An appraisal of shareholder proportional liability

Journal of Business Ethics 32 (4):329-345 (2001)
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Abstract

Shareholders of corporations have their liability for actions of the corporation limited by law. Unlike the equity holder in a partnership or proprietorship, the assets that a shareholder has distinct from her holdings in the enterprise can not be taken to satisfy liabilities arising from actions of the enterprise itself. This paper argues that a reasonable principle of fairness argues for an alternative to limited liability, proportional liability. Proportional liability makes a shareholder liable for the same proportion of a corporation''s excess of liabilities over assets that her number of shares bears to the total number of shares outstanding. The key idea is that it is unfair in situations in which explicit agreements can not be reached for shareholders to bear only limited risk when they may receive gains from stock dividends and appreciation that are not limited to any pre-determined amount. Proportional liability has not been much examined in the financial literature. Good utilitarian arguments have been given for limited liability over unlimited liability for corporate shareholders, but these arguments do not clearly support the choice of limited liability over proportional liability

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Citations of this work

What Stakeholder Theory is Not.Andrew C. Wicks - 2003 - Business Ethics Quarterly 13 (4):479-502.
The Corporation as Actual Agreement.Gordon G. Sollars - 2002 - Business Ethics Quarterly 12 (3):351-369.

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References found in this work

Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
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Contractualism and utilitarianism.Thomas M. Scanlon - 1982 - In Amartya Kumar Sen & Bernard Arthur Owen Williams (eds.), Utilitarianism and Beyond. Cambridge University Press. pp. 103--128.
The Corporation as a Moral Person.Peter A. French - 1979 - American Philosophical Quarterly 16 (3):207 - 215.
Corporations and Morality.Thomas Donaldson - 1982 - Journal of Business Ethics 1 (3):251-253.

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