decentralized autonomous organizations explainedImagine the most egotistical person, lacking any empathy and capacity for remorse – a psychopath displaying all traits that make a human recoil – you are indeed envisioning your average for-profit corporation. The latter can often be attributed to legal persons created by men and endowed with life by governance forged by popularity, lacking common sense.

In a U.S. historical context, the phrase ‘Corporate Personhood’ refers to the ongoing legal debate over the extent to which rights traditionally associated with natural persons should also be afforded to corporations. In 1886 it was clear that the Supreme Court had accepted the argument that corporations were people and that “their money was protected by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment”.

The laws of the United States hold that a legal entity (like a corporation or non-profit organization) shall be treated under the law as a person except when otherwise noted. This rule of construction is specified in 1 U.S.C. §1 (United States Code), which states: In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise— the words “person” and “whoever” include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals.
This federal statute has many consequences. For example, a corporation is allowed to own property and enter contracts. It can also sue and be sued and held liable under both civil and criminal law. As well, because the corporation is legally considered the “person”, individual shareholders are not legally responsible for the corporation’s debts and damages beyond their investment in the corporation. Similarly, individual employees, managers, and directors are liable for their own malfeasance or lawbreaking while acting on behalf of the corporation, but are not generally liable for the corporation’s actions. Among the most frequently discussed and controversial consequences of corporate personhood in the United States is the extension of a limited subset of the same constitutional rights.
Corporations as legal entities have always been able to perform commercial activities, similar to a person acting as a sole proprietor, such as entering into a contract or owning property. Therefore, corporations have always had a “legal personality” for the purposes of conducting business while shielding individual shareholders from personal liability (i.e. protecting personal assets which were not invested in the corporation).

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