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An Introduction to the Law of Corporations: Cases and Materials, Fall 2017

DGCL Sec. 213 - Record dates

Headnote

Prior to any stockholder meeting, the board must set a “record date” for determining who are the stockholders of the corporation who have the right to vote at the meeting. 

Determining who is a stockholder for the purposes of notice and the right to vote at a meeting can be more complex than you might initially think. in a private corporation, like a start-up, determining who are the record stockholders entitled to notice and to vote at a meeting is, typically, a simple matter. Shares of a private corporation are not transferrable and are held by a relatively small number of easily identifiable persons. One need only refer to the corporation's stock ledger (usually an Excel spreadsheet) to determine who are the stockholders. 

On the other hand, determining who is a stockholder in a modern publicly-traded corporation is an altogether different matter. In publicly-traded corporations, there are potentially millions of stockholders and the demographic of the stockholding base turns over regularly as traders in the market buy and sell shares of the corporation. Determining who is a stockholder for purposes of receiving notice of a meeting and then being entitled to vote at that meeting is difficult. For one thing, a stockholder who is given notice today may very well not be a stockholder of the corporation in 45 when the meeting is actually held.

Later, when we discuss stockholder lists and §219, you will be introduced to the complexities of the system that has been gerry-rigged to try to deal with the question of record ownership in a fast paced trading environment. For now, though, note that §213 tries to deal with some obvious issues.

By permitting a board to separate a stockholder's right to receive notice of a meeting and the identification of stockholders entitled to vote at a meeting. by delaying the identification of those stockholders entitlted to vote, the statute acknowledges the reality that in many corporations there will be significant turnover in the stockholding demographic between notice and the meeting. By identifying stockholders entitled to vote at a later point closer in time to the meeting, drafters of the statute hope the actual stockholding demographic more closely resembles those who have been identified as having the right to vote at a meeting. 

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TITLE 8

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Corporations

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CHAPTER 1. GENERAL CORPORATION LAW

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Subchapter VII. Meetings, Elections, Voting and Notice

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(a) In order that the corporation may determine the stockholders entitled to notice of any meeting of stockholders or any adjournment thereof, the board of directors may fix a record date, which record date shall not precede the date upon which the resolution fixing the record date is adopted by the board of directors, and which record date shall not be more than 60 nor less than 10 days before the date of such meeting. If the board of directors so fixes a date, such date shall also be the record date for determining the stockholders entitled to vote at such meeting unless the board of directors determines, at the time it fixes such record date, that a later date on or before the date of the meeting shall be the date for making such determination. If no record date is fixed by the board of directors, the record date for determining stockholders entitled to notice of and to vote at a meeting of stockholders shall be at the close of business on the day next preceding the day on which notice is given, or, if notice is waived, at the close of business on the day next preceding the day on which the meeting is held. A determination of stockholders of record entitled to notice of or to vote at a meeting of stockholders shall apply to any adjournment of the meeting; provided, however, that the board of directors may fix a new record date for determination of stockholders entitled to vote at the adjourned meeting, and in such case shall also fix as the record date for stockholders entitled to notice of such adjourned meeting the same or an earlier date as that fixed for determination of stockholders entitled to vote in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this subsection (a) at the adjourned meeting.

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(b) In order that the corporation may determine the stockholders entitled to consent to corporate action in writing without a meeting, the board of directors may fix a record date, which record date shall not precede the date upon which the resolution fixing the record date is adopted by the board of directors, and which date shall not be more than 10 days after the date upon which the resolution fixing the record date is adopted by the board of directors. If no record date has been fixed by the board of directors, the record date for determining stockholders entitled to consent to corporate action in writing without a meeting, when no prior action by the board of directors is required by this chapter, shall be the first date on which a signed written consent setting forth the action taken or proposed to be taken is delivered to the corporation by delivery to its registered office in this State, its principal place of business or an officer or agent of the corporation having custody of the book in which proceedings of meetings of stockholders are recorded. Delivery made to a corporation's registered office shall be by hand or by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested. If no record date has been fixed by the board of directors and prior action by the board of directors is required by this chapter, the record date for determining stockholders entitled to consent to corporate action in writing without a meeting shall be at the close of business on the day on which the board of directors adopts the resolution taking such prior action.

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(c) In order that the corporation may determine the stockholders entitled to receive payment of any dividend or other distribution or allotment of any rights or the stockholders entitled to exercise any rights in respect of any change, conversion or exchange of stock, or for the purpose of any other lawful action, the board of directors may fix a record date, which record date shall not precede the date upon which the resolution fixing the record date is adopted, and which record date shall be not more than 60 days prior to such action. If no record date is fixed, the record date for determining stockholders for any such purpose shall be at the close of business on the day on which the board of directors adopts the resolution relating thereto.

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8 Del. C. 1953, § 213; 56 Del. Laws, c. 5057 Del. Laws, c. 148, § 1366 Del. Laws, c. 136, §§ 7-977 Del. Laws, c. 14, § 5.;