Surrey University Stag


Module code: LAW3141

Module Overview

This module explores theoretical, practical and policy issues related to how the criminal law operates in corporate contexts ¿ both crimes perpetrated by individuals (sometimes called ¿white collar crime¿) and crimes perpetrated by organisations (corporate crimes). The module places roughly equal emphasis on doctrinal and theoretical issues. We will explore doctrinal issues related to specific offences that are central to this area, such as fraud, regulatory crimes and corporate manslaughter, and we will look at practical issues of how corporations seek to promote employee compliance with such laws.

At the same time, we will investigate important theoretical and policy questions related to crime in the corporate context. These include how corporate and regulatory criminal law push traditional boundaries of criminalisation and whether some regulatory offences are so strict as to amount to improperly punishing innocent conduct. We will also explore how it might make sense to punish corporations when they are non-living entities incapable of truly experiencing penalties, as well as doctrinal and policy questions about what the best mechanism for the imposition of corporate liability might be (comparing the identification doctrine to respondeat superior and ¿failure to prevent¿ offences).

Throughout the module, our focus will be not only on learning about a sampling of representative parts of law, but also (and just as importantly) on casting a critical eye on how criminal law works in corporate settings. We will consider questions about what leads actors to engage in criminal misconduct in corporate contexts, with a particular emphasis on the organisational factors that can pressure or incentivise especially mid- or lower-level employees to break the law. We will explore ways in which large amounts of everyday conduct, the wrongness of which may not always be apparent to actors on the ground, gets deemed to be criminal in corporate settings, and we will debate whether and to what extent this makes sense. In these ways and more, we will seek to cast a critical eye on the criminal law in corporate settings and ask whether and when alternatives to criminal liability might be called for in response to certain forms of misconduct by employees or managers. We will focus primarily on issues and debates relevant to English law, though the US will serve as an important comparison throughout

Module provider

School of Law

Module Leader

SARCH Alexander (Schl of Law)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

JACs code:

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 102

Lecture Hours: 22

Seminar Hours: 6

Captured Content: 20

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

LAW1029 Criminal Law I and LAW1030 Criminal Law II (or equivalent)

Module content

Indicative module content (subject to clarification in the module handbook) may include:

Part I: White Collar Crime (offences by individuals in corporate settings)
o Fraud (Fraud Act 2006)
o Illustrative financial crimes (examples may include insider trading)
o Illustrative regulatory crimes (examples may range from money laundering to environmental crime)
o Effective corporate compliance approaches
o Critical evaluation of such offences in light of traditional principles of criminalisation
o Enforcement issues (examples may include confiscation of the proceeds of crime)

Part II: Corporate Crime (offences by organisations)
o Mechanisms of attributing corporate criminal liability (including identification doctrine vs respondeat superior) as illustrated by substantive offences
o Debates about the eligibility and suitability of corporations for punishment
o Corporate manslaughter
o Enforcement issues (examples may include use of Deferred Prosecution Agreements)
o Consideration of alternatives to criminal law in addressing misconduct in corporate settings

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination Online 4 HOUR ONLINE EXAMINATION 100

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:
¿ Knowledge of the main features of important corporate and white-collar criminal offences
¿ Understanding of the theory of corporate and white-collar crime
¿ Ability to analyse how relevant criminal offences apply to fact-patterns
¿ Appreciation of the challenges and problems posed by expansive forms of liability in corporate and white-collar contexts
¿ Understanding of the ways in which criminal law might be improved in business settings

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:
¿ An examination (following the applicable format and procedures) to be completed during the exam period consisting of several questions with a recommended length/limit of approximately 3,000 words in total (addresses learning outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10). The exam may include problem questions or essay questions or both.

Formative assessment and feedback

A practice assignment containing problem and/or essay questions in the style that may appear on the summative exam (1500 words)

Students will be provided with opportunities to receive written and/or oral feedback mid-semester on their formative assignment in order to prepare for the summative assessment. Formative essay questions will be of a similar type to those that may be found on the final exam.

Module aims

  • Explain certain central criminal offences committed within the commercial and business environment, whether committed by individuals or by organisations
  • Appreciate current practical issues and problems related to enforcement of corporate and white-collar criminal law
  • Explore which elements and definitional issues might vary within the same offence in other major English-speaking jurisdictions, and provide students with the ability to debate the pros and cons of different offence formulations
  • Evaluate and critique criminal liability rules used in corporate settings, particularly the extent to which they are in tension with traditional limiting principles of criminalisation, theories of punishment or mainstream policy aims
  • Explore, and develop students¿ ability to construct, realistic law reform proposals or solutions that aim to solve or improve problems within the law in this area
  • Analyse factors tending to contribute to criminal misconduct in corporate contexts, with a particular emphasis on the organisational factors and incentives, as well as organisational obligations to prevent the occurrence of corporate crime
  • Appreciate and assess suitability of alternatives to criminal liability in response to certain forms of employee misconduct or corporate harms
  • Begin to develop a comparative perspective, drawing where appropriate on US legal practice to better understand the UK approach to criminal enforcement in corporate settings

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Identify, explain and apply the legislative provisions relevant to the offences covered in the module, as interpreted by relevant caselaw CKP
002 Demonstrate a critical understanding of which elements and definitional issues might vary between different versions of analogous offences in other major English-speaking jurisdictions, and ability to debate the pros and cons of different offence formulations CK
003 Show understanding of problems or limitations with the use of the criminal law in corporate contexts, as well as appreciating alternatives to criminalisation that might fruitfully be considered CKP
004 Evidence an awareness of psychological, social and organisational factors that tend to contribute to crime in corporate contexts, and show the ability assess the efficacy of corporate compliance programmes to effectively prevent corporate crime in light of such factors CK
005 Develop critical understanding of the theoretical, moral and policy grounds for a range of white collar and corporate criminal offences, and demonstrate the ability to assess their justifiability using applicable theoretical frameworks CK
006 Propose and defend realistic law reform proposals or solutions that aim to solve or make progress on problems within this area of law CK
007 Show an awareness of, and ability to use arguments based on evidence and principle to engage with, debates about how corporate crime should be effectively combatted, how offences should be formulated, and how punishment should be imposed in this area CK
008 Demonstrate the ability to critically evaluate arguments offered in favor of expansive forms of criminal liability in corporate settings, such as consequentialist (harm reduction) arguments, retributive arguments or other policy considerations CPT
009 Development of creative thinking, communication skills, independent research skills and effective discussion and debate of timely issues in corporate criminal law PT
010 Produce high quality persuasive writing PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

Lectures adopt a flexible learning approach, with a combination of mini-lectures, seminar-style discussion, interactive tasks and ¿bite-sized¿ student presentations. The teaching is delivered by academics with room for 1-2 visiting legal practitioners or members of industry where appropriate. Tutorials will enable students to discuss study skills, transferrable professional skills (such as writing, targeted reading techniques, persuasive argumentation), as well as discussing problem questions and essay questions both with the instructor and in groups

Instructors will use lectures to convey basic knowledge of the legal frameworks and of regulatory theory. This will be supplemented by in-depth discussion of controversial issues in corporate and white-collar crime policy. Students will apply their knowledge of law and policy to analyse and debate central issues related to the use of criminal law to combat misconduct in corporate settings. This will develop students¿ ability to do both legal and policy analysis and to see how the two forms of analysis are interrelated.

The learning and teaching methods would typically comprise:

¿ 2-hour interactive lectures X 11 weeks
¿ 1-hour seminars X 6 weeks

Captured content will be provided throughout the semester in line with the applicable School of Law captured content policies. This will consist of chiefly of lecture recordings and supplementary videos by the instructor or others to cover module content and deepen related topics where and to the extent appropriate.

This module embeds the University¿s 5 pedagogical pillars. 1) By dealing with topics that are key to the business world and building transferrable skills of communication and analysis, the module fosters ¿professionally focused learning.¿ 2) + 3) It takes a comparative, cross-jurisdictional look at topics of global concern to companies especially in technologically oriented fields, and so promotes an ¿international environment at the heart of the learning experience¿ as well as contributing to a ¿global digital society.¿ 4) The module enables leadership in sustainable thinking, insofar as any viable approach to sustainability in industry must be ethically and legally sustainable in light of the normative frameworks and rule of law values examined in this module. 5) Finally, the module supports students in their ¿development to become an independent and resourceful learner¿ by teaching reading techniques, analytical and communication skills, independent research and problem-solving plus creative thinking and persuasive evidence-based argumentation.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: LAW3141

Other information

This module is available to students enrolled on all LLB programmes and is a qualifying module for those students enrolled on the LLB (Philosophy, Politics and Law) Pathway.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Law (Law and Technology Pathway) LLB (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate of 40% overall and a pass on the pass/fail unit of assessment is required to pass the module
Law (Philosophy, Politics and Law Pathway) LLB (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate of 40% overall and a pass on the pass/fail unit of assessment is required to pass the module
Law LLB (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate of 40% overall and a pass on the pass/fail unit of assessment is required to pass the module
Law with Criminology LLB (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate of 40% overall and a pass on the pass/fail unit of assessment is required to pass the module
Law with International Relations LLB (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate of 40% overall and a pass on the pass/fail unit of assessment is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2023/4 academic year.