Corporate Frauds – Emerging Legal Architecture & Judicial Trends

Corporate scandals and frauds in India are as old as the hills. The 1950s witnessed the infamous LIC/ Mundhra scam, which was the first major financial fraud of the independent India. Frauds continued with an alarming regularity thereafter in every decade – the infamous Harshad Mehta, Ketan Parekh, Sahara, and Satyam scams are just a few of them. These frauds were investigated by the law enforcement agencies under the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). The Companies Act, 1956 did not have any separate definition of ‘fraud’. Legally, it was not necessary to have a separate one as Lord Macaulay’s IPC adequately dealt with all such crimes. The Companies Bill, 2008 was the original legislative proposal to replace the Companies Act, 1956 basis Dr. J.J. Irani Committee Report (Irani Report). The Irani report did not have any recommendation for a provision like Section 447 dealing with frauds. It seems the intervening major corporate scandals of 2007-08 led the Parliamentary Standing Committee to recommend two new legislative changes:
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Superior Orders Defence - Corporate Fraud

The past few years have seen a marked increase in regulatory investigations and enforcement action into fraud. This increased scrutiny brings into focus the liability of the individuals involved in the fraud and the extent to which such individuals are liable.

Typically, when the company has committed fraud, persons who are responsible for the actions of the company – the ‘directing mind and will– are held liable. In contrast, where a fraud is committed on the company and/or its shareholders, it involves identifying both, the officers at whose behest, or for whose benefit, such actions were undertaken, as well as persons who executed the fraud. 
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