Rules and Rights of Common and Preferred Stock

This article explains the rights of shareholders, depending on what kind of stock they own, including the right to claim income in the case of bankruptcy, voting rights, and the right to buy newly created shares. This section further differentiates preferred stock and common stock.

Claim to Income

In the cases of bankruptcy and dividend distribution, preferred stock shareholders will receive assets before common stock shareholders.


  • Describe the rights preferred stock has to a company's income


    • Common stock and preferred stock are both forms of equity ownership but carry different rights and claims to income.
    • Preferred stock shareholders will have claim to assets over common stock shareholders in the case of company liquidation.
    • Preferred stock also has first right to dividends.


  • Common stock

    Common stock is a form of equity and type of security. Common stock shareholders are at the bottom of the line when it comes to dividends and receiving compensation in the case of bankruptcy.

  • Preferred Stock

    Preferred stock is an equity security that has the properties of both an equity and debt instrument and is higher ranking than common stock.

Preferred and common stock have varying claims to income which will change from one equity issuer to another. In general, preferred stock will be given some preference in assets to common assets in the case of company liquidation, but both will fall behind bondholders when asset distribution takes place. In the event of bankruptcy, common stock investors receive any remaining funds after bondholders, creditors (including employees), and preferred stock holders are paid. As such, these investors often receive nothing after a bankruptcy. Preferred stock also has the first right to receive dividends. In general, common stock shareholders will not receive dividends until it is paid out to preferred shareholders. Access to dividends and other rights vary from firm to firm.

Preferred stock may or may not have a fixed liquidation value (or par value) associated with it. This represents the amount of capital that was contributed to the corporation when the shares were first issued. Preferred stock has a claim on liquidation proceeds of a stock corporation equal to its par (or liquidation) value, unless otherwise negotiated. This claim is senior to that of common stock, which has only a residual claim.

Both types of stock can have a claim to income in the form of capital appreciation as well. As company value increases based on market determinants, the value of equity held in this company also will increase. This translates to a return on investment to shareholders. This will be different to common stock shareholders and preferred stock shareholders because of the different prices and rewards based on holding these different kinds of shares. In turn, should market forces decrease, the value of equity held will decrease as well, reflecting a loss on investment and, therefore, a decrease on the value of any claims to income for shareholders.

Source: Boundless
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