On Corporate Entities

We really need some way to effectively "execute" rogue corporations
Last update: 25 August 2017

 Australian legislation commonly defines a corporate entity[1] as a person. For example, Section 995.1 of the Income Tax Assessment Act states: "person " includes a company and Section 9 of  the Corporations Act: "person " , ... , includes a superannuation fund. Australia is not yet as bad as the US, where reinterpretation of the Constitution has led to corporations being granted increasing rights. To treat as people, entities that aren't even living or sentient is perverse.

I've long thought that we need ways to deal permanently with corporate entities. When any entity behaves in ways that are criminal[2] or otherwise do harm, we need to be able to prevent them from continuing. A corporate entity doesn't really exist, except as a shield for the people behind it. We can't incarcerate something that doesn't exist. We may, however, be able to prevent it from operating. Of course, a corporate entity being nothing but a collection of (nominally human) parts, we'll need to ensure that the parts cannot reassemble or carry on.

So, how to "execute" something that isn't alive and consists of many, potentially troublesome, parts?

  1. The obvious first step is to revoke all registrations, permissions and licences. The entity cannot then legally continue trading;
  2. Confiscate all assets. That's a bit rough on shareholders, but they should know that investing is not without risk;
  3. Disqualify all directors and managers from involvement in or benefiting from, directly or indirectly, any business or corporate entity, for life;
  4. Confiscate all assets of directors and managers. A bit rough on dependants, but a warning to those who might be tempted to offend and a source of funds to compensate victims.

[1] I'm using "corporate entity" to refer to any entity comprised of an individual or collection of individuals. Including (but not restricted to) companies, partnerships and trusts. Single-director companies complicate things a bit, because the corporate entity maps directly to a (nominal) human being.

[2] Not all that's criminal in character is criminal in law. From my perspective, much that passes for normal business practice is criminal.

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