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"Corporate responsibility" is not a peripheral matter. It is at the core of all decision-making on behalf of business corporations under American law. This paper examines the effort to add an exemption for "business" in corporate form to the exemptions from ordinary responsibility that are seen in other areas of activity - e.g., for the military, for lawyers in adversarial litigation, or for investigators in scientific research. It looks at a number of well known cases and points to the often neglected relevance of both the criminal law applicable to corporations as such, and the evolving professional responsibility of corporate lawyers to question or publicize decisions of corporate agents that exclude substantive value from concern. The paper ends with a discussion of the relation between competition and substantive value and the impact of the rise of China as a participant in the world economy.


Essay based on a talk presented while serving as the Sir Edward Youde Distinguished Visiting Professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in June 2002.