human rights / corp. entities

James Barnes (Barnesj@SMTP.LMS.USACE.ARMY.MIL)
Fri, 30 Dec 1994 08:17:06 -0600

The position of corporations and other corporate identities has come up
a couple of times and I thought I would throw in a clarification.

Under the law a corporation is not a group, it is an individual. And the
stockholders and officers are not responsible for the actions of the
corporation (unless it can be proven that they, as individuals, engaged
in illegal activities). That is the reason corporations developed; the idea
of limited liability. You invest your money, the corporation goes belly up,
all you lose is the money you invested. If you ran a company simply as
an individual, you could lose all of your possessions in order to satisfy
any debts.

The case of the Exxon Valdez serves as an example. The only two
individuals prosecuted were Exxon and the captain of the ship- Exxon
for spilling the oil (more or less, its a little more complicated that that),
and the captain for dereliction of duty (or whatever the actual charges
were). The individual officers of the company and the stockholders
were not prosecuted. Their punishment was decreased dividends and
devaluation of stock holdings due to the imposition of fines. Which
brings up an interesting point. The only punishment that can be inflicted
on a corporation is civil. You cannot throw a corporation into jail, you
can only levy fines.

Jim Barnes