Corporations are clearly legal agents. They can enter into contracts, own property, and sue and be sued. But are they also moral agents? Corporations have definite legal responsibilities, but what, if any, social and moral responsibilities do they have? In 2010, the Supreme Court dropped a political bombshell. In reviewing a case that most observers thought would revolve on the technicalities of campaign finance law, the Court, in a broad and unexpected ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission , struck down those provisions of the McCain-Feingold Act that had prohibited corporations from making “electioneering communications” before a presidential primary or a general election. This case was about considering a corporation a ‘person’ so they have their own rights such as free speech and the ability to support different political views or people as a unified corporation. Normally, they could not do so and could only express their views from a personal level. This case changed it all and gave them way more power even though they already had a lot of power. Their vast pools of money essentially give them a much bigger say in politics now and they often are the ones swaying elections and voting towards their view depending on how much they spend (lobbying and beyond now). Cases like Citizens United have blurred the distinction between individuals and corporations. If corporations are moral agents, then they can be seen as having obligations and as being morally responsible for their actions, just as individuals are. The problem lies that these companies, as discussed in earlier chapters, are constantly arguing against moral responsibility as a corporation because they don’t have the direct experience to deal with it, or it should be left to government to deal with. Corporate internal decision (CID) structures amount to established procedures for accomplishing specific goals. The CID structure lays out lines of authority and stipulates under what conditions personal actions become official corporate actions. Some philosophers have compared the corporation to a machine or have argued that because of its structure it is bound to pursue its profit goals single- mindedly. As a result, they claim, it is a mistake to see a corporation as being morally responsible or to expect it to display such moral characteristics as honesty, considerateness, and sympathy.
Others have argued in support of corporate moral agency . The CID structure, like an individual person, collects data about the impact of its actions. It monitors work conditions, employee efficiency and productivity, and environmental impacts. Philosopher Peter French arrives at the same conclusion in a slightly different way. The CID structure, says French, in effect absorbs the intentions and acts of individual persons into a “corporate decision.” Perhaps no corporate official intended the course or objective charted by the CID structure, but, French contends, the corporation did.