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IB DP Business Management Study Notes

1.2.3 Corporations

Understanding corporations entails exploring their intrinsic features, advantages, and potential limitations, all crucial for making informed business decisions and comprehending diverse organisational structures.

Features of Corporations

Legal Entity

  • Corporations are distinct legal entities, separate from the individuals who own, manage, and operate them.
  • They can enter into contracts, sue and be sued, and are subject to rights, privileges, and liabilities under law.

Ownership Structure

  • Shareholders: Owners of corporations are shareholders who hold stocks representing ownership.
  • Board of Directors: Shareholders elect a board of directors to make overarching decisions and oversee management.
  • Officers: Individuals appointed to manage daily operations, including a CEO, CFO, etc.

Limited Liability

  • Shareholders possess limited liability, meaning personal assets are protected and liabilities limited to their investment in the corporation.

Transferability of Shares

  • Shares can be sold or transferred, facilitating the fluid change of ownership without altering the corporation’s existence.

Benefits of Corporations

Financial Capital

  • Ease of Raising Capital: Corporations can raise funds by issuing shares, providing substantial capital for investments, and expansion.
  • Creditworthiness: Enhanced ability to secure loans and credit due to established financial stability.

Continuous Existence

  • Corporations continue to exist beyond changes in ownership or the passing of original owners, ensuring longevity.

Attracting Talent

  • The capacity to issue shares and provide benefits like stock options can attract skilled professionals and retain pivotal staff.

Profit Distribution

  • Shareholders receive dividends, distributing profits in alignment with stock ownership, potentially ensuring consistent income.

Drawbacks of Corporations

Complex Formation and Regulation

  • Establishing a corporation involves navigating complex, often costly legal and procedural pathways.
  • Ongoing compliance with regulations and satisfying reporting requirements can be resource-intensive.

Double Taxation

  • Corporations are taxed on profits, and subsequently, shareholders are taxed on distributed dividends, creating a double taxation scenario.

Dilution of Control

  • As corporations grow and additional shares are issued, initial owners may experience dilution in their control and influence over the corporation.

Ethical and Social Responsibility Challenges

  • The pursuit of shareholder value can sometimes conflict with ethical and social considerations, posing reputational risks and moral dilemmas.

Decision-Making Bureaucracy

  • With a layered structure involving shareholders, a board of directors, and officers, decision-making can be bureaucratically intensive and occasionally slow.

In-depth Exploration

Variations of Corporations

Public vs. Private Corporations

  • Public Corporations: Shares are available to the public through stock exchanges. They are subject to stringent regulatory scrutiny and reporting obligations.
  • Private Corporations: Ownership is often more concentrated and shares are not publicly traded, affording privacy but limiting capital-raising avenues.

Multinational Corporations (MNCs)

  • Operate in multiple countries, enjoying global reach but navigating diverse regulatory landscapes and cultural dynamics.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Corporate Governance

  • The framework of rules, practices, and processes by which corporations are directed and controlled.
  • Ensures accountability, fairness, and transparency in a corporation's relationship with all stakeholders.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

  • Corporations’ initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social wellbeing.

Economic Impact

Impact on Local Economies

  • Corporations often bring employment and infrastructural development but may overshadow local businesses and dictate economic conditions.

Global Economic Influences

  • Large corporations and MNCs can influence global economics, affecting markets and economies on an international scale.

Technology and Corporations

Technological Advancements

  • How technological advancements can spur innovation, enhance operational efficacy, and drive competitive advantages in corporations.

Technological Risks

  • Cybersecurity, technological obsolescence, and the demands of staying technologically progressive pose notable risks and investment considerations.

Understanding corporations necessitates a balanced view, recognising the potential for substantial economic impact and profit alongside the complexities, risks, and ethical considerations inherent in such structures. Navigating the corporate world demands astute knowledge, ethical diligence, and strategic foresight.


Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) significantly impacts a corporation's rapport with its stakeholders, embedding an ethical and socially responsible dimension into its operational and strategic initiatives. By prioritising societal and environmental considerations, corporations enhance their brand image and reputation, which is instrumental in garnering customer loyalty, attracting ethical investments, and recruiting skilled employees. Moreover, engaging in CSR initiatives often necessitates corporations to establish dialogues with various stakeholders - including local communities, NGOs, and government bodies - to comprehend and align their strategies with broader societal expectations, thereby fostering positive relationships and potentially safeguarding against reputational risks.

Corporations, especially multinationals, utilise an array of strategies to mitigate risks stemming from their large-scale operations. Diversification is pivotal – spanning across products, services, and geographical locations, to safeguard against market fluctuations and regional economic downturns. Additionally, they employ comprehensive risk management frameworks that involve identifying, assessing, and prioritising risks, followed by resource allocation to minimise, control, and monitor the impact of uncertain events. Furthermore, robust contingency planning, extensive research, and analysis, coupled with adeptly navigating through legal and cultural discrepancies across countries, fortify corporations against potential threats and help in maintaining operational and financial stability.

Corporations are instrumental in driving globalisation and influencing international markets. Their expansive operations, often spanning multiple countries, facilitate the interlinking of global economies through trade, investment, and the transfer of technologies and expertise. Moreover, multinational corporations, in particular, intensify global connectivity by establishing subsidiaries, forming alliances, or outsourcing in various countries. This not only augments the dispersion of products and services across borders but also intricately intertwines economies, thereby creating a symbiotic relationship where events or policies in one nation can have ripple effects on corporations and economies worldwide.

Corporations typically exhibit a hierarchical organisational structure, categorised by clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and a delineated chain of command. This traditional framework inevitably impacts the decision-making process. Centralised decision-making tends to prevail, with pivotal decisions being made by upper management, often creating a top-down communication flow. While this can expedite decision-making and ensure consistency in strategy execution, it can also stifle innovation and employee motivation in lower tiers due to the lack of participative decision-making. Furthermore, the hierarchy might lead to communication distortion as messages cascade through the various echelons, potentially diluting the original intent and meaning.

Navigating through varied regulatory environments in international operations necessitates corporations to implement a meticulous and adaptive compliance strategy. Legal and regulatory adherence becomes paramount and is often achieved by engaging local experts, forming strategic alliances with local firms, or hiring employees familiar with the local regulatory landscape. Moreover, it’s pivotal for corporations to continuously monitor and adapt to regulatory changes and to comprehend the potential impact of these changes on operations. Developing a robust legal and compliance team, investing in training for employees regarding regulatory adherence, and incorporating technology to track and ensure compliance are fundamental in mitigating legal risks and ensuring smooth international operations.

Practice Questions

Evaluate the impact of limited liability on the shareholders and creditors of a corporation.

Limited liability plays a pivotal role in protecting the personal assets of shareholders. In the event of financial turmoil, shareholders are only liable up to the amount invested in the corporation, safeguarding personal wealth and encouraging investment by mitigating potential financial risks. However, this poses drawbacks for creditors, as the corporate veil may restrict them from claiming shareholders' personal assets to recover debts, amplifying their credit risks. Thus, while limited liability boosts shareholder confidence and investment, it simultaneously necessitates creditors to meticulously assess creditworthiness and often devise stringent lending criteria to safeguard their financial interests.

Discuss the implications of double taxation on the financial decisions and dividend policies of corporations.

Double taxation considerably influences corporations’ financial and dividend decisions by imposing an additional financial burden. Since corporations are taxed on profits and subsequently, dividends distributed to shareholders are also taxed, it potentially diminishes the net income for both the corporation and its shareholders. This could sway corporations towards reinvesting profits back into the business, rather than disbursing them as dividends, to spur growth and enhance shareholder value through capital gains. Furthermore, the potential deterrent of double taxation might encourage corporations to explore alternative finance structures, such as retaining earnings or opting for debt financing, in order to optimise after-tax returns for shareholders and ensure financial sustainability.

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Written by: Dave
Cambridge University - BA Hons Economics

Dave is a Cambridge Economics graduate with over 8 years of tutoring expertise in Economics & Business Studies. He crafts resources for A-Level, IB, & GCSE and excels at enhancing students' understanding & confidence in these subjects.

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