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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

FIRST DIVISION

[G.R. No. 15568. November 8, 1919. ]

W. G. PHILPOTTS, Petitioner, v. PHILIPPINE MANUFACTURING. COMPANY and F. N. BERRY, Respondents.

Lawrence & Ross for Petitioner.

Crossfield & O’Brien for defendants.

SYLLABUS


1. CORPORATIONS; EXAMINATION OF COMPANY’S AFFAIRS BY STOCKHOLDER; RIGHT OF STOCKHOLDER TO ACT THROUGH REPRESENTATIVE. — The right of examination into corporate affairs which is conceded to the stockholder by section 51 of the Corporation Law may be exercised either by the stockholder in person or by any duly authorized representative.


D E C I S I O N


STREET, J.:


The petitioner, W. G.’ Philpotts, a stockholder in the Philippine Manufacturing Company, one of the respondents herein, seeks by this proceeding to obtain a writ of mandamus to compel the respondents to permit the plaintiff, in person or by some authorized agent or attorney, to inspect and examine the records of the business transacted by said company since January 1, 1918. The petition is filed originally in this court under the authority of section 515 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which gives to this tribunal concurrent jurisdiction with the Court of First Instance in cases, among others, where any corporation or person unlawfully excludes the plaintiff from the use and enjoyment of some right to which he is entitled. The respondents interposed a demurrer, and the controversy is now before us for the determination of the questions thus presented.

The first point made has reference to a supposed defect of parties, and it is said that the action can not be maintained jointly against the corporation and its secretary without the addition of the allegation that the latter is the custodian of the business records of the respondent company.

By the plain language of sections 515 and 222 of our Code of Civil Procedure, the right of action in such a proceeding as this is given against the corporation; and the respondent corporation in this case was the only absolutely necessary party. In the Ohio case of Cincinnati Volksblatt Co. v. Hoffmister (61 Ohio St., 432; 48 L. R. A., 735), only the corporation was named as defendant, while the complaint, in language almost identical with that in the case at bar, alleged a demand upon and refusal by the corporation.

Nevertheless the propriety of naming the secretary of the corporation as a codefendant cannot be questioned, since such official is customarily charged with the custody of all documents, correspondence, and records of a corporation, and he is presumably the person against whom the personal orders of the court would be made effective in case the relief sought should be granted. Certainly there is nothing in the complaint to indicate that the secretary is an improper person to be joined. The petitioner might have named the president of the corporation as a respondent also; and this official might be brought in later, even after judgment rendered, if necessary to the effectuation of the order of the court.

Section 222 of our Code of Civil Procedure is taken from the California Code, and a decision of the California Supreme Court — Barber v. Mulford (117 Cal., 356) — is quite clear upon the point that both the corporation and its officers may be joined as defendants.

The real controversy which has brought these litigants into court is upon the question argued in connection with the second ground of demurrer, namely, whether the right which the law concedes to a stockholder to inspect the records can be exercised by a proper agent or attorney of the stockholder as well as by the stockholder in person. There is no pretense that the respondent corporation or any of its officials has refused to allow the petitioner himself to examine anything relating to the affairs of the company, and the petition prays for a peremptory order commanding the respondents to place the records of all business transactions of the company, during a specified period, at the disposal of the plaintiff or his duly authorized agent or attorney, it being evident that the Petitioner desires to exercise said right through an agent or attorney. In the argument in support of the demurrer it is conceded by counsel for the respondents that there is a right of examination in the stockholder granted under section 51 of the Corporation Law, but it is insisted that this right must be exercised in person.

The pertinent provision of our law is found in the second paragraph of section 51 of Act No. 1459, which reads as follows: "The record of all business transactions of the corporation and the minutes of any meeting shall be open to the inspection of and director, member, or stockholder of the corporation at reasonable hours."cralaw virtua1aw library

This provision is to be read of course in connection with the related provisions o
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