Innovations in Corporate Governance
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Innovations in Corporate Governance

Global Perspectives

Edited by Susan Watson and P. M. Vasudev

The world is changing. Old certainties were swept away by the Financial Crisis of 2008. States are grappling with the implications of new thinking about the ways in which the role and nature of corporations should be viewed and therefore regulated. This timely study uses perspectives of scholars from around the world to highlight and provide critical analysis of innovations in corporate governance adopted in a range of jurisdictions, both mature and developing. Due to their primary importance, particular attention is paid to the governance of banks.
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Chapter 4: The taxonomy of the modern company

Susan Watson

Abstract

Mystery is at the core of corporate law. The first question in corporate law is also the last: what is a company? It is a question that the legal philosopher HLA Hart (1983, 23) would prefer we did not ask, but given the centrality of companies to modern life, we cannot help ourselves as long as the fundamental issue of their essential nature remains contested. This chapter uses a historical lens in an attempt to identify what exactly a company is. It concludes that the modern company is a legal person that is an entity created by statute comprising a fund. The chapter shows that the modern form of the company as separate from shareholders is a consequence of default limited liability being granted in the mid-nineteenth century, although its consequences and benefits were not fully realized until later in the century. This analysis focuses on the English story but is of wider interest because the development of the modern business corporation followed a broadly parallel path in most jurisdictions.

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