  • The role of limited liability companies in public private partnerships
  • Business without limited liability
  • Reform strategies: Restoring accountability in law, the balance of special interest privileges, the role of insurance schemes

Selected papers and contributions to the conference will be published in a Special Issue of the Cambridge Journal of Economics and in a volume of conference proceedings.


Conference flyer: