Stock - Shareholder

A shareholder (or stockholder) is an individual or company (including a corporation) that legally owns one or more shares of stock in a joint stock company. Both private and public traded companies have shareholders. Companies listed at the stock market are expected to strive to enhance shareholder value.

Shareholders are granted special privileges depending on the class of stock, including the right to vote on matters such as elections to the board of directors, the right to share in distributions of the company's income, the right to purchase new shares issued by the company, and the right to a company's assets during a liquidation of the company. However, shareholder's rights to a company's assets are subordinate to the rights of the company's creditors.

Shareholders are considered by some to be a partial subset of stakeholders, which may include anyone who has a direct or indirect equity interest in the business entity or someone with even a non-pecuniary interest in a non-profit organization. Thus it might be common to call volunteer contributors to an association stakeholders, even though they are not shareholders.

Although directors and officers of a company are bound by fiduciary duties to act in the best interest of the shareholders, the shareholders themselves normally do not have such duties towards each other.

However, in a few unusual cases, some courts have been willing to imply such a duty between shareholders. For example, in California, USA, majority shareholders of closely held corporations have a duty to not destroy the value of the shares held by minority shareholders.

The largest shareholders (in terms of percentages of companies owned) are often mutual funds, and, especially, passively managed exchange-traded funds.

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