Argentina just nationalized an oil company because it had bearer stock.
“Bearer” issues are an obscure part of the bag of tricks that economics and finance professors use in class.
A paper asset is a bearer asset if it belongs to the person who possesses it.
So, currency is a bearer asset. Even though it has a serial number on it, that number isn’t registered or attached to your name. If you lose it, it’s gone for good.
This is why traveler’s checks used to be important. They were registered, and could be replaced if lost.
Bearer bonds are an obscure part of finance: bonds with no serial numbers that belong to the holder. I always tell the cute story in my classes that part of the plot line of Die Hard was that the faux terrorists took over an office tower to get at the bearer bonds locked in a vault inside.*
… This is a pertinent question since both Kirchner administrations have been notorious for a lack of transparency and have been plagued by corruption scandals. It is hard to answer because it is not clear who are the owners of the shares of Australian-based Petersen Energy. One Argentine source told me those shares are in bearer form, which would mean that there is no record of ownership. But when I asked Petersen if that is true and also how it financed the purchase of the YPF shares, it declined to comment. The Argentine government did not respond to requests for comment.
I’ve never heard of such a thing … but then again … this is Argentina for you.
* My story has gotten old. This was the first semester in which not one student had seen Die Hard.