Corporate Law Terminology in the US and UK

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Corporate Law is a legal practice area in which there is a good bit of divergence in terminology between the US and UK. None of these examples can be considered true “equivalents” (in legal translation there are rarely equivalents and we can only hope to discover a few “kindred concepts”), but my lawyer students of Legal English tell me they find this list useful.

US UK closest Spanish law concept
sole proprietor sole trader empresario individual
corporate/corporation law company law Derecho societario
limited liability company (LLC) private limited company (Ltd.) sociedad (de responsabilidad) limitada (S.L. or S.R.L.)
corporation (Inc.) public limited company (plc) sociedad anónima (S.A.)
articles of incorporation memorandum of association acta constitutiva; escritura de constitución
(corporate) bylaws articles (of association) estatutos sociales
corporate/business purpose (company’s) objects objeto social
shares; stock* shares acciones
ordinary shares; common stock ordinary shares acciones ordinarias
preference shares; preferred stock preference shares acciones privilegiadas
shareholder; stockholder shareholder accionista
share capital; capital stock share capital capital social
annual shareholders /stockholders meeting annual general meeting (AGM) junta general ordinaria
special shareholders / stockholders meeting extraordinary general meeting (EGM) junta general extraordinaria
piercing the corporate veil lifting the corporate veil levantamiento del velo corporativo

*Several Legal English textbooks categorically state that “shares” and “shareholder” are the British English terms for acciones and accionista, while the American English equivalents are “stock” and “stockholder.” But this is not actually the case. “Share” and “shareholder” are the terms used in the American Bar Association’s Model Business Corporation Act (MBCA) and its revised version (RMBCA) adopted in whole or in part in over half of the fifty US states. Corporate law is state law in the United States and which of the two terms are preferred perhaps depends on the terminology chosen in a given state’s corporation law or code. For example, in the Delaware General Corporation Law it’s “stock” and “stockholder,” while the California Corporations Code uses “share” and “shareholder.”

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