Subsidiary - Details

Details

A parent company does not have to be the larger or "more powerful" entity; it is possible for the parent company to be smaller than a subsidiary, or the parent may be larger than some or all of its subsidiaries (if it has more than one). The parent and the subsidiary do not necessarily have to operate in the same locations, or operate the same businesses, but it is also possible that they could conceivably be competitors in the marketplace. Also, because a parent company and a subsidiary are separate entities, it is entirely possible for one of them to be involved in legal proceedings, bankruptcy, tax delinquency, indictment and/or under investigation, while the other is not.

The most common way that control of a subsidiary is achieved, is through the ownership of shares in the subsidiary by the parent. These shares give the parent the necessary votes to determine the composition of the board of the subsidiary, and so exercise control. This gives rise to the common presumption that 50% plus one share is enough to create a subsidiary. There are, however, other ways that control can come about, and the exact rules both as to what control is needed, and how it is achieved, can be complex (see below). A subsidiary may itself have subsidiaries, and these, in turn, may have subsidiaries of their own. A parent and all its subsidiaries together are called a "group", although this term can also apply to cooperating companies and their subsidiaries with varying degrees of shared ownership.

Subsidiaries are separate, distinct legal entities for the purposes of taxation, regulation, and liability. For this reason, they differ from divisions, which are businesses fully integrated within the main company, and not legally or otherwise distinct from it.

In other words, a subsidiary can sue and be sued separately from its parent and its obligations will not normally be the obligations of its parent. However, creditors of an insolvent subsidiary may be able to obtain a judgment against the parent if they can pierce the corporate veil and prove that the parent and subsidiary are mere alter egos of one another.

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