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  • Writer's pictureKW KRUK I WSPÓLNICY



Author: BARO ALTO law firm | IR Global

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This survey is the result of a collective contribution by the lawyers of Baro Alto law firm |France| and the IR Global network members.

Map 1

The analysis of the legal systems of the 21 countries surveyed shows major differences in their systems regarding corporate criminal liability.

Map 2

Cumulative criminal liability of legal entities and natural persons is recognised in most of the countries compared. The map shows the various legal frameworks of this cumulative criminal liability.

Map 3

Legal practitioners from 21 countries provided feedback on practices regarding cumulative criminal liability of legal entities and natural persons. The map shows the main differences in the current application of cumulative criminal liability in each jurisdiction.

Main findings

  • We collected information from 20 countries, besides France, concerning the criminal liability of legal entities and executive officers in their legal systems

  • The liability of a legal entity and that of its executive officer coexists in most of the countries surveyed.

  • In theory, the corporate criminal liability applies in most of the countries surveyed, except for Germany, Greece, and Italy, where a system of quasi-criminal liability exists. Today, the system of direct liability of the legal entity is the most widespread in the countries surveyed.

  • Some systems, such as in Belgium or the Netherlands, provide for direct liability, whereas others, such as in France, the United States and Denmark, have a principle of indirect attribution.

  • In the legal systems surveyed, the liability of legal entities is often limited to specific offences. As is the case in France, some countries have adopted general liability, e.g., the England and Wales, Romania, or Belgium, whereas others limit liability to specific offences, e.g., Spain and Poland.

  • An international medley: the priority between legal entities and natural persons (executive officers) varies across jurisdictions.

  • For a long time, corporate criminal liability did not exist in many legal systems, and is relatively recent, except in certain countries such as the United States.

  • We therefore understood that, in many legal systems, the introduction of corporate criminal liability was too recent and, consequently, was not or rarely applied in practice by the prosecution authorities and courts, or at least not as a general policy, particularly in countries where the principle of specific offences exists.

  • Accordingly, our survey did not give rise to many issues in terms of ultimate liability, insofar as corporate liability is marginally retained or attributed based on “guidelines”, as in the England and Wales, Brazil, the United States, Italy, Norway, Poland and Switzerland, for instance.

  • As a result, in most countries the question of whether criminal liability is ultimately attributable to a legal entity or a natural person apparently does not raise any major issues for many legal practitioners, contrary to France where corporate liability has been extended to all offences (with a few rare exceptions) and, in practice, the number of prosecutions has considerably grown in recent years.


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