Trust, Business Ethics and Crime Prevention – Corporate Criminal Liability in Finland
Matti J. Tolvanen
University of Eastern Finland
January 16, 2012
University of Eastern Finland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2
Fudan Law Journal, No. 4, 2009
Corporate liability was introduced into Finnish penal law as part of the total reform of the penal code in 1995. The rules concerning corporate sanctions are included in the Finnish Penal Code (Chapter 9). In Finland, all criminal sanctions are regulated by criminal law, i.e. there is no administrative criminal law.
According to the Finnish Penal Code a corporation may be sentenced to a corporate fine if a person who is part of its statutory organ or other management or who exercises actual decision-making authority therein has been an accomplice in an offense or allowed the commission of the offense, or if the care and diligence necessary for the prevention of the offense has not been observed in the operations of the corporation.
The criminal liability of legal persons is based on the intentional or negligent acts of individuals who are in a certain relationship with the corporation. The Finnish legal doctrine clearly rejects the identification theory according to which the individual who acts is not acting for the company but acting as the company. According to Finnish legal writing, the acts of the individual offender are under certain conditions attributed to the legal person, not as acts of the legal person but as acts of the individual for the company. Nonetheless, the Finnish law does not abandon the fault requirement. In this respect, the Finnish law differs from the traditional common law theory of vicarious liability.
It remains an open issue whether a corporate fine is, in fact, suitable to ensure that companies revise their internal operational procedures to guard against repetition of the offense. The central point is perhaps not deterrence but trust. By punishing the corporation, the state tries to tell citizens that no one can act against legal rules without consequences. Social life is crucially based on mutual trust. If someone betrays that trust, a sanctioning system is needed. The punishment demonstrates that anyone acting against the common rules has to pay for this action.
Corporate liability has not been a very common phenomenon in Finnish penal system in practice. In 2005 there were only 15 cases in Finland where the public prosecutor urged criminal sanction to the corporation. A corporation may be sentenced to a corporate fine if such a sanction has been provided in the Penal Code. There are several provisions in the Penal Code which provide for corporate liability. A typical case for corporate liability seems to be a case concerning environmental crime.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 19Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: January 16, 2012
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