individual or organization that owns part of a corporation through shares of its stock
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A shareholder or stockholder is an individual or institution (including a corporation) that legally owns a share of stock in a public or private corporation. Shareholders may be referred to as members of a corporation.


  • This theory maintains that the objectives of the firm should be derived by balancing the conflicting claims of the various 'stakeholders' in the firm: managers, workers, stockholders, suppliers, vendors. The firm has a responsibility to all of these and must configure its objectives so as to give each a measure of satisfaction. Profit which is a return on investment to the stockholder is one of such satisfactions, but does not receive special predominance in the objective structure,
  • Why have stockholders?... What contribution do they make, entitling them to heirship of half the profits of the industrial system, receivable partly in the form of dividends, and partly in the form of increased market values resulting from undistributed corporate gains? Stockholders toil not, neither do they spin, to earn that reward. They are beneficiaries by position only. Justification for their inheritance must be sought outside classic economic reasoning.... [and] can be founded only upon social grounds... that justification turns on the distribution as well as the existence of wealth. Its force exists only in direct ratio to the number of individuals who hold such wealth. Justification for the stockholder's existence thus depends on increasing distribution within the American population. Ideally the stockholder's position will be impregnable only when every American family has its fragment of that position and of the wealth by which the opportunity to develop individuality becomes fully actualized.
  • It can be argued that the U.S. brokerage and investment banking industry has transformed the modern American stock market into nothing more than a mechanism for transferring wealth from shareholders to management.
  • The economic fate of a corporation, like that of other business enterprises, is ultimately controlled by individual consumers. But most consumers may be no more interested in taking on management responsibility than stockholders are. Nor is it enough that those consumers who don’t want to be bothered don’t have to be. The very existence of enhanced powers for non-management individuals to have a say in the running of a corporation would force other consumers and stockholders to either take time to represent their own views and interests in this process or risk having people with other agendas over-ride their interests and interfere with the management of the enterprise, without these outsiders having to pay any price for being wrong.
    • Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics, 4th ed. (2010), Ch. 7. Big Business and Government
  • Berle and Means’ book remains the point of departure and the central reference for reflection about corporate governance. It has given rise to differing, even contradictory interpretations, which explains how it could be used in support of opposing theories, notably on the question of the relationship between shareholders and managers. Thus, it has been used to argue in favor of the shareholder conception that is now dominant, even though it contains, as we shall see, a conception of the corporation that is radically different to the contractualist view that underpins the current doctrine of shareholder primacy.
    • Weinstein, O. (2012). "Firm, property and governance: From Berle and means to the agency theory, and beyond]." Accounting, Economics, and Law, Vol. 2 [2012], Iss. 2.

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