The recovery of benefits conferred under illegal or immoral transactions : a historical and comparative study with particular emphasis on the law of unjustified enrichment
The thesis deals with the recovery of benefits that have been transferred under illegal or immoral transactions, in particular from the perspective of the law of unjustified enrichment. The rules governing this area of law in all the legal systems that are studied originate in classical Roman law, which principally granted a remedy for the recovery of benefits conferred under a tainted cause (the so-called condictio ob turpem vel iniustam causam). Only where both parties were involved in an immoral transaction was recovery barred, according to the maxim in pari delicto potior est possidentis. However, modern law usually applies the bar to recovery not only to immoral but also to illegal transactions. This extension of the bar, as well as its strict legal consequence of completely barring recovery, can lead to overly harsh results. The comparison of two civilian legal systems, Germany and Italy, will demonstrate modern civilian approaches on how to mitigate the strict consequences of the bar. The study of English law identifies a very different approach to the solution of the same problem. The law of the mixed legal system of Scotland started from a civilian basis in this area. However, it subsequently came under the influence of the common law, which received only the bar to recovery, and developed it into a principle of non-recovery in cases of illegality. The thesis argues that it is undesirable to follow the common law influences in the Scots law of unjustified enrichment. Scots law should rather develop its civilian roots and proceed on the assumption that transfers made under immoral and illegal transactions are recoverable in principle. It is also argued that Scots law has sufficient authority to restrict the pari delicto rule to its original scope and thereby apply the bar to recovery only to cases of mutual turpitude.