agent –

     This page is continued from Fiduciary Relationships >>>> Principal and Agent:



1. Someone who is authorized to act for or in place of another; a representative <a professional athlete’s agent>. — aka commissionaire.  See AGENCY.  Cf. PRINCIPAL, n. (1); EMPLOYEE. [1]

1. One of the parties to an agency relationship, the one who acts for and represents the other party who is known as the principal, being a substitute or deputy appointed by the principal with power to do certain things which the principal may or can do. 3 Am J2d Ag § 1.

One employed to represent the employer in contractual negotiations. American Nat Ins Co. v Denke, 128 Tex 229, 95 SW2d 370, 107 ALR 409.

The word imports the correlative idea of a principal, and implies employment, service, delegated authority-to do something in the name or stead of the principal. Brewer v State, 83 Ala 113.

As used in embezzlement statutes, the term is construed in its popular sense as meaning a person who undertakes to transact some business or to manage some affair for another by the latter’s authority and to render an account of such business or affair.  It imports a principal and implies employment, service, and delegated authority to do something in the name and stead of the principal — an employment by virtue of which the money or property embezzled came into the agent’s possession. 26 Am J2d Embez § 26. [2]

1. One of the parties to an agency relationship, specifically, the one who acts for and represents the other party, who is known as the principal.  The word implies service as well as authority to do something in the name of or on behalf of the principal. (EXAMPLE: a person who represents a business person in contract negotiations.)  Although one can be both an employee and an agent, the usual distinction between the two is that the manner in which an employee does his work is controlled and directed by his employer; in contrast, an agent is free to use independent skill and judgment, his principal’s concern being the results he produces, not how he does his work. [3]

     Excerpt from Floyd R. Mechem, Outlines of the Law of Agency 8-9 (Philip Mechem ed., 4th ed. 1952):

     “Generally speaking, anyone can be an agent who is in fact capable of performing the functions involved.  The agent normally binds not himself but his principal by the contracts he makes; it is therefore not essential that he be legally capable to contract (although his duties and liabilities to his principal might be affected by his status). Thus an infant or a lunatic may be an agent, though doubtless the court would disregard either’s attempt to act if he were so young or so hopelessly devoid of reason as to be completely incapable of grasping the function he was attempting to perform. [4]

     Excerpt from Harold Gill Reuschlein & William A. Gregory, The Law of Agency and Partnership § 1, at 2-3 (2d ed. 1990):

     “The etymology of the word agent or agency tells us much. The words are derived from the Latin verb, ago, agere; the noun agens, agentis. The word agent denotes one who acts, a doer, force or power that accomplishes things. [5]

Various Types of Agents:

agent by necessity (18c) An agent that the law empowers to act for the benefit of another in an emergency. — aka agent of necessity.

agent not recognized Patents. A patent applicant’s appointed agent who is not registered to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  *  A power of attorney appointing an unregistered agent is void.  See patent agent.

apparent agent (1823) Someone who reasonably appears to have authority to act for another, regardless of whether actual authority has been conferred. — aka ostensible agent; implied agent.

associate agent Patents. An agent who is registered to practice before the US. Patent and Trademark Office, has been appointed by a primary agent, and is authorized to prosecute a patent application through the filing of a power of attorney.  *  An associate agent is often used by outside counsel to assist in-house counsel.  See patent agent.

bail-enforcement agent See BOUNTY HUNTER.

bargaining agent (1935) A labor union in its capacity of representing employees in collective bargaining.

broker-agent See BROKER.

business agent See BUSINESS AGENT.

clearing agent (1937) Securities. A person or company acting as an intermediary in a securities transaction or providing facilities for comparing data regarding securities transactions.  *  The term includes a custodian of securities in connection with the central handling of securities. Securities Exchange Act § 3(a)(23)(A) (15 USCA § 78c(a)(23)(A)). — aka clearing agency.

co-agent (16c) Someone who Shares with another agent the authority to act for the principal. — aka dual agent.  Cf. common agent.

commercial agent (18c) 1. BROKER.  2. A consular officer responsible for the commercial interests of his or her country at a foreign port. 3. See mercantile agent.  4. See commission agent.

commission agent (1812) An agent whose remuneration is based at least in part on commissions, or percentages of actual sales. 0 Commission agents typically work as middlemen between sellers and buyers. — aka (in sense 4) commercial agent.

common agent (17c) An agent who acts on behalf of more than one principal in a transaction.  Cf. co-agent,

corporate agent (1819) An agent authorized to act on behalf of a corporation; broadly, all employees and officers who have the power to bind the corporation.

county agent See juvenile officer under OFFICER (1).

del credere agent (1822) An agent who guarantees the solvency of the third party with whom the agent makes a contract for the principal.  *  A del credere agent receives possession of the principal’s goods for purposes of sale and guarantees that anyone to whom the agent sells the goods on credit will pay promptly for them.  For this guaranty, the agent receives a higher commission for sales.  The promise of such an agent is almost universally held not to be within the statute of frauds. — aka del credere factor. [1]  1. An agent who guarantees his principal against the default of those with whom contracts are made.  See del credere factor. [2]  1. An agent who guarantees his principal against the default of those with whom he contracts.  See guarantee; warranty. [3]

diplomatic agent (18c) A national representative in one of four categories: (1) ambassadors, (2) envoys and min isters plenipotentiary, (3) ministers resident accredited to the sovereign, or (4) chargés d’affaires accredited to the minister of foreign affairs.

double agent – 1. A spy who finds out an enemy’s secrets for his or her principal but who also gives secrets to the enemy.  2. See dual agent (2).

dual agent (1881) 1. See co-agent. 2. An agent who represents both parties in a single transaction, especially a buyer and a seller. — aka (in sense 2) double agent.

emigrant agent (1874) One engaged in the business of hiring laborers for work outside the country or state.

enrolled agent See ENROLLED AGENT.

escrow agent See ESCROW AGENT.

estate agent See real-estate agent.

fiscal agent (18c) A bank or other financial institution that collects and disburses money and services as a depository of private and public funds on another’s behalf.

foreign agent (1938) Someone who registers with the federal government as a lobbyist representing the interests of a foreign country or corporation.

forwarding agent (1837) 1. FREIGHT FORWARDER.  2. A freight-forwarder who assembles less-than-carload shipments (small shipments) into carload shipments, thus taking advantage of lower freight rates.

general agent (17c) An agent authorized to transact all the principal’s business of a particular kind or in a particular place.  *  Among the common types of general agents are factors, brokers, and partners.  Cf. special agent. [1]  1. An agent authorized to perform all acts connected with the business or employment in which he is engaged; one authorized to conduct on behalf of a principal a series of transactions involving a continuity of service; one authorized to bind his principal by an act within the scope of his authority, notwithstanding it may be contrary to his special instructions. 3 Am J2d Agency § 6.  An agent of a corporation with responsibility, but not necessarily an officer. 19 Am J2d Corp § 1080.
See general agent of a foreign corporation; general agent of insurance company. [2]  1. An agent authorized to perform all acts connected with the business of his principal.
Compare special agent.  Also see managing agent. [3]

government agent (1805) 1. An employee or representative of a governmental body.  2. A law-enforcement official, such as a police officer or an FBI agent . 3. An informant, especially an inmate, used by law enforcement to obtain incriminating statements from‘another inmate.

gratuitous agent – An agent who acts without a right to compensation.

high-managerial agent (1957) 1. An agent of a corporation or other business who has authority to formulate corporate policy or supervise employees. — aka superior agent.  2. See superior agent (1).

independent agent (17c) An agent who exercises personal judgment and is subject to the principal only for the results of the work performed.  Cf. nonservant agent.

innocent agent (1805) Criminal law. A person whose action on behalf of a principal is unlawful but does not merit prosecution because the agent had no knowledge of the principal’s illegal purpose; a person who lacks the mens rea for an offense but who is tricked or coerced by the principal into committing a crime.  *  Although the agent’s conduct was unlawful, the agent might not be prosecuted if the agent had no knowledge of the principal’s illegal purpose. The principal is legally accountable for the innocent agent’s actions.  See Model Penal Code § 2.06(2)(a).

insurance agent See INSURANCE AGENT. 

jural agent See JURAL AGENT.

land agent See LAND AGENT.

listing agent (1927) The real-estate broker’s representative who obtains a listing agreement with the owner.  Cf. selling agent; showing agent.

local agent (1804) 1. An agent appointed to act as another’s (especially a company’s) representative and to transact business within a specified district.  2. See special agent.

managing agent (1812) A person with general power involving the exercise of judgment and discretion, as opposed to an ordinary agent who acts under the direction and control of the principal. — aka business agent. [1]  1. A person invested by a corporation with general powers involving the exercise of judgment and discretion. Anno: 113 ALR 70 et seq.  An executive of a co-operative apartment association. 15 Am J2d Con Apt § 21.  As one upon whom service of process binding a foreign corporation can be made: — an officer or agent whose position, right, and duties make it reasonably certain that the corporation will be apprised of service made upon him. 36 Am J2d For Corp § 558.  An agent whose contract of agency demands of him the exercise of judgment in the business affairs o his principal, and who has charge of all of the business of his principal in the territory covered by his contract. Ord Hardware Co. v J. I.  Case Threshing Machine Co. 77 Neb 847, 110 NW 551.  As one through whom a corporation may be examined by way of discovery or deposition: — one authorized to exercise judgment and discretion in dealing with corporate matters and expected to identity himself with the interest of the corporation. Anno: 98 ALR2d 626, 627, § 3[a, b]. [2]  1. A person to whom a corporation has given general powers involving the exercise of judgment and discretion in conducting the corporation’s business.
See manager; general agent. [3]

mercantile agent (18c) An agent employed to sell goods or merchandise on behalf of the principal. — aka commercial agent.

nonservant agent (1920) An agent who agrees to act on the principal’s behalf but is not subject to the principal’s control over how the task is performed.  *  A principal is not liable for the physical torts of a nonservant agent.  See INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR.  Cf. independent agent; SERVANT.

patent agent (1859) A specialized legal professional — not necessarily a lawyer -who has fulfilled the US. Patent and Trademark Office requirements as a representative and is registered to prepare and prosecute patent applications before the PTO.  *  To be registered to practice before the PTO, a candidate must establish mastery of the relevant technology (by holding a specified technical degree or equivalent training) in order to advise and assist patent applicants.  The candidate must also pass a written examination (the “Patent Bar”) that tests knowledge of patent law and PTO procedure. — Often shortened to agent. — aka registered patent agent; patent solicitor.  Cf. PATENT ATTORNEY.

primary agent (18c) An agent who is directly authorized by a principal.  *  A primary agent generally may hire a subagent to perform all or part of the agency.  Cf. subagent (1).

private agent (17c) An agent acting for an individual in that person’s private affairs.

process agent – (1886) A person authorized to accept service of process on behalf of another.  See registered agent.

procuring agent (1954) Someone who obtains drugs on behalf of another person and delivers the drugs to that person.  *  In criminal-defense theory, the procuring agent does not sell, barter, exchange, or make a gift of the drugs to the other person because the drugs already belong to that person, who merely employs the agent to pick up and deliver them.

public agent (17c) A person appointed to act for the public in matters relating to governmental administration or public business.

real-estate agent (1844) An agent who represents a buyer or seller (or both, with proper disclosures) in the sale or lease of real property.  *  A real-estate agent can be either a broker (whose principal is a buyer or seller) or a salesperson (whose principal is a broker). — aka estate agent.  Cf. REALTOR.

record agent See INSURANCE AGENT.

registered agent (1809) A person authorized to accept service of process for another person, esp. a foreign corporation, in a particular jurisdiction. — aka resident agent.  See process agent.

secret agent See SECRET AGENT.

selling agent (1839) l. The real-estate broker’s representative who sells the property, as opposed to the agent who lists the property for sale.  2. See showing agent.  Cf. listing agent.

settlement agent (1952) An agent who represents the purchaser or buyer in the negotiation and closing of a real-property transaction by handling financial calculations and transfers of documents. — aka closing agent.  See also settlement attorney under ATTORNEY.

showing agent – Areal-estate broker’s representative who successfully markets property to a prospective purchaser.  *  A showing agent may be: characterized as a subagent of the listing broker, as an agent who represents the purchaser, or as an intermediary who owes an agent’s duties to neither seller nor buyer. — aka selling agent.  Cf. listing agent.

soliciting agent (1855) 1. Insurance. An agent with authority relating to the solicitation or submission of applications to an insurance company but usually without authority to bind the insurer, as by accepting the applications on behalf of the company.  2. An agent who solicits orders for goods or services for a principal.  3. A managing agent of a corporation for purposes of service of process.

special agent (17c) 1. An agent employed to conduct a particular transaction or to perform a specified act.  Cf. general agent.  2. See INSURANCE AGENT. [1]  1. One authorized to do one or more specific acts in pursuance o particular instructions, to act in a particular transaction, or in a particular way. Southern States ire Ins. Co. v Kronenberg, 199 Ala 164, 74 So 63. [2]  1. An agent authorized to perform a particular or specific act connected with the business of her principal.
Compare general agent. [3]

specially accredited agent (1888) An agent that the principal has specially invited a third party to deal with, in an implication that the third party will be notified if the agent’s authority is altered or revoked.

statutory agent (1844) An agent designated by law to receive litigation documents and other legal notices for a nonresident corporation.  *  In most states, the secretary of state is the statutory agent for such corporations.  Cf. agency by operation of law (1) under AGENCY (1).

subagent (18c) 1. See buyer’s broker under BROKER.  2. A person to whom an agent has delegated the performance of an act for the principal; a person designated by an agent to perform some duty relating to the agency. 0 If the principal consents to a primary agent’s employment of a subagent, the subagent owes fiduciary duties to the principal, and the principal is liable for the subagent’s acts.  Cf. primary agent; subordinate agent.— aka subservant.

     Excerpt from Floyd R. Mechem, Outlines of the Law of Agency 5 79, at 51 (Philip Mechem ed., 4th ed. 1952):

     “By delegation . . . the agent is permitted to use agents of his own in performing the function he is employed to perform for his principal, delegating to them the discretion which normally he would be expected to exercise personally. These agents are known as subagents to indicate that they are the agent’s agents and not the agents of the principal. Normally (though of course not necessarily) they are paid by the agent. The agent is liable to the principal for any injury done him by the misbehavior of the agent’s subagents. [6]

subordinate agent (17c) An agent who acts subject to the direction of a superior agent.  *  Subordinate and superior agents are co-agents of a common principal.  See superior agent.  Cf. subagent (l).

successor agent(1934) An agent who is appointed by a principal to act in a primary agent’s stead if the primary agent is unable or unwilling to perform.

superior agent (17c) 1. An agent on whom a principal confers the right to direct a subordinate agent.  See subordinate agent. 2. See high-managerial agent (1).

stock-transfer agent (1873) See transfer agent.

transfer agent (1850) An organization (such as a bank or trust company) that handles transfers of shares for a publicly held corporation by issuing new certificates and overseeing the cancellation of old ones and that usually also maintains the record of shareholders for the corporation and mails dividend checks.  *  Generally, a transfer agent ensures that certificates submitted for transfer are properly indorsed and that the right to transfer is appropriately documented. 

trustee-agent – A trustee who is subject to the control of the settlor or one or more beneficiaries of a trust.  See TRUSTEE (1).

undercover agent (1930) 1. An agent who does not disclose his or her role as an agent.  2. A police officer who gathers evidence of criminal activity without disclosing his or her identity to the suspect.

undisclosed agent – An agent who deals with a third party who has no knowledge that the agent is acting on a principal’s behalf.  Cf. undisclosed principal under PRINCIPAL (1).

universal agent (18c) An agent authorized to perform all acts that the principal could personally perform. [1]  1. An agent authorized to transact all the business of his principal of every kind, and do all delegable acts for him. Baldwin v Tucker, 112 Ky 282, 65 SW 841

A principal can have only one universal agent. Baldwin v Tucker, 112, Ky 282, 65 WE 841. [2]  1. An agent who is authorized to do everything her principal is entitled to delegate. [3]

vice-commercial agent (1800) Hist. In the consular service of the United States, a consular officer who was substituted temporarily to fill the place of a commercial agent who was absent or had been relieved from duty.

agent provocateur n. (1877) 1. An undercover agent who instigates or participates in a crime, often by infiltrating a group suspected of illegal conduct, to expose and Punish criminal activity.  2. Someone who entraps another, or entices another to break the law, and then informs against the other as a lawbreaker; esp., someone Who is hired to encourage people who are working against a government to do something illegal so that they will be caught. [1]

agent and patient – A peculiar situation which arises where one is appointed by another to do or perform a thing for his own benefit, as where A appoints his creditor B to be his executor and A dies, whereupon B, acting in his capacity as executor, is authorized to pay the debt owing by A to him and acting in his own right, to receive it. [2]


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is compiled in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations Third Edition by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: Floyd R. Mechem, Outlines of the Law of Agency 8-9 (Philip Mechem ed., 4th ed. 1952).

[5]: Harold Gill Reuschlein & William A. Gregory, The Law of Agency and Partnership § 1, at 2-3 (2d ed. 1990).

[6]: Floyd R. Mechem, Outlines of the Law of Agency 5 79, at 51 (Philip Mechem ed., 4th ed. 1952).


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