How Most States Chose “Shareholder” as Delaware Kept “Stockholder”
“Shareholder” and “stockholder” are synonyms. This post explains how most states came to use the former term in their laws, while Delaware consistently has used the latter.
Before Delaware had a general corporation law, Delaware’s legislature created each corporation. The Constitution of Delaware – 1831 so provided in Article II, Section 17, but made no mention of stockholders (or shareholders).
Following a constitutional amendment, Delaware adopted its first general corporation law in 1875. (See Laws of the State of Delaware, Vol. 15 – Part 1, beginning at page 181.) That law includes a few references to “stockholder”, none to “shareholder”. (more…)
Delaware Corporation Stockholders Can Waive Inspection Rights
Several years ago, I wrote about stockholder inspection rights. (See Which Financial Information Must a Corporation Provide to its Shareholders? ) This post explains how stockholders of a Delaware corporation can waive inspection rights.
Delaware General Corporation Law Section 220 gives stockholders a right to “inspect for any proper purpose, and to make copies and extracts from…[t]he corporation’s stock ledger, a list of its stockholders, and its other books and records”. Furthermore, “proper purpose” means “a purpose reasonably related to such person’s interest as a stockholder.” (more…)
When is a Shareholder Vote Required?
This post discusses when a California corporation must hold a shareholder vote.
It is based on an Avvo answer that I wrote recently. Please see Beside elections, are there corporate decisions that REQUIRE the vote of the shareholders?
California Shareholder Vote Requirements
A corporation must hold a shareholder vote to approve the following actions. Please note that this may not be a comprehensive list. Reference links are to the relevant California Corporations Code sections. (more…)
Future Services Can’t Buy Shares in CA but *Can* Buy LLC Membership
Future services seem like a great no-cost way to buy equity in a startup. In California, however, whether you legally can buy equity with future services depends on whether the startup is a corporation or a limited liability company (LLC).
Corporations Code Section 409(a)(1) specifies the types of “consideration” that can be paid for corporate shares. These include, for example, “money paid; labor done; [and] services actually rendered to the corporation or for its benefit or in its formation or reorganization”.
However, “neither promissory notes of the purchaser [subject to certain exceptions] nor future services shall constitute payment or part payment for shares of the corporation“. So a California corporation cannot grant shares in exchange for future services.
Directors’ Inspection Rights Include (Almost) Anything in California
I have written about shareholders’ rights to inspect corporate financial records and shareholder lists. This post discusses directors’ inspection rights, which are far greater.
California Corporations Code Section 1602 states:
Every director shall have the absolute right at any reasonable time to inspect and copy all books, records and documents of every kind and to inspect the physical properties of the corporation of which such person is a director and also of its subsidiary corporations, domestic or foreign. Such inspection by a director may be made in person or by agent or attorney and the right of inspection includes the right to copy and make extracts. This section applies to a director of any foreign corporation having its principal executive office in this state or customarily holding meetings of its board in this state. (more…)
Who Gets to See the Shareholder List?
The founder of a closely-held corporate client, knowing that some employees soon would be shareholders, recently asked whether those employee-shareholders would have the right to find out how many shares he owns. Here is the information I provided concerning who gets to see the shareholder list.
Because the client is a California corporation, Corporations Code Section 1600(a) governs who gets to see the shareholder list. That Section states, in relevant part (emphasis added):
A shareholder or shareholders holding at least 5 percent in the aggregate of the outstanding voting shares of a corporation…shall have an absolute right to…inspect and copy the record of shareholders’ names and addresses and shareholdings during usual business hours upon five business days’ prior written demand upon the corporation….
Class F Shares: A Good Idea?
A client told me that she wants to include Class F shares in the Certificate of Incorporation for her Delaware corporation. This post describes how we concluded that – for this client, at any rate – this was not a good idea.
Class F Shares – History
Class F shares were invented by the Founder Institute several years ago to protect founders largely against investors, especially VCs. (See If You Accept Venture Capital, You will Lose Control of Your Company.) Class F shares provide 2:1 board votes per founder versus normal board members, and 10:1 share votes as compared to normal common shares. (more…)
What’s the Difference between a Shareholder and a Stockholder?
I recently learned that some people are confused by the terms “shareholder” and “stockholder” and wonder what the difference between them is. Short answer: There is no difference. Each refers to the owner of one or more shares of a corporation’s stock.
“Shareholder” is the term used in the California Corporations Code, and “stockholder” is the term used in the Delaware General Corporation Law.
When referring to the law of one of those states, I use the term that appears in that state’s statutes. In general discussions, however, I tend to use the term “shareholder” because I am, and most of the corporations that I form and counsel are, located in CA.
Related post: How Most States Chose “Shareholder” as Delaware Kept “Stockholder”
Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law +1 510-547-0545 dana [at] danashultz [dot] com
This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer directly.
Which Financial Information Must a Corporation Provide to its Shareholders?
The CEO of a client recently asked about the level of financial detail that must be disclosed to a (troublesome) shareholder. The client corporation was formed in Delaware but is located in California, so both states’ laws apply.
California Corporations Code Section 1601 says, in relevant part (emphasis added), that “[t]he accounting books and records of any domestic corporation, and of any foreign corporation keeping any such records in this state or having its principal executive office in this state, shall be open to inspection upon the written demand on the corporation of any shareholder . . . during usual business hours, for a purpose reasonably related to such holder’s interests as a shareholder . . . . Such inspection . . . may be made in person or by agent or attorney, and the right of inspection includes the right to copy and make extracts.”
Cumulative Voting: Board Representation for Minority Shareholders
Cumulative voting for corporate directors is a process by which each shareholder’s voting power is multiplied by the number of directors to be elected. The objective: By allocating all of their votes to one or a small number of directors, minority shareholders can ensure that their interests are represented on the board. (I.e., a majority shareholder will not automatically control all board seats.) (more…)
Assessing Personal Liability – Read Formation Documents Carefully!
A client, majority shareholder in a California corporation, asked whether there was any way to make a minority shareholder pay part of the corporation’s losses to date. In this particular case, the answer was “no” – but the question got me thinking about when a corporate shareholder or LLC member might be have personal liability beyond the amount payable for the ownership interest.
The LLC section reference and content below have been updated to reflect California?s new LLC law that took effect on January 1, 2014 (see RULLCA Brings New LLC Laws to California in 2014).
A century ago, corporations routinely issued assessable shares, i.e., shares that carried an obligation for the shareholder to pay additional amounts to the corporation under certain circumstances, such as to cover losses or to buy property. Today, however, almost all shares are non-assessable.
Annual Meetings: The Basics
Sometimes, in an effort to reduce legal fees, clients conduct corporate annual meetings, and prepare minutes, on their own. Regrettably, if they do not know what they are doing, they can make a mess. Here is a quick overview of how to do things right.
Both California (Corporations Code Section 600(b)) and Delaware (General Corporation Law Section 211(b)) require that every corporation hold an annual meeting of its shareholders to elect directors for the coming year. (In the case of a Delaware corporation, however, the directors may be elected by written consent without calling a meeting.) Any other proper business may be transacted at the shareholder meeting.