Commercial law includes within its compass such titles as principal and agent; carriage by land and sea; merchant shipping; guarantee; marine, fire, life and accident insurance; bills of exchange and partnership. It can also be understood to regulate corporate contracts, hiring practices, and the manufacture and sales of consumer goods. Many countries have adopted civil codes which contain comprehensive statements of their commercial law. In the United States, commercial law is the province of both the United States Congress under its power to regulate interstate commerce and the states under their police power. Efforts have been made to create a unified body of commercial law in the US; the most successful of these attempts has resulted in the general adoption of the Uniform Commercial Code.

Members of a company generally have rights against each other and against the company, as framed under the company's constitution. In relation to the exercise of their rights, minority shareholders usually have to accept that, because of the limits of their voting rights, they cannot direct the overall control of the company and must accept the will of the majority (often expressed as majority rule). However, majority rule can be iniquitous, particularly where there is one controlling shareholder. Accordingly, a number of exceptions have developed in law in relation to the general principle of majority rule.

  • Where the majority shareholder(s) are exercising their votes to perpetrate a fraud on the minority, the courts may permit the minority to sue
  • members always retain the right to sue if the majority acts to invade their personal rights, e.g. where the company's affairs are not conducted in accordance with the company's constitution (this position has been debated because the extent of a personal right is not set in law). Macdougall v Gardiner and Pender v Lushington present irreconcilable differences in this area.
  • in many jurisdictions it is possible for minority shareholders to take a representative or derivative action in the name of the company, where the company is controlled by the alleged wrongdoers
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