Two Notre Dame Law faculty write chapters in Handbook on Corporate Purpose and Personhood

Author: Amanda Gray

Root Martinez Miller

Professors Veronica Root Martinez and Paul B. Miller have contributed chapters to the recently published Research Handbook on Corporate Purpose and Personhood.

The handbook, published by Edward Elgar Publishing, is meant to provide “cutting-edge thoughts on the role of corporations in society and the nature of their rights and responsibilities,” according to the publisher.

“I am so impressed that Elizabeth Pollman and Robert Thompson were able to bring this project to fruition,” Martinez said. “They gathered an impressive set of scholars to look at corporate purpose from a diverse set of angles and perspectives. My own piece urges academics to think through the ways in which historical context may have influenced the original debates about the proper purpose of the firm, but the entire volume challenges academics to rethink their priors about corporate purpose.”

Martinez, who is the director of Notre Dame Law School’s Program on Ethics, Compliance and Inclusion, wrote “A More Equitable Corporate Purpose” for the handbook. Miller, director of the Law School’s Program on Private Law, wrote “Corporate Personality, Purpose, and Liability.”

“In debates over corporate purpose and personhood, the focus tends to be on which broad social purposes are, or might be, attributed to corporations at law and in society more generally. But a different, and in some ways prior, question is that of how the law enables corporations to act purposively, such that we can say that they are ‘persons’ in the sense of being agents as a matter of law and as a matter of social fact,” Miller said of the publication. “My chapter addresses the latter question, explaining the ways in which specific (institutional and operational) corporate purposes are attributed to corporations at law, thereby providing a kind of connective tissue joining corporations to liability-generating actions and other conduct undertaken for corporations in which the law takes an interest.”

Miller said he feels privileged to have contributed to the volume.

“Questions about corporate purpose and personhood are perennial but I'd like to think that this book offers a fresh set of approaches to them,” he said. “Certainly, I've learned a lot from my involvement in the project and I expect that several chapters in the book will influence debate for years to come.”