Foundations of Corporate Law
39 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2017 Last revised: 6 Jun 2017
Date Written: January 25, 2017
This paper is the first chapter of the third edition of The Anatomy of Corporate Law: A Comparative and Functional Approach, by Reinier Kraakman, John Armour, Paul Davies, Luca Enriques, Henry Hansmann, Gerard Hertig, Klaus Hopt, Hideki Kanda Mariana Pargendler, Georg Ringe, and Edward Rock (Oxford University Press, 2017). The book as a whole provides a functional analysis of corporate (or company) law in Europe, the U.S., and Japan. Its organization reflects the structure of corporate law across all jurisdictions, while individual chapters explore the diversity of jurisdictional approaches to the common problems of corporate law. In its third edition, the book has been significantly revised and expanded.
As the introductory chapter to the book, this paper introduces the book’s analytic framework, which focuses on the common structure of corporate law across different jurisdictions as a response to fundamentally similar legal and economic problems. It first details the economic importance of the corporate form’s hallmark features: legal personality, limited liability, transferable shares, delegated management, and investor ownership. The major agency problems that attend the corporate form and that, therefore, must be addressed, are identified. The chapter next considers the role of law and contract in structuring corporate affairs, including the function of mandatory and default rules, standard forms, and choice of law, as well the debate about the proper role of corporate law in promoting overall social welfare. While almost all legal systems retain the core features of the corporate form, individual jurisdictions have made distinct choices regarding many other aspects of their corporate laws. The forces shaping the development of corporate law, including evolving patterns of share ownership, are examined.
Keywords: Legal Personality; Limited Liability; Transferable Shares; Delegated Management; Investor Ownership; Agency Problems; Default and Mandatory Rules; Choice of Law; Share Ownership
JEL Classification: D23, G32, G34, G38, K22, M14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation