Alastair Hudson, Understanding Company Law

Publication Date01 January 2018
Date01 January 2018

Many law students arrive at university with the perception that company law is dry, technical and somewhat dull. Fortunately, however, Professor Hudson's Understanding Company Law helps to dispel any such notions. The second edition has now been published and the work remains a provocative and stimulating introduction to the subject. Since the first edition was published in 2012 company law has witnessed various developments and many of these are considered in the new edition, including the Supreme Court case of Prest v Petrodel Resources Ltd [2013] UKSC 34, in which the law of piercing the corporate veil was re-evaluated, and the UK Corporate Governance Code of 2016.

Much of the book covers traditional company law territory, such as the nature and legal structures of modern companies, the rights of shareholders and the duties of directors. Yet Hudson provides thoughtful analysis and criticism of the current law. This reaches a climax in the final chapters, which consider corporate social responsibility and the place of company law in wider capitalist society. In his critique of the law, the author adheres to a position on the left of the political spectrum. In fact, the author acknowledges (in the second edition) the leading Labour party figures John McDonnell and Rebecca Long Bailey for rekindling his interest in the subject. It is unusual for an account of company law to be so overtly political but, in Hudson's hands, it feels refreshing rather than off-putting. There will certainly be people who disagree with the author's views; however, many of his criticisms are convincing and should, at the very least, engage the reader in reconsidering some of the underlying assumptions regarding our current system.

In Professor Hudson's view, the version of free market capitalism that has prevailed in the UK (and elsewhere) since the 1980's has been mortally wounded following the financial crisis of the last decade. A number of other examples are used as evidence of flaws with our existing model: the scandals involving BHS and SportsDirect, endemic corporate tax avoidance and vast disparities in pay between company executives and workers. Growing popular distaste with perceived abuses of the corporate form combined with recent political developments suggest that the second edition of Understanding Company Law aligns even more closely with the zeitgeist than the previous edition did. Hudson argues strongly that company law must not be viewed in isolation from...

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