Company boards could become criminally liable if their staff commit fraud in what is set to be the biggest shake-up in the history of UK corporate criminal law.
Money laundering, false accounting and fraud will all become the responsibility of employers if the Government passes a new criminal finance bill.
Making boards criminally liable for the actions of their staff was initially proposed by David Cameron. Theresa May has now made improving corporate governance a key part of her domestic legislative agenda and it is has been reported by The Times that a consultation document will be released shortly.
Barry Vitou, fraud and white-collar crime lawyer, criticised current corporate criminal law saying: "The present regime makes it practically impossible to hold corporate boards to account for corporate misconduct because evidence of that misconduct must be found at the highest level. In practice, the evidence trail usually dries much lower down the corporate tree.
"There is no responsibility for the damage caused by failing to prevent economic crime."
Currently, companies are only liable for a failure to stop bribery; however, a new criminal finance bill would make companies liable for a much wider range of corporate offences passing on a message that everyone is responsible for corporate governance – from the top down.
Attorney general, Jeremy Wright, who gives the UK Government legal advice, said: “The threat of economic crime and its impact is too great not to act. It threatens prosperity and the rule of law and public confidence in our ability to uphold these values.
“When considering the question ‘where does the buck stop?’ and who is responsible for economic crime, it is clear that the answer is to be found at every level, from the boardroom down.”