Corporate ‘Personhood’

Noel Pearson’s compelling ideas about managerial power without responsibility (‘Comment’, July) are correct. The doctrine of corporate personhood creates an interesting legal contradiction. The corporation is owned by its shareholders and is therefore shareholder property. If a corporation is also a legal person, then it is a person owned by others and thus it exists in a condition of slavery – a status explicitly forbidden by the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. So, is a corporation a person illegally held in servitude by its shareholders? 
Or is it an entity with rights of personhood that take precedence over the ownership rights of its shareholders? This contradiction has never been directly addressed by either United States’ courts or the High Court of Australia. Until corporate owners and officers are held liable for the harm they cause, we will remain disadvantaged by the law.

John Ward

Gordon, TAS


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