This is an extract of our Westdeutche Landesbank V. Islington Borough City Council document, which we sell as part of our Restitution of Unjust Enrichment BCL Notes collection written by the top tier of Oxford students.
The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Restitution of Unjust Enrichment BCL Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:
WESTDEUTCHE LANDESBANK V. ISLINGTON BOROUGH CITY COUNCIL FACTS Mr Hazell was the district auditor and he was challenging the legality of the accounts of the Hammersmith Council for the years ending 31 March 1988 and 1989. The transactions which were called into question were what have been called interest rate swaps. The council had entered into a large number of such transactions, almost entirely on a speculative basis, with other councils and with various banks. In its simplest form, an interest rate swap contract involves an agreement by two parties to make to each other on specified dates over a period of time, usually a number of years, a series of payments calculated by reference to the differences between a fixed rate of interest and whatever may be from time to time the current market rate of interest upon a notional sum of principal. Proceedings in Hazel v. Hammersmith: On 29 May 1989 Mr Hazell started the proceedings against Hammersmith Council for a declaration that the swaps contracts were illegal and for an order for the rectification of the accounts of that council for the years 1986/7 and 1987/8. On 24 January 1991 the House of Lords (
1 All ER 545,  2 AC 1) unanimously allowed the appeal and restored the judgment of the Divisional Court. Westdeutche entered into transaction under the belief that they were valid: Although Westdeutsche had not been entering into contracts with English local authorities, local authorities were, and had been for a number of years, well-established participants in the swap market in London and Mr Goodwin had never heard of any question being raised as to their capacity to enter into such contracts... Mr Goodwin was cross-examined by Miss Appleby QC on behalf of Islington so as to suggest that he had knowingly at the time of entering into this contract accepted a risk that it might be unenforceable. He firmly rejected that suggestion. When netted against each other, Westdeutche had made payments in favour of the city council. Nature of Claims: there were several claims clubbed together in this case. Some of them related to transactions that were fully performed on both sides, some of them were partly performed, and some of them were fully performed by one party alone. HOBHOUSE J. It was not in dispute before me that the present case is concerned with acts which were ultra vires the local authority in the proper use of that term. The authority lacked the necessary capacity and therefore its acts were without legal effect.
Distinguishing Sinclair v. Brougham: The case arose out of the winding up of the insolvent Birkbeck Permanent Building Society. The society had been formed under the Building Societies Acts. Those Acts laid down what were to be the objects of the society and the purposes for which it could borrow and lend money. The powers of the society did not include the capacity to carry on a banking business or to borrow money for the purposes of or as part of such a business. However, from an early stage the society did undertake a banking business, becoming commonly known as the 'Birkbeck Bank'. After the banking business had been carried on successfully for a considerable number of years the society got into difficulties and in 1911 an order was made for it to be wound up. Questions of priority arose in the winding up between the outside creditors of the society. The ground upon which the claim in money had and received failed in the House of Lords was that to permit it to succeed would be contrary to the statute which restricted the capacity of the society. To succeed the depositors must persuade the court to imply a contract to repay since the implication of such a contract was considered at that time to be an essential basis of a cause of action in money had and received. The society had no capacity to promise to repay the moneys lent to it by the depositors, whether such a promise was actual or was to be implied. Viscount Haldane LC founded his decision upon the fact that the taking of deposits from banking customers was the equivalent to taking a loan from them and that to order the repayment of the deposit would be the equivalent of enforcing an ultra vires contract of loan. The decision in Sinclair v Brougham that the personal claim in money had and received could not succeed therefore depended upon the fact that the relevant transactions were characterised as borrowing transactions and the recognition that, because of the statute, a promise to repay could not be implied. That situation is clearly distinguishable from the present cases. The banks do not seek directly or indirectly to enforce the ultra vires contracts. Their claims are the reverse of that. They do not allege or need to allege any promise to repay. They simply say that the councils have received their money under void contracts and that they should have it back. Void Contract - "absence of consideration" These authorities therefore establish that the right of restitution existed in respect of payments made under void contracts even though there were payments both ways and therefore on a contractual analysis there was no 'total failure of consideration'. Also, they are not cases which depended upon any submission or finding of mistake of fact. The cause of action at common law was an action for money had and received.
Buy the full version of these notes or essay plans and more in our Restitution of Unjust Enrichment BCL Notes.