How to Make Corporations Accountable

Balancing the scales of justice in the fallout from profit-driven decision making that led to the current financial downtrend.

26 Sep 2008| News

Society needs successful businesses, but today business is taking over society. It’s as if an over-indulged child had taken more and more liberties until it is entirely out of control. Everyone wants the child to do well, no boundaries are set, and before you know it the family is under the thumb of a teenager gone wild.

So say the authors of a new publication from the Institute of Employment Rights Dr Dan Plesch and Dr Stephanie Blankenburg of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, School of Oriental and African Studies.

How did today’s corporations become so powerful and unaccountable? In this timely report, coinciding with a financial crisis on both sides of the Atlantic, with companies collapsing under the consequences of earlier profit-driven decisions and the taxpayer being asked to bail them out, the authors place the rise of limited liability at the heart of the current economic problems.

While thousands of workers face losing their livelihoods and homes as a result of the financial meltdown, those at the helm hide behind a complex framework of law at the heart of which lies limited liability, a concept giving them in the “corporate person” all of the power and none of the responsibility.

Limited liability violates the doctrine of equality for all before the law. It promotes speculation and corruption, not economic growth and innovation; and enriches few but harms many.

According to Plesch and Blankenburg, legal accountability through statutory regulation has to be introduced if economic stability is to be restored. Appeals to the conscience of the “corporate person” or calls for self governed “corporate social responsibility” are not working. Moreover, to avoid capital flight, with companies relocating to less regulated economies, regulating for legal accountability has to be agreed at the international level.

Carolyn Jones, Director of IER said:

IER has been arguing for better regulation of company law and workplace practices for many years. This powerful and very timely report provides contemporary examples of how the current system protects those at the top while devastating the lives of the innocent. The range of policy proposals contained in this report aim not to bail out failing companies, but to bring economic stability based on fairness, justice and equality.

IER Conference Neoliberalism and labour law: Challenging the concept

These ideas will be discussed at an IER conference on 5th November 2008 when expert speakers including lawyers, academics and trade unionists will challenge the legal, political and economic concepts underpinning the failing neoliberal, free market agenda.

Notes to Editors

1. How to Make Corporations Accountable by Dr Dan Plesch and Dr Stephanie Blankenburg is available from IER, The People’s Centre, 50-54 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, L3 5SD. Price £6.50 trade unions, £20 others.

2. The Institute of Employment Rights is an independent charity specialising in employment rights and trade union freedoms. IER is supported by trade unions representing 6.5 million workers.

3. Neoliberalism and labour law: challenging the concepts will take place on Wednesday 5th November 2008 at NUT, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD. For further information or to book a press place visit or call 0151 702 6927 or email

4. For further information, electronic images or to arrange interview with the authors, please contact either:

  • Carolyn Jones, Director, IER on 0151 702 6925 or 07941 076245
  • Kate Hodgson, CISD, SOAS, on 020 7898 4844