“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…)
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…)
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…)
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.”