Executive Compensation to the People

There is a bill in the progress before the House of Representatives that is trying to put the issue of the pay and compensation package that executives of publicly traded companies receive in front of stockholders. This bill is actually expected to pass through the house successfully; however, it is unclear how well the Senate will receive it. Is this bill the right direction for a modern America, or do we need to consider more intimately the economic implications of such a decision?

The White House has already formally registered its opposition to such a plan, however the backers are unconcerned. Many feel that the compensation plans of the major officers of the publicly traded companies should be tied to the performance of the company and the officers themselves, and not to the figures that the officers wish to receive.

This bill if passed could place an enormous amount of power into the hands of stockholders who are upset with the way several companies have behaved lately, with declining profits and horrible business practices while the officers of the companies have picked up large compensation packages that include their salary, benefits, and stock options. Each officer can end up with hundreds if not thousands in profits even while the company is performing badly, which stockholders believe is an inequitable outcome.

Many have wondered if the officers in charge of these companies would tighten the belts on spending if their own pay was tied to their performance rather than their wishes, and with numerous companies falling short of profits with huge pay packages going out, and raises occurring almost yearly many investors have started complaining loudly.

While current President Bush has urged the officers of the companies to step up and take responsibility. He has also said that it is not an issue that the government should become involved in. How far should the government extend into a private business? How many people would really feel comfortable with the idea of having the government determine what their pay could be? Most Americans can agree that they would not like the idea of the government interfering with their job and pays.

At the same time, while most Americans do not wish to have the government intruding into their jobs and careers, many still want some measures put into place to hold the executives accountable who are responsible for multi-million and multi-billion companies that employ hundreds to thousands of people.

Many have argued that the concept is nothing new; it is similar to ideas that are currently in place in countries such as Sweden, Australia and even in Britain. With examples such as those to follow, it makes people wonder if this actually does have the chance to pass through the House of Representatives and the Senate once the voting time has arrived.

With time as the key factor, there is scheduled to be a vote on the issue in the House of Representatives in the very near future, which is very much expected to pass without much opposition. It is the next step in the Senate that is where it starts getting sticky with people unsure of the results once the voting in the Senate starts. However, with increasing support from the people, many of whom work for companies affected by this issue, there is scope for a mass political influence, which will certainly make the outcome interesting.

The Scope and Nature of the Criminal Law

In our private lives, the area of law we will experience the most, either directly or indirectly would have to be the criminal law. Not necessarily through contravening its principals, the individual citizen will more commonly encounter its breadth in the course of their everyday lives, considering as a factor the legal ramifications of any desired conduct or decision in the decision making process. For most of us, we tend to live our lives within these predetermined boundaries with no second thought or question as to the morality of the prohibited option nor the moral authority behind it. In this article, it is proposed to look at the nature and scope of the criminal law in our society, and to discuss whether as an entity it is too intrusive, or whether it is naturally a required aspect of regulating society.

It is often said academically that the citizen enjoys freedom to act as he wishes in his life, subject to the regulatory provisions of the criminal law and the criminal justice system. It is thought that as citizens of a particular country, largely at freedom to choose where we live in the world, we impliedly accept the authority of the relevant legal provisions which, for the most part, regulate on a moral level. Of course there are exceptions, i.e. criminal laws of a regulatory or secondary nature which do not directly bear any moral message, such as speeding limits or parking restrictions. So, then, to what extent does the criminal law reflect morality, and further from what source is this morality derived?

The criminal law is said to operate in mind of the public good, and the benefit of society. It could, therefore, be argued to be crossing the boundaries into serious restrictions on liberty when it regulates personal conduct like drug use which may not have any wider impact than on that of the person indulging accordingly. Why should the criminal law impose restrictions on what a person can do with his or her own body? Surely our own freewill is a good enough justification for acting outwith the scope of the law in these types of scenario?

Furthermore an interesting area of the criminal law is potential liability for omissions. In this sense, the citizen can actually be punished without acting at all in a specific way. This takes the criminal law beyond a regulatory framework for the public good into an actual coercive force to make people positively act in a certain way. For example, in some jurisdictions there is a legal duty to report a road traffic accident. This means a citizen who is aware of the occurrence of such will have committed a criminal offence where he does not act in the prescribed manner. Again, this is surely affording a broad scope to the criminal law, which may be seen by some as intruding on the fundamental freedoms and values upon which most modern nations were built.

Minimising Tax Liability On Death

When we die, most of us leave behind a fairly substantial and intricate web of assets and liabilities, including money, our home and our other possessions. In most jurisdictions, there arises a liability to tax on death that must be borne from the totality of the estate, and this can lead to a significant reduction of inheritance for our loved ones. Having said that, there are a number of ways in which liability to tax on death can be vastly reduced whilst still ensuring sufficient legacies and provisions mortis causa. In this article, we will look at some of the most salient ways in which one can seek to minimise his estate’s liability to tax on death, and ways in which careful planning can help increase the legacies we leave behind.

Tax liability on death usually arises through bad inheritance planning, and a lack of legal consideration. Of course to a certain extent it is unavoidable, but with some care and consideration it is possible to reduce liability overall. There’s absolutely no point in making legacies in a will which won’t be fulfilled until after death and which haven’t been properly considered in light of the relevant legal provisions. If you haven’t done so already, it is extremely advisable to consult an attorney on minimising liability on death, and on effective estate planning to avoid these potential problems and to ensure your family are left with more in their pockets.

If you intend to leave legacies to family members of a specific quantity or nature, it may be wise to do so at least a decade before you die, which will ultimately divert any potential legal challenges upon death which would give rise to tax liability. Obviously there is seldom any way to tell precisely when you are going to die, but making legacies at least a decade beforehand avoids any liability that might be attached on death. In effect, donating during your lifetime well before you die means you can still provide for your family and friend without having to pay the corresponding tax bill.

Another good way to minimise tax liability is to get rid of assets during your lifetime by way of gifts to friends and family. One of the most effective ways to do this is to transfer your house to your children during your lifetime, or to move the house into a trust for which you are a beneficiary. This means you remain functionally the owner, but legally, the asset doesn’t feature in your estate on death and therefore doesn’t attract tax liability. Again, it is of great importance to ensure that the transfer is made well before death to avoid potential challenges and potential inclusion in the estate which would lead to inheritance tax liability.

Death is a particularly important phase in our lives, particularly in legal terms. The change between owning our own property and distributing ownerless property provides a range of challenges, and the controversial tax implications can cause serious problems. Without careful planning and an expert hand, it can be easy to amass a significant tax bill for your loved ones to bear. However, with the right direction, it can be easy to use the relevant mechanisms to minimise the potential liability to tax on your estate upon death.

Natural Law vs. Positivism

The philosophy of law is a complex and in depth study, which requires an intimate knowledge of the legal process in general as well as a philosophical mind. For centuries, the scope and nature of law has been debated and argued from various view points, and intense intellectual discussion has arisen from the fundamental question of ‘what is law’. In response, several major schools of thought have been born, of which the natural law scholars and positivists are two of the most notable. These two camps hold strictly contrasting views over the role and function of law in certain circumstances, and have provided in themselves platforms for criticism and debated which continue to be relevant today.

Although the classifications of natural law and positivism are frequently used, it is important to remember that they cover a very wide range of academic opinion. Even within each camp, there are those veering towards more liberal or more conservative understandings, and there is also naturally a grey area. Having said that, academics and philosophers can be enveloped by one of the categories on the basis of certain fundamental principles within their writings and opinions.

Natural law has always been linked to ultra-human considerations, that is to say a spiritual or moral influence determinant of their understandings of the way law operates. One of the founding principles is that an immoral law can be no law at all, on the basis that a government needs moral authority to be able to legislate. For this reason, natural law theories have been used to justify anarchy and disorder at ground level. This had lead to widespread criticism of the natural law principles, which have had to be refined and developed to fit with modern thinking. On the flip side, natural law has been used as a definitive method of serving ‘justice’ to war criminals and former-dictators after their reign.

Some of the strongest criticisms of natural law have come from the positivist camp. Positivism holds at its centre the belief that law is not affected by morality, but in essence is the source of moral considerations. Because morality is a subjective concept, positivism suggests that the law is the source of morality, and that no extra-legal considerations should be taken in to account. Positivism has been criticised for allowing extremism and unjust actions through law. It has also been suggested that positivism in its strictest sense is flawed because it ignores the depth and breadth of language in legal enactment, which means the positive law can be read in different lights based on differing meanings of the same word. Despite this, positivism has been seen as one of the fundamental legal theories in the development of modern legal philosophy over the last few decades, and is winning widespread favour through a contemporary academic revival.

Natural law and positivism have been the subject of an ongoing academic debate into the nature of law and its role within society. Both respective legal schools have criticised and built on one and others theories and principles to create a more sophisticated philosophical understanding of the legal construct. Although the debate is set to continue with a new generation of promising legal theorists, both natural law and positivism have gained widespread respect for their consistency and close analyses of the structure of law.

The Fairness of Limited Liability

Limited liability is one of the most successful commercial creations of all time, almost singularly responsible for the growth and expansion of capitalism. Encouraging risk and promoting successful enterprise through both small and large businesses alike, limited liability has been the driving force behind economic success in the Western world and is one of the most celebrated legal creations of all time. But what is it about limited liability that makes it so successful? Indeed, is the structure of limited liability fair as regards creditors, who ultimately bear the brunt of this mechanism?

Limited liability in general means a sacrifice of privacy in return for the benefit of limited personal liability. In layman’s terms, this means that the company promoter is not personally liable for any of the company’s debts, thus encouraging risk and promoting enterprise. For most small businesses, it is a lifeline, and without it the economy would level out and stifle with fewer new start-ups each year. At the back end, however, these businesses leave behind a trail of debts that ultimately result in financial loss for lenders and those that operate on credit terms. This raises the general question of whether limited liability as a creation is fair for the creditors it so apparently prejudices?

Limited liability has given life to companies across the world, by providing the reassurances necessary to entrepreneurs to take the risk, safe in the knowledge that personally speaking they should come out unscathed. From this, more companies have grown and flourished, which has led to more jobs and better state welfare for virtually all capitalist economies. The strength of this function has gone a long way towards building the great superpowers, and is seriously underestimated as a legal construct.

Limited liability leaves a gap in the pockets of those companies that lend money or offer their customers credit terms during the course of their business. As a consequence of the promoter’s ability to walk away with his hands clean, many businesses find the squeeze of bad debts too severe, and end up having to take on credit of their own to meet the shortcomings. In theory, limited liability leaves creditors in a weak situation, with relatively limited powers to regain the full amount of any monies due.

In reality, limited liability doesn’t operate in that way. Of course, many businesses go under every year as their owners walk free of encumbrance, but generally speaking the economic world does not work between insolvent companies. However, the flexibility allowed by limited liability has meant debt in a sense has become effective currency, and has helped businesses to survive during tough times, and to seek the financial help necessary without the appropriate risk.

The European Convention on Human Rights: The Wider Implications

The European Convention on Human Rights has seen vast changes to the legal framework of countries across Europe. By imposing fundamental freedoms and liberties in an indefeasible form, it has created a host of legal problems and issues for courts to tackle in an attempt to improve human rights. Distinct from the US, which already retains fundamental freedoms through its definitive constitution, much of Europe in particular the UK doesn’t have the same codified provisions for its citizens. This has now been revolutionised by the ratification of the European Convention (ECHR), which sets out certain primary standards that must be attained in relation to each individual citizen. In this article, we will look at the advantages of the ECHR, and the wide-ranging impact it has had on the various constitutions around Europe.

The European Convention on Human Rights was established as an international treaty to afford a uniform standard of human rights treatment across Europe. Covering basic freedoms like the right to life through to trickier issues such as the right to liberty and the right to marry, ECHR has had an astonishing impact on Europe both legally and politically. In passing legislation, European governments have to as a matter of law legislate in accordance with the provisions contained within the ECHR. This means parliaments of signatory countries are being bound by their predecessors to legislate in a particular way, which has ruled out a number of would-be pledges and meant the reversal of certain national laws.

One area where this has caused problems is in abortion. The perpetual morality debate aside, abortion has been held to contravene the right to life provision in certain European countries. Although there is still great scope for challenge, this could potentially cause problems in the coming years as more and more cases of this nature are brought before the European court. Another major problem area is that of same sex marriages. The universal right to marry means that any provision stopping same sex marriage anywhere in Europe could potentially be struck down as illegal, requiring nations to actively realign their current provisions to avoid any discrimination. For this reason, the UK, amongst others, have taken proactive measures to permit same-sex marriages to avoid the embarrassment of a public ruling against them. This obviously raises problems of national power and freedom: nations are now utterly bound by the principles of European ‘liberty’, whether they like it or not.

Thankfully this social and legal upheaval is working towards a more liberty-orientated Europe. It is certainly taking time, and given the fact that the ECHR is over half a century old, its impacts are becoming more and more apparent as time wears on and as courts are presented with modern challenges located within the context of the original ECHR provisions. Additionally, the European Convention on Human Rights is being regularly updated and amended to provide a steadfast constitution for the citizen whilst retaining the flexibility to adapt to contemporary situations. Although the ECHR and the provisions contained within it have met stiff opposition throughout their lifetime, most would now agree that the level of individual certainty provided by these fundamental freedoms is making for a better quality of life and reducing the scope for discrimination and prejudice across Europe.