the various management levels within the corporation’s hierarchy, and who is responsible for what. • The corporation has rules (usually within its bylaws) to determine whether a manager is making a decision on behalf of the corporation itself or merely making a personal deci - sion. For example, if the unscrupulous home-security company described earlier were a large corporation, we would be able to identify which manager in the corporate hierarchy was responsible for the renewal scam, and whether that decision was a personal one or a corporate one. With French’s model of corporate moral agency, human beings are still the ones making the deci - sions, but those people are making choices for the corporation, not for themselves. Thus, the intention behind that decision is the intention of the corporation, not of the individual person. Position 2: Corporations Cannot Be Moral Agents The second and opposing position is that corporations cannot be moral agents. According to this view, the immoral actions of a corporation are attributable to the decisions of the individual actors within the corporation, not to the corporation as a whole. The leading proponent of this view, Manuel Velasquez, has argued that “corporate organization lacks the kind of causal powers and intentionality that an entity must possess to be morally responsible for what it does” (2003). According to Velasquez, to speak of a corporation as having intentions is only a metaphor, and nothing in the corporate internal decision structure can “transform a metaphorical intention into a real one,” nor can it “create group mental states nor group minds in any literal sense.” Human intentions, he has argued, are mental in character and can only occur within a conscious human mind. To talk about corporate “intentions” in a literal sense would mean that a corporation has a unified conscious mind, which is absurd. At best, a corporation consists only of people with con - scious minds who are disconnected from each other. Workers, not the abstract corporate group, are the ones that carry moral responsibility for their on-the-job decisions (Velasquez, 2003). Issues at Stake There are two issues at stake in this debate: • Whether corporations can themselves be accused of being “immoral.” If I rob a bank, I can justly be called an immoral person. But if a corporation intentionally defrauds consumers, can it also be called “immoral” in the same way? French says yes; Velasquez says no. • Whether workers in corporations should be punished individually for their immoral deci - sions, beyond the punishment that the corporation receives. French says they should not; Velasquez says they should.
CHAPTER 3 Section 3.3 Punishing Corporations We should emphasize, though, that regardless of whether there is a moral justification for punish - ing corporations, from a purely legal standpoint corporations are in fact liable for punishment by the state. They are legal persons and, as such, have legal liability in the way that you or I do.
- Spring '19
- Amy Smith