The Criminal Liability of Corporations for Insider Trading in Australia: Proposals for Reform

Date

2015

Authors

Overland, Juliette Ruth

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Abstract

The regulation of insider trading - the act of trading in securities or other financial products while in possession of relevant non-public, price-sensitive information - is a controversial and complex area of corporate law. Although there has been a marked increase in the number of individual offenders convicted of insider trading in recent years, there has never been a successful criminal prosecution of a corporation for insider trading in Australia, or even a successful set of civil penalty proceedings. This thesis will focus on corporate criminal liability for insider trading in Australia - a topic of great theoretical and practical significance. Corporations are subject to the prohibition of insider trading under Australian law, yet the absence of any successful prosecution, and the dearth of cases concerning corporate defendants, means the law is untested on many relevant issues, complicated by conflicting views as to the proper application of insider trading laws to corporations. The purpose of this thesis is threefold: (i) to determine the manner in which insider trading laws apply to corporations in Australia; (ii) to critically examine the application of those insider trading laws and identify any associated difficulties or flaws; and (iii) to set out proposals for reform and a new model of corporate criminal liability for insider trading in Australia. This thesis will demonstrate that there are a number of specific problems which can be identified in the application of the elements of the insider trading offence to corporations. In particular, there are many mechanisms, existing under both the general law and statute, which can be used to attribute the elements of the insider trading offence to corporations, although there is a lack of clarity as to their availability and application. These different mechanisms also apply a variety of tests, many of which are conflicting, making it difficult to determine when a corporation will actually be regarded as engaging in insider trading. The Chinese Wall defence for corporations also contains a number of gaps in its operation, creating additional uncertainty. This thesis critically analyses corporate criminal liability for insider trading in Australia. Having regard to the need for legislative certainty and the 'market integrity' rationale underpinning Australia's insider trading laws, this thesis recommends reforms to the existing regulatory regime in order to remedy the identified problems and to better apply the law to corporations. Accordingly, a new model of direct corporate criminal liability for insider trading in Australia is proposed.

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Keywords

insider trading, corporate criminal liability, corporate crime, law reform, corporations, corporate law, securities regulation, ASIC

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Thesis (PhD)

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DOI

10.25911/5d6c3a5a0f8a6

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