- The Emergence of the Corporate Form
- Number of pages
- Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam
- Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics Working Paper
- Volume | Edition (Serie)
- Document type
- Working paper
- Interfacultary Research Institutes
Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB)
- Amsterdam Center for Law & Economics (ACLE)
Amsterdam Business School Research Institute (ABS-RI)
The Dutch East India Company (VOC) is generally viewed as the first modern corporation, yet its 1602 charter did not introduce all features of legal personality. A detailed historical analysis reveals how its statute proved inadequate to sustain the massive military investment needed to secure a strong trade position in Asia. In response, legal innovations were introduced in the subsequent twenty years. In 1612, state intervention overruled shareholder rights and created capital lock-in. The
associated loss of control by shareholders was ultimately compensated by long-term profits, as the escalated commitment to Asia allowed the VOC to outperform its competitors. Once capital became permanent, VOC directors needed and gained the final corporate feature of general limited liability in 1623. We argue that this transition could be achieved while preserving private interests because the Dutch Republic’s limited form of government protected long term private capital, while autocratic
colonial powers maintained a royal monopoly on colonial trade. The English East India Company adopted the much-admired Dutch model only half a century later, as the crown became subject to parliamentary control. By then the Dutch grip on South-East Asia had become entrenched, leading its competitors to focus elsewhere.
- February 25, 2013. Also: Amsterdam Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-11
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