Lessons from history: the emergence of the corporate form

Dari-Matiacci, Gelderblom, Jonker & Perotti in the Journal of Law, Economics & Organization on the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC)

In a recent article, published in the Journal of Law, Economics & Organization (the article can be consulted here), DARI-MATIACCI, GELDERBLOM, JONKER and PEROTTI describe the emergence of the corporate form during the 17th century. In doing so, they put important insights from other authors (HANSMANN, KRAAKMAN and SQUIRE, click here and BLAIR, click here) in an historical perspective. Professor DARI-MATTIACI, one of the authors, held in 2015 at the KU Leuven the first Heremans Lecture on “The new economics of property rights. Unlocking the fundamental features and the historical emergence of the business corporation “, discussing a draft of this article.

Their research shows the corporate form to be a legal innovation, meeting the practical needs of oversees trade and appearing first in the Dutch East India Company (VOC). The partnership form and contractual commitments of capital did not provide the durability needed for oversees trade with Asia at the end of the 16th century. Continue reading “Lessons from history: the emergence of the corporate form”

Hit me baby one more time: does ‘ne bis in idem’ apply when company and representative are sanctioned for same offence?

ECJ judgement of April 5th 2017

Two Italian companies did not pay their VAT debt which amounted to over a million euro. In addition to a tax penalty for the companies, their legal representatives were prosecuted in their personal capacity on the ground that they failed to fulfill their responsibility to pay the VAT. The representatives protested, arguing that this would breach the ne bis in idem-principle, guaranteed by article 50 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

Continue reading “Hit me baby one more time: does ‘ne bis in idem’ apply when company and representative are sanctioned for same offence?”

Legal seizure of shares: an underrated cornerstone of organizational law

A post by guest blogger Bram Van Baelen

It is a fundamental rule in many legal orders that when a debtor fails to pay his debt(s), his personal creditors can seize his assets. Legal seizure of assets is, as such, a necessary tool for creditors in order to force an unwilling debtor to fulfill his obligations. Ultimately, legal seizure can lead to a forced sale of the debtor’s assets.

When a debtor owns shares in a share capital corporation, these shares are part of the debtor’s assets as well. Just like the debtor’s house, car, or bank account, shares in corporations are available for creditors to seek recourse on for their unpaid claims. Therefore, proper legal seizure proceedings of shares are in place in order to protect the interest of personal creditors of shareholders and to consolidate this fundamental principle.

The legal seizure of shares is necessary for another reason as well. Continue reading “Legal seizure of shares: an underrated cornerstone of organizational law”

De onverdeelde nalatenschap is een afgescheiden vermogen

Een olifant in de kamer van het Belgisch privaatrecht

Vermogensafscheiding kreeg in mijn eigen Leuvense rechtenopleiding een centrale plaats doorheen het curriculum. In het licht van de recente aandacht van Anglo-Amerikaanse law & economics-auteurs (denk: Hansmann, Kraakman, Armour, …) voor entity shielding (vermogensafscheiding, dus) als een essentieel en onvervangbaar kenmerk van vennootschapsrecht, was dit een benadering die haar tijd vooruit was.

Ook familiaal vermogensrecht en erfrecht kregen een belangrijke plaatst in die opleiding. Toch heb ik nooit gehoord dat de onverdeelde nalatenschapschap een afgescheiden vermogen was. Gezien de gezonde obsessie voor afgescheiden vermogens liet dit stilzwijgen geloven dat de onverdeelde nalatenschap dan ook géén afgescheiden vermogen was.

Deze gevolgtrekking was fout:  de onverdeelde nalatenschap vormt wel degelijk een afgescheiden vermogen.[1] Continue reading “De onverdeelde nalatenschap is een afgescheiden vermogen”

Ook dwang moet dwingend zijn. De werkelijke zetel als schuldeisersbescherming.

In twee vorige posts belichtten we de bescheiden maar onderschatte verdiensten van een lompe inbrengverplichting als het minimumkapitaal. Deze of elke andere regel de de negatieve aspecten van beperkte aansprakelijkheid wil mitigeren is echter weinig zinvol als door rechtskeuze deze regel kan ontweken. Continue reading “Ook dwang moet dwingend zijn. De werkelijke zetel als schuldeisersbescherming.”

Limited Liability Property

In a recent paper Danielle D’Onfro (Washington University Law) argues that security interests are best understood as a form of “limited liability property”. Limited liability, i.e. the privilege of being legally shielded from liability that would normally apply, has long been considered the quintessential feature of equity interests. The author convincingly argues, however, that limited liability is a critical feature of security interests as well. Debt and equity are indeed not the opposites they are sometimes believed to be. The paper will soon be published in Cardozo Law Review and can already be consulted here.

The effect of formation rules on the functioning of capital markets: lessons from history

Carsten Gerner-Beuerle (LSE) on link between formation rules and the development of capital markets

An earlier post  (in Dutch) discussed the risk of moral hazard when limited liability allows company owners to take excessive risks without needing to fear personal losses. This goes to the expense of company creditors. Minimum capital requirements were suggested as a remedy since this raises the stakes for company owners and thus discourages excessive behavior.

A recent analysis of corporate and financial regulation in Britain and Germany in the 19th century argues, however, that stringent formation rules, such as minimum capital requirements, could possibly hamper the development of financial markets (see: C. Gerner-Beuerle, ‘Law and Finance in Emerging Economies: Germany and Britain 1800-1900, The Modern Law Review, Vol. 80 Iss. 2, March 2017, 263-298).

Continue reading “The effect of formation rules on the functioning of capital markets: lessons from history”