Banks and Banking
Bank Financial Structure
Banks are usually incorporated, and like any corporation must be backed by a certain amount of capital (money or other assets). Banking laws specify that banks must maintain a minimum amount of capital. Banks acquire capital by selling capital stock to shareholders. The money shareholders pay for the capital stock becomes the working capital of the bank. The working capital is put in a trust fund to protect the bank's depositors. In turn, shareholders receive certificates that prove their ownership of stock in the bank. The working capital of a bank cannot be diminished. Dividends to shareholders must be paid only from the profits or surplus of the bank.
Shareholders have their legal relationship with a bank defined by the terms outlined in the contract to purchase capital stock. With the investment in a bank comes certain rights, such as the right to inspect the bank's books and records and the right to vote at shareholders' meetings. Shareholders may not personally sue a bank, but they can, under appropriate circumstances, bring a stockholder's derivative suit on behalf of the bank (sue a third party for injury done to the bank when the bank fails to sue on its own). Shareholders also are not usually personally liable for the debts and acts of a bank, because the corporate form limits their liability. However, if shareholders have consented to or accepted benefits of unauthorized banking practices or illegal acts of the board of directors, they are not immune from liability.
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