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8. Corporations and Commerce

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Chapter Summary

The corporation dates back to ancient Roman law, which provided the Emperor with the authority to grant organizations the right to engage in activities that benefitted the public, including charity, commerce, leisure, and religion. This chapter examines the subsequent transformations in corporations whose primary activity is commerce. It also examines the historical periods when corporations underwent crucial or rapid change. The central focus is on how the political-legal arrangements in which corporations are embedded, redefined corporate property rights in ways that created opportunities to increase their size, enhanced their capacity to engage in commercial activities, and shifted their goals from advancing the public interest to advancing the private interests of their managers and largest stockholders. A primary function of financial management in the parent company is to engage in financial transactions with third parties to ensure that the operating subsidiaries have adequate capital to maintain their operations.

Keywords: colonial corporations; financial management; interstate commerce; property rights

10.1163/9789004266179_017
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