Chapter

The Franchise and the General Meeting

Mark Freeman, Robin Pearson and James Taylor

in Shareholder Democracies?

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780226261874
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226261881 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226261881.003.0006
The Franchise and the General Meeting

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This chapter examines two key features of corporate governance: the shareholder franchise, used to elect directors and for other important decisions, and the general meeting (GM). Both highlight the extent to which companies were seen as political as well as economic entities. In practice, however, the effectiveness of the GM in achieving oversight was debatable. Attendances at GMs often tended to taper off after an initial burst of enthusiasm and involvement. The payment of regular dividends, however, was a strong incentive for no longer attending GMs. The chapter shows that there were significant sectoral differences in shareholder voting rights and that, although there was change over time, it was uneven. Furthermore, developments in the range of other procedures associated with GMs in this period indicate that the principal shift was away from direct shareholder participation toward a closing down of the public sphere of joint-stock politics. This was partly embodied in constitutional provisions but was also revealed in procedural records and in pamphlet literature.

Keywords: shareholder franchise; general meeting; corporate governance; companies; economic entities

Chapter.  13012 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic History

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