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I paid the stock exchange $1200 for 10 shares of Apple. Do I get to keep these shares forever? Is there any chance that the stock exchange could use some powers of eminent domain to take away my shares and pay me a small compensation? I want to keep my Apple shares. I don't want the stock exchange to expropriate them from me.

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Welcome new user.

Yes, the shares are safely yours forever.

However...

It may be you're thinking about "takeovers" or obscure situations such as public companies going private.

If for example, incredibly, some group of people "privatized" Apple, there would be a vote on it. (You'd vote as one of the shareholders). If the "yes" vote won, it would not be a public company anymore, and indeed, you would get a pile of money for your shares.

So just to be clear, it's quite impossible for anyone to "steal" or "just take" your shares. But yes in obscure situations, say (in short) someone "bought all of Apple totally" then (of course) you would get a pile of money for your shares.

Another example is, if Apple went completely bankrupt, whatever amount of money was left over, you would get your share.

In short, in the sense you are asking the question, you're safe, nobody can ever take away your shares.

(Sure, if the "whole company was sold" or "went bankrupt", which is very obscure, all shares would cease to exist, but, you would certainly get your share of the money.)

The only way I can think someone could literally "take away your shares" is if, there was a political change and the government stole Apple. This happens from time to time in history. Some governments will decide that - for example - a railroad or coal mine should belong to the government, so they just take it.

So to directly answer...

Do I get to keep these shares forever?

Yes.

Is there any chance that the stock exchange could use some powers of eminent domain to take away my shares and pay me a small compensation?

Yes:

in the incredibly unusual case that Apple "goes private". But note that you would get a LOT of money in that case! (It's easy to google articles on this ... article . ) Note that you, as a shareholder, would indeed be one of the people voting on whether or not to sell Apple "as a whole".

Consider a simple "restaurant example" ...

This is much like owning a company with friends. Imagine 10 of you own a restaurant, and you have put in $100,000 each. Say the restaurant is going well. Someone offers you all $5m to buy the restaurant. (ie, $500,000 each.) It could be that the 10 of you all agreed at the beginning, you will never sell it, you're not allowed to sell it. In that case, obviously, it won't be sold. However, it could be that you agreed that if 6+ of you vote to sell it, then it is OK to sell it. In that case even if you voted No, it would be sold (and of course you'd get your $500,000).

Public companies are (generally) like the latter case in the restaurant example. They can be "sold out" if there's a vote Yes to sell out - but don't forget this is incredibly unlikely. I'm just giving you the "total answer".

The fact is yes, the shares can be taken from you (just as in the "restaurant example", but you will have voted and generally you get a pile of money.


One detail. You probably know that shares sometimes "split". All this means is, for every one share (trading at say $80) you get two instead (each trading at say $40). This is completely common and normal. In a sense technically they "take away" your old shares and give you the 2x new ones. So sure, in a sense that is an example of the system "taking" your shares forcibly, you don't have any say in the matter.

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    Takeovers & buyouts aren't all that rare. Happened to a previous employer that I still had some stock in. The good part of the deal is that the buyout price was rather above what the stock was trading at the time the buyout was announced, so I made more than if I'd simply sold the shares. I think this is fairly typical. – jamesqf Oct 12 '20 at 16:59
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    Is it possible for a stock to get lost to escheat (npr.org/transcripts/799345159), or is that a different situation? – Teepeemm Oct 12 '20 at 22:58
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    The UK has rules for public company takeovers which allows compulsory purchase of shares if the buyer has 97.6% of existing shares already - this would be a situation in which the share holder has no say and there is no vote. Companies Act 2006 is the law governing this - and it looks like several US states have similar laws allowing so-called "squeeze-outs" where a significant majority ownership already exists. – Moo Oct 13 '20 at 2:17
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    What if the broker bankrupt as it happened in 2015 with the Swiss Franc Chaos? (See Alpari UK) – Begoodpy Oct 13 '20 at 7:44
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    @Moo to be fair, a vote is kind of pointless if one entity already owns 97.6% of the shares. – Paŭlo Ebermann Oct 13 '20 at 18:18
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You did not pay the stock exchange for anything. You sent money to a stock broker, which in turn purchased shares of stock for you from another investor that sold them to you.

Yes, the shares are yours to keep essentially forever, if you wish. You can sell them anytime you like.

I would caution you from investing in things that you don't understand. Before you invest any more money in anything, I recommend that you do some reading and learn how the investment works.

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  • Is it true that I can never be forced to give up my shares? – David Roy Oct 12 '20 at 15:30
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    hi @DavidRoy - simply read my answer for the full explanation. (Obviously BenM would know all this as well, I believe he was just offering you a "simple general situation" answer.) I have no idea why this answer has more votes than mine ;) – Fattie Oct 12 '20 at 15:33
  • @Fattie I'm not sure, either. I upvoted your answer. :) – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Oct 12 '20 at 17:00
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    @Fattie Maybe you got fewer votes because in your first statement, "shares are safely yours for ever," the words "safely", "yours" and "for ever" are all at best misleading. – alephzero Oct 12 '20 at 23:29
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If there is no activity for a while (buying or selling), your state government may take away your shares! Check out your state's escheat policies. Walter Schramm had $100,000 in Amazon stock taken from him because he wasn't actively trading.

https://www.npr.org/2020/02/13/805760508/when-your-abandoned-estate-is-possessed-by-a-state-thats-escheat

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  • Wow, 12% of Delaware's budget?! That's insane. Granted, there are a ton of corporations registered in Delaware, but still. – reirab Oct 13 '20 at 22:55
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Since you seem to enjoy worrying here is another scenario that happens frequently. At the time you bought your 100 shares, let's say that they represented 1 percent ownership in the company. Over time the company may issue additional shares, in which case your 100 shares (which haven't changed in number) now represent less than 1 percent ownership. There is nothing you can do about this. Conversely, the company may buy back shares, in which case your 100 shares now represent more than 1 percent ownership.

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    When this happens (stock dilution), it doesn’t necessarily affect the value of your shares at all. See Why is stock dilution legal? for an explanation. – Ben Miller - Remember Monica Oct 13 '20 at 11:08
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    Stock dilutions do not necessarily decrease the value of your shares. Stock repurchases do not necessarily increase the value of your shares. Stock dilutions at high share prices increase value. Stock repurchases at high share prices destroy value. – Flux Oct 13 '20 at 13:10

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