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A mutual shareholder or stockholder is an individual or company (including a corporation) that legally owns one or more share of stock in a joint stock company. A company's shareholders collectively own that company. Thus, the typical goal of such companies is to enhance shareholder value.

Stockholders are granted special privileges depending on the class of stock. These rights may include:
  • The right to vote on matters such as elections to the board of directors. Usually, stockholders have one vote per share owned, but sometimes this is not the case.
  • The right to propose shareholder resolutions.
  • The right to share in distributions of the company's income.
  • The right to purchase new shares issued by the company.
  • The right to a company's assets during, a liquidation of the company.


However, stockholder's rights to a company's assets are subordinate to the rights of the company's creditors. This means that stockholders typically receive nothing if a company is liquidated after bankruptcy (if the company had had enough to pay its creditors, it would not have entered bankruptcy, although a stock may have value after a bankruptcy if there is the possibility that the debts of the company will be restructured).

Stockholders or 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 Californiamarker, majority shareholders of closely held corporations have a duty not to destroy the value of the shares held by minority shareholders.

Shareholders play an important role in raising capital for organizations. So these figures pose a great opportunity for all those who are looking for a lucrative option to invest money. Companies typically provide all the necessary proofs to shareholders to show that they are investing at a right place. For example, fair and reliable audit figures from income statement and balance sheet are used as evidence of overall performance for the benefit of shareholders.

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