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The existence of a corporation requires a special legal framework and body of law that specifically grants the corporation legal personality, and typically views a corporation as a fictional person, a legal person, or a moral person (as opposed to a natural person). Corporate statutes typically empower corporations to own property, sign binding contracts, and pay taxes in a capacity separate from that of its shareholders (who are sometimes referred to as "members"). According to Lord Chancellor Haldane,

The legal personality has two economic implications. First it grants creditors (as opposed to shareholders or employees) priority over the corporate assets upon liquidation. Second, corporate assets cannot be withdrawn by its shareholders, nor can the assets of the firm be taken by personal creditors of its shareholders. The second feature requires special legislation and a special legal framework, as it cannot be reproduced via standard contract law.[24]

The regulations most favorable to incorporation include:

Ownership and control

Persons and other legal entities composed of persons (such as trusts and other corporations) can have the right to vote or receive dividends once declared by the Board. In the case of for-profit corporations, these voters hold shares of stock and are thus called shareholders or stockholders. When no stockholders exist, a corporation may exist as a non-stock corporation (in the United Kingdom, a "company limited by guarantee") and instead of having stockholders, the corporation has members who have the right to vote on its operations. Voting members are not the only members of a "Corporation". The members of a non-stock corporation are identified in the Articles of Incorporation (UK equivalent: Articles of Association) and the titles of the member classes may include "Trustee," "Active," "Associate," and/or "Honorary." However, each of these listed in the Articles of Incorporation are members of the Corporation. The Articles of Incorporation may define the "Corporation" by another name, such as "The ABC Club, Inc." and, in which case, the "Corporation" and "The ABC Club, Inc." or just "The Club" are considered synonymous and interchangeable as they may appear elsewhere in the Articles of Incorporation or the By-Laws. If the non-stock corporation is not operated for profit, it is called a not-for-profit corporation. In either category, the corporation comprises a collective of individuals with a distinct legal status and with special privileges not provided to ordinary unincorporated businesses, to voluntary associations, or to groups of individuals.

There are two broad classes of corporate governance forms in the world. In most of the world, control of the corporation is determined by a board of directors which is elected by the shareholders. In some jurisdictions, such as Germany, the control of the corporation is divided into two tiers with a supervisory board which elects a managing board. Germany is also unique in having a system known as co-determination in which half of the supervisory board consists of representatives of the employees. The CEO, president, treasurer, and other titled officers are usually chosen by the board to manage the affairs of the corporation.

In addition to the limited influence of shareholders, corporations can be controlled (in part) by creditors such as banks. In return for lending money to the corporation, creditors can demand a controlling interest analogous to that of a member, including one or more seats on the board of directors. In some jurisdictions, such as Germany and Japan, it is standard for banks to own shares in corporations whereas in other jurisdictions such as the United States, under the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, and the United Kingdom, under the Bank of England, banks are prohibited from owning shares in external corporations. However, since 1999 in the U. S., commercial banks have been allowed to enter into investment banking through separate subsidiaries thanks to the Financial Services Modernization Act or Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Since 1997, banks in the U. K. are supervised by the Financial Services Authority; its rules are non-restrictive allowing both foreign and domestic capital to operate all financial institutions, including insurance, commercial and financial banking.[27]

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