Revisiting Corporate Charters

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Essay: Revisiting Corporate Charters: Reviving chartering as an instrument for corporate accountability and public policy. Charles Cray



"Though little used since the 19th century, corporate chartering has the potential to be one of the best ways to hold corporations accountable to the public interest. Three approaches are possible, focused on single companies, all companies, or specific industries. Examples of federal chartering of individual companies are Fannie Mae and Amtrak – the mortgage giant and passenger rail companies – which suggest a strategy that could be taken further. More broadly, a uniform higher standard of chartering might be established to reinforce the public purpose of every corporation, or to provide a framework of accountability that current regulatory systems can’t provide. This might include a process of “sunset and review,” with public input. More immediately, policy-makers might first use chartering to address problems in specific industries where the case for public intervention is obvious, such as public health, natural security, energy, or transportation." (