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A corporation is a separate legal entity that has been incorporated either directly through legislation or through a registration process established by law. Incorporated entities have legal rights and liabilities that are distinct from their employees and shareholders, and may conduct business as either a profit-seeking business or not-for-profit business. (Wikipedia)

For example, this article claims that

...corporate bodies, including firms that manufacture utensils or market them, are not persons and thus cannot be considered idolaters even if they are owned by non-Jews.

(Related to Is there a concept in Jewish law similar to a corporation?)

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How is this not a dupe of the question you linked? – Seth J Apr 25 '14 at 23:05
@SethJ, the other asks whether there's something in Choshen Mishpat similar to an American corporation. This asks the status in Choshen Mishpat of an American corporation. Related, for sure, but different AFAICT. – msh210 Apr 27 '14 at 4:16

1 Answer 1

Some of the modern poskim's opinions on this issue (though not all issue regarding their halachic status might be treated the same way - CYLOR):

  1. R. Menashe Klein (Mishnah Halakhos 6:277) and R. Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg (heard in person) hold that corporations do not exist at all, and, if not for violating the secular law, you can guiltlessly steal from anything “owned” by them, because a person's ownership of shares doesn't count for anything.

  2. R. Zvi Pesach Frank writes that governmental bonds are exempt from all laws of interest, because, not being owned by anyone in particular, the government is not beholden to this halakha (Sheelos UTeshuvos Y.D. 126). Similarly, R. Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Y.D. II: 63) says that unless someone has control over the company, he doesn’t own it, and so there would not be any prohibition of usury. However, other halakhic laws might still apply in theory, but R. Frank (Sheelos UTeshuvos Zeraim 2:43) extends this logic to say that all government or corporate owned buildings are exempt from mezuzah, removing chametz, and the like. Similarly, R. Moshe Shternbach holds that a person doesn't have a shared ownership in the company, he merely owns the shares, and so is allowed to own shares in a company that keeps chametz over Pesach, for example (Moadim UZmanim 1:54)

  3. The Minchas Yitzchak (1:3, 4:1) says that corporations with Jewish shareholders are subject to Jewish laws, but probably not biblically. Others also had in-between views, such as R. Yitzchak Ahron Ettinger, who wrote (Shut Mahari Halevi 2:124) that there’s not enough ownership to violate owning chametz on Pesach, but there might be enough ownership for the prohibition to charge interest. (I personally find this very hard to understand)

  4. Maharam Shick (Y.D. 158) believes that shareholders should not be considered partial owners, but his student, Maharshag (Shut Y.D. 3) disagreed, and said that all of the shareholders are no worse than partners in ownership, and therefore all the laws of ownership - including Biblical prohibitions - would apply.

  5. Piskei Din Rabanayim 10:273 claims that a corporation is no different than communal funds, and this appears to be the opinion of the Rogetchover Gaon (Shut Tzofnas Paneach 184) and R. Elchanan (Kovetz Shiurim Bava Basra 126b). R. Asher Weiss (Sh"t 1:105-106) argues, saying that a community is no different than partners, which is very different than a corporation.

  6. R. Weiss himself suggests that, due to its unique nature as a secular legal body, it would be prohibited to steal from it (a ‘logical sin’) though the company can also charge interest. The Rogetchover (Shut 184) wins: a corporation is “ chomer lacking a tzurah”, which is why it isn’t subject to a prohibition of lending interest

Also related: Are corporations with Jewish shareholders allowed to charge interest?

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