Osgoode Hall Law School conference explores ‘Crimes of the Powerful’

A two-day conference at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School May 25 and 26 will bring together international and multidisciplinary experts on corporate crime to discuss what can be done to stop corporate abuses of power.

The conference, entitled “Revisiting Crimes of the Powerful: A Global Conversation on Capitalism, Corporations and Crime,” runs from 9am to 4:30pm in the Moot Court of Osgoode Hall Law School, 4700 Keele St., Toronto. It is hosted by Osgoode’s Jack & Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime & Security.

Osgoode Professor Margaret Beare

Corporate crime experts Margaret Beare, an Osgoode professor, and Steven Bittle, an associate professor in the University of Ottawa’s Department of Criminology, are the co-organizers of the conference. In collaboration with Laureen Snider, professor emerita, Queen’s University; Steve Tombs, professor of criminology, Open University; and David Whyte, professor of socio-legal studies, University of Liverpool, the organizers received a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) grant to explore issues and solutions to the problems of crimes of the powerful.

The conference will result in a policy paper by the grant recipients that is expected to be of interest and use to government officials and regulators.

“Scholars at the conference will examine the global neglect of countries to hold corporations to account and the failure of laws to break beyond what is often called the ‘corporate veil’ to reveal the actual beneficial owners of international and national corporations,” Beare said.

In addition to academic speakers, conference participants will include Robert Cribb, one of the Toronto Star’s lead investigators into the Panama Papers that documented the ways the world’s elite hide their money from public tax coffers. Al Rosen, an investigative forensic accountant and co-author of Easy Prey Investors – Why Broken Safety Nets Threaten Your Wealth will outline the failures of Canadian lawmakers and regulators to protect Canadian investors from fraudulent schemes and financial manipulations.

The conference will also honour the work of Queen’s University sociology Professor Frank Pearce whose first book, Crimes of the Powerful, published in 1976, and his third book, Toxic Capitalism Corporate Crime and the Chemical Industry (with Steve Tombs), are Marxist analyses of corporate abuses of power.

“In many ways, the issues that Frank Pearce raised in 1976 are as relevant today as they were 40 years ago – or even more so,” said Beare, noting that the timing of this conference is ideal. “With the aim of leveraging $35 billion for public-private funded large-scale projects, the federal government has announced the creation of an ‘Infrastructure Bank’ to be housed in Toronto. Past experiences – including the findings of the Quebec Charbonneau Commission – have documented the vulnerabilities of the construction industry to corporate and government crimes and corruption. This infrastructure money will be an extremely attractive funding source for potential crimes of the powerful.”

Pearce will deliver the opening keynote address at 9am on May 25 on the topic “Crimes of the Powerful – An Enduring Framework.”

For the conference program and participants list, visit the conference website at nathanson.osgoode.yorku.ca/events/revisiting-crimes-powerful-global-conversation-capitalism-corporations-crime.

There is no charge to attend the conference, but registration is required. RSVP to osgoode.yorku.ca/research/rsvp.

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