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Law Notes Company Law Notes

Shareholder Remedies Notes

Updated Shareholder Remedies 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...

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Shareholder Remedies

If an actionable wrong is committed against the company then this will probably be a breach of directors duty, the proper claimant is the company and since the board holds all of the powers of the company due to the article 3 of the Model Articles it should be the board that enforces these wrongs.

Shareholder litigation is a problem because they have ceded the operations of the company to the directors through the articles and, because of the principle of separate legal identity; the shareholders are not injured by wrongs to the company: the company is injured. Furthermore, companies are run on the basis of majority rule and so to allow a shareholder who is in a minority to frustrate that principle through excessive litigation would serve to reduce the effectiveness of company law. Courts also do not want to be made to adjudicate matters of business strategy.

The old common law rule in Foss v. Harbottle provided that subject to certain limited exceptions, the proper claimant in an action for a wrong alleged to have been done to the company is the company itself and if the alleged wrong is one which the company could settle for itself or, in the case of an irregularity could ratify or condone by its internal procedure, then no individual member may bring an action.

The rule in Foss v. Harbottle covers wrongs to the company and wrongs to the individual member, and it restricts actions coming from individual members in respect of either type.

The statutory derivative action only covers wrongs done to the company by the directors or director (CA2006s.260). Personal claims by members remain subject to common rules, in particular the second Foss v. Harbottle restriction regarding procedural irregularities. This was also a theme in the enforcement of the s.33 contract.

Foss v. Harbottle

  1. It cannot be successful argued that the members of a company assume the right to sue in the name of the company. The company and the members are not the same thing in law.

  2. The only question can be whether the specific facts justify a departure from the rule that the company should sue in its own name or in the name of an appointed representative.

Edwards v. Halliwell

  • There are some exceptions to the rule in Foss v. Harbottle:

    1. The act complained of is ultra vires or illegal

    2. The matter is one which can only be sanctioned by a special majority of members.

    3. The personal and individual rights of the claimant as a member have been impinged on Or

    4. What has been due amounts to a fraud in the minority and the majority are in control of the company.

Wallersteiner v. Moir

  1. Lord Denning said that separate legal personality is a fundamental principle of English Company law. It means that companies have their own legal identity, and thus their own legal rights and interests which only the company may claim. Consequently if the company is defrauded by a wrong doer then the company itself is the person with a right to sue for this damage. This is the rule in Foss v. Harbottle

  2. Lord Denning said the rule in Foss v. Harbottle is easily applied to wrongs by outsiders or to wrongs by a minority of insiders. But he was less comfortable with the application of Foss v. Harbottle in a situation where the wrong doers are directors who hold a majority of the shares.

  3. The problem according to Lord Denning is that if they call a board meeting then they will not authorise proceedings against themselves and if a general meeting is called then they will vote against any suggestion that the company should sue them, thus defeating the idea.

  4. In such a situation Lord Denning felt it would be necessary to find other means for an action to be brought as otherwise the law would fail and the would be injustice without redress.

In Wallerseiner v. Moir Lord Denning was stating that a special action would be needed where the action is against company insiders, themselves a majority, who should be liable for damages. This is consistent with the development of the derivative action under doctrine under the fraud on the minority exception to the rule in Foss v. Harbottle.

Statutory derivative action: CA2006 s.260

  • A derivative claim may only be brought respect of an actual or proposed act or omission of a director which involves negligence, default, breach of duty, or breach of trust.

  • Although the claim must relate to a directors conduct, it is possible to bring a derivative claim against a third party in respect of a relevant action or omission

(CA2006s.260(3))

It is irrelevant whether the cause of action was before or after the person seeking to claim became a member. (CA2006s.260(4))

Under CA2006s.261, it is clear that no derivative action claim may be pushed only if the court gives permission. This puts a barrier to minority actions in place, making the courts the gatekeepers to prevent non meritorious actions.

CA2006s.263 lays out the conditions should apply when determining whether to allow a claim to proceed.

Whether permission should be given

Sets out three criteria which cause automatic refusal:

  1. A person acting in accordance with CA2006s.172, duty to promote success of the company, would not seek to continue the claim.

  2. The proposed conduct constituting wrong doing has been authorised by the company.

  3. The conduct has actually occurred but it was previously authorised or subsequently ratified by the company.

CA2006s.263(2)

If the claim is not automatically bared under CAs.263(2) then there are grounds which the court must consider when deciding whether to allow the claim:

  1. Is the member acting in good faith in seeking the claim.

  2. The importance that a person acting in accordance with CAs.172 duty to promote the success of the company would attach to continuing the claim.

  3. If the claim relates to an act or omission yet to occur, whether it is likely that it would either be authorised before or ratified after it actually occurs.

  4. If the claim relates to an act which has occur, whether it is likely to be ratified by the...

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