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Law Notes Company Law Notes

Directors' Duties 1 Notes

Updated Directors' Duties 1 Notes

Company Law Notes

Company Law

Approximately 805 pages

Company law notes fully updated for recent exams in the UK. These notes cover all the major LLB company law cases and so are perfect for anyone doing an LLB in the UK or a great supplement for those doing LLBs abroad, whether that be in Ireland, Canada, Hong Kong or Malaysia (University of London). These notes were formed directly from a reading of the cases and main texts and are vigorous, concise and very well written.

Everything is conveniently split up by topic as you can see by the list o...

The following is a more accessible plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Company Law Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:


Content of Duties

  1. Section 171: duty to act within powers and for a proper purpose

  2. Section 172: duty to promote the success of the company

  3. Section 173: duty to exercise independent judgment

  4. Section 174: duty to exercise reasonable care and skill

  5. Section 175: duty to avoid conflicts of interest

  6. Section 176: duty not to accept benefits from third parties

  7. Section 177, 182: duty to declare interests in transactions

  8. Section 188-226: duties in respect of transactions requiring approval of members

    Section 179: the duties are cumulative

    Thus director can be liable for breach of more than one duty at same time

Avoidance of Liability

Ways in which directors can avoid being in breach of duty include:

  1. Board authorisation

  • Section 175(5)+(6)

  1. Consent, approval or authorisation of members

  • Section 180

  1. Authorisation in articles

  • Section 180(4)

  1. Ratification

  • Section 239

  1. Relief from the court

  • Section 1157


Section 178(1): consequence for any breach of duty is same as would apply if corresponding common law rule or equitable rule applied

To Whom Are Duties Owed?

Section 170(1): Directors owe their statutory duties to the company

Hence only the ‘company’ can

enforce directors’ duties,

or ratify a breach of duty.

Directors may in certain circumstances owe duties to:

  1. Shareholders

    only the directors’ statutory duties are owed to company

    thus directors can still come under fiduciary duties to shareholders outside of statute

    directors may come to owe fiduciary duty to shareholders where:

    directors are acting as agents of shareholders

  • e.g. for the sale of shares

    there is special factual relationship between directors and shareholders

  • even where there is no agency relationship

  • e.g. in case of a small family company directors may owe fiduciary duty of disclosure if:

  1. they are much more knowledgeable than members

  2. members rely on them for advice

    • Coleman v Myers [1977] (New Zealand Case)

  1. Creditors

    when company is nearing insolvency, interests of company becomes synonymous with interests of creditors

    director may owe duty to company take into account interests of creditors where company is nearing insolvency

    But cannot owe duty to creditors directly

    Yukong Line [1998]

    thus only the liquidator (as holder of company’s right of action) may sue director for not having regard to interests of creditors

    and not creditors themselves

    Yukong Line [1998]

  2. Employees

    Section 172: directors have duty to have regard to interests of employees

    However employees themselves are incapable of enforcing this duty

    i.e. only the company/liquidators can do this

    in addition, must only ‘have regard’ to employees’ interests

    thus in practice, provision hardly ever enforced

By Whom are Duties Owed?

Directors’ duties are owed by:

  1. Directors

  2. De facto directors

    Directors’ duties may be owed by:

  3. Shadow directors

    Concept of shadow directors and de facto directors are usually distinct

    However they have common feature that person in question is alleged to have exercised real influence over company

    Re Kaytech [1999]

    Unclear whether directors’ duties apply to shadow directors

  1. One case held they did not

  • Ultraframe [2005]

  1. Another case seems to support view that they do

  • i.e. analogy drawn between de facto and shadow directors suggest that same duties apply to both

  • Re Kaytech [1999]


Section 171: director must exercise powers:

  1. In accordance with the constitution

  2. For the purpose for which they were conferred

    Thus director breaches his duty in section 171 wherever he acts:

  1. outside his powers

    action which is ultra vires the director’s powers

    action which has not been duly authorised by a quorate board

  2. or for improper purposes

Former is obvious. Only latter need be analysed in greater detail.

Improper Purposes

External Powers

I.e. use of powers in relation to third parties

Test of improper purposes is objective.

not subjective

Regentcrest plc v Cohen [2001]

Thus test is not one of good faith

i.e. is possible for director to be acting in good faith, but for improper purposes

Regentcrest [2001]

“Nominee/Special Interest Directors”

Sometimes directors are appointed deliberately in order to represent the interests of a particular shareholder, or special interest group.

Nominee/special interest director still has overriding duty to serve interests of board in question

Cannot simply act as representative

Bennetts v Board of Fire Commissioners of News South Wales [1967] (Australian Case)

Can only take into account interests of nominator insofar as this is consistent with his overriding duty

  1. Internal Powers

    I.e. use of powers in manner which affect rights of shareholders

    Courts seem much more prepared to interfere where internal powers are involved.

    Whether use of power is proper depends on purpose for which power was conferred

    this ascertained from construction of company’s articles.

    Hogg v Cramphorn [1967]

Relevant Test

Opposing Tests

  1. Objective Test

    Supported by some English authorities

    Hogg v Cramphorn [1967]

    Therefore whether directors acting in good faith irrelevant

  2. Subjective Test

    More popular in Commonwealth

    Thus is no improper purpose where directors are acting in good faith.

  3. Intermediate Test (best view)

    Power is exercised properly where “substantial purpose” for which power was exercised is proper.

    ‘Substantial purpose’: i.e. the dominant or primary purpose

    Howard Smith v Ampol Petroleum [1974] (PC)

    Extrasure Travel Insurance v Scattergood [2003]

    Thus where substantial purpose of exercising power is proper, is irrelevant that an incidental purpose is improper.

    Howard Smith [1974]

    Good faith of directors simply a factor taken into account when determining “substantial purpose” for which power was exercised

    Howard Smith [1974]

    Strength of Shareholders

    where exercise of power affects power of relative shareholders in company, courts also look at whether exercise of power is fair as between different classes of shareholders

    i.e. in addition to...

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