Corporation & Enterprise Law
A corporation is a legal entity created through the laws of its state of incorporation. Individual states have the power to promulgate laws relating to the creation, organization and dissolution of corporations. Many states follow the Model Business Corporation Act. (See Minnesota's adoption.) State corporation laws require articles of incorporation to document the corporation's creation and to provide provisions regarding the management of internal affairs. Most state corporation statutes also operate under the assumption that each corporation will adopt bylaws to define the rights and obligations of officers, persons and groups within its structure. States also have registration laws requiring corporations that incorporate in other states to request permission to do in-state business.
There has also been a significant component of Federal corporations law since Congress passed the Securities Act of 1933, which regulates how corporate securities are issued and sold. Federal securities law also governs requirements of fiduciary conduct such as requiring corporations to make full disclosures to shareholders and investors.
The law treats a corporation as a legal "person" that has standing to sue and be sued, distinct from its stockholders. The legal independence of a corporation prevents shareholders from being personally liable for corporate debts. It also allows stockholders to sue the corporation through a derivative suit and makes ownership in the company (shares) easily transferable. The legal "person" status of corporations gives the business perpetual life; deaths of officials or stockholders do not alter the corporation's structure.
Corporations are taxable entities that fall under a different scheme from individuals. Although corporations have a "double tax" problem --both corporate profits and shareholder dividends are taxed -- corporate profits are taxed at a lower rate than rates for individuals.
Corporate law has important intersections with contract and commercial
Trusts and monopolies are concentrations of wealth in the hands of a few. Such conglomerations of economic resources are thought to be injurious to the public and individuals because such trusts minimize, if not obliterate normal marketplace competition, and yield undesirable price controls. These, in turn, cause markets to stagnate and sap individual initiative.
To prevent trusts from creating restraints on trade or commerce and reducing competition, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890. The Sherman Act was designed to maintain economic liberty, and to eliminate restraints on trade and competition. The Sherman Act is the main source of Antitrust law.
The Sherman Act is a Federal statute and as such has a scope limited by Constitutional constraints on the Federal government. The commerce clause, however, allows for a very wide interpretation and application of this act. The Act applies to all transactions and business involved in interstate commerce. If the activities are local, the act applies to transactions affecting interstate commerce. The latter phrase has been interpretted to allow broad application of the Sherman Act.
Most if not all states have comparable statutes prohibiting monopolistic conduct, price fixing agreements, and other acts in restraint of trade having strictly local impact. See, for example, the Massachusetts Antitrust Act.
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