Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A poetic reflection on the corporate form: Ruth Knight 'Persons'

"Limited liability is a subsidy for corporations paid not out of government coffers but from the pockets of those hurt by corporate malfeasance. It’s an avoidance of responsibility.”
Kent Greenfield

Ruth Knight

At the top of the city 
in a glass-chromed room 

an attorney assures the board of directors 

that the corporation is the person 

against which any or all action may be taken, 

not against each and every director joint or several. 
The multiheaded person exhales dry-iced victory 
as counsel backs out the door 
descending floor after floor 
to wait for a cab in the cold. 
Nearby a breathing bundle of rags 
sits on a grate of steam 
and waits just waits 
wondering where warmth went.

Ruth Knight's [1] unpublished poem is a precise depiction of the modern corporation and the concept of limited liability, which gives the legally constructed corporation protection from personal liability from unlawful conduct and criminality.

Limited liability is the notion that investors in a corporation should not be liable for bad things the corporation or business does. In effect, the corporation is a legal invention or fiction that allows individuals to personally profit from the activities, without being full liability for unlawful or illegal activities or activities that do harm.

Legal scholar Kent Greenfield has written about limited liability in the following terms[2]:

“When someone does not have to pay for bad behavior, it increases the likelihood and severity of bad behavior. Corporate subsidiaries drilling for oil in the Arctic, making shoes in Vietnam or harvesting hardwood in the Amazon will be more likely to spill oil, exploit child labour and destroy virgin jungle”

[1] We have been unable to find any specific information about Ruth Knight or her poetry.
[2] Greenfield, K (2011) Reforming limited liability law, the Nation, June 27 2011

No comments: