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LPC Law Notes Business Law and Practice Notes

Directors' Duties Notes

Updated Directors' Duties Notes

Business Law and Practice Notes

Business Law and Practice

Approximately 649 pages

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

Step 1:

Are they a Director?

  • This will usually be obvious, but it is also defined by s.250(1) of the CA 2006 as:

  • s.250(1): it covers any person occupying that role, howsoever called (this includes executive and Non-Executive Directors and de facto directors(NEDs) Commonwealth Oil and Gas v Baxter. Shadow D’s only to the extent that these duties apply to them s.170(5))

  • s.170(2): Former Ds can remain liable under s.175 and s.176 if the breaches were committed (or he knew about them) at the time that he was a D

T&F NOTE A director is likely to be an employee of the company and is also an agent and a fiduciary. A director will not necessarily be a shareholder of the Co.

Step 2:

To Whom is the Duty Owed?

  • T&F NOTE The DUTY is always owed to the company (s.170(1)) and

  • Very exceptionally to:

  1. members/S’holders, (where D’s agree to act as agents for the S’hold or if D assumed responsibility)

  2. other Ds or creditors (if the Co. is insolvent or approaching insolvency s.172(3))

  3. members/S’holders see: Derivative Action, Unfair Prejudice Petitions, and Wind up (see separate notes Below)

Step 3:

Who can Take Action?

  • A majority of Ds or the Board (on behalf of the Company) can decide to bring an action

  • The Company is the proper claimant (Foss v Harbottle) “the proper claimant rule”

  • Members/S’holders can bring action against D’s via a:

    • Derivative Action (see separate notes Below)

    • Unfair Prejudice Petitions (see separate notes Below)

    • Wind up (see separate notes Below)

Step 4:

Which Duty has been Breached?

Note that more than one duty may be breached and applied to a D at any given time (s.179(1))

Under s.171

a D must act within Powers

s17 CA defines Constitution to include the Art of Association

  • s.171 A director must act :

(a) under the constitution and

(b) only exercise powers conferred on him.

  • Apply the test:

    • Objectively, what was the purpose of the power for?

    • Was this D’s primary purpose in acting as he did?

Under s.172

a D must Promote the Success of Company

(Re Smith and Fawcett Ltd)

  • s.172 A director must act in a way he considers, in good faith, to promote the “success” of the company for the benefit of the members as a whole.

  • Must have regard to s.172(1):

    1. Likely long-term consequences

    2. Interests of Co.’s employees

    3. Need to foster Co.’s good business relationships

    4. Co.’s Impact on the environment and the community

    5. Maintenance of the company’s reputation

    6. Act fairly between the Co.’s members

    7. Any other relevant circumstances

Court applies a Subjective test, i.e. what the D honestly believed was likely to promote the success of the Co. and benefit of the Shareholders. (Re Southern Counties Fresh Food Ltd)

WS5 NOTE In order for the Ds to show that they have complied with s.172 they should draft minutes of the decisions made and state that they have acted honestly and to promote the success of the Co.

Under s.173

a D must exercise Independent Judgment

  • D’s must not do anything that fetters their independent judgement (e.g. accepting a financial “thank you” in exchange for not voting/disclosing info to Co. etc.)

  • Can take legal / financial advice, but must not fetter his own discretion i.e. restrict his own independent judgement.

  • This duty is not infringed by the D of a Co.:

    • Acting in accordance with an arrangement entered into by the company (s.173(2)(a))

    • Authorised by the constitution (s.173(2)(b))

Under s.174

a D must exercise

Due care, skill and diligence

*Common Law*

  • Apply both parts of the test:

    1. Objective: did D act with the general knowledge, skill & experience expected of such a person in his position (s.174(2)(b))

    2. Subjective: did D act diligently by a person with D’s general knowledge, skill & experience (s.174(2)(b)) [e.g. if he’s worked for 20 years as a D, he’ll be judged by a higher standard; NEDs by a lower one]

  • Delegation: this does not allow a D to escape liability (Re Barings No 5)

  • Inactive Director: may be liable for other Ds’ wrongdoing (e.g. in family Co.s when spouses, children & relatives are appointed as inactive D’s)

  • It D’ has a Service Contract: did D breach a term of this contract?

Under s.175

a D must Avoid a Conflict of Interests

  • s.175(1): direct/indirect/possible conflict will trigger this duty

  • s.175(2): must not make a profit unless authorised

  • A D may wish to rely on one of these exceptions:

    • s.175(3): interest arises by a contract between the Co. and the D (see s.177/s.182 below)(this simply means that s.175 and s177 are mutually exclusive)

    • s.175(4): the board authorised the matter (¿is it a valid Board decision?)

    • s.175(4): if the situation cannot reasonable be regarded as giving rise to a conflict

    • s. 175(5)(a) Co’s Arts may prevent Authorisation and 175(6) Quorum


  1. As a result of his position as D a D obtains info about a new business opportunity for the Co. but uses that info for his own benefit instead of that of the Co. (Cook v Deeks)

    1. This breaches s175(2), unauthorised profit

  2. D invests after a company decides not to

    1. Must account to company for the profits made because they obtained the opportunity to invest only because they were Ds (Regal Hastings)

  3. D resigns and then takes up the opportunity

    1. Liable for breach of this duty and must account to any profits made (Cooley)

    2. Time is a factor; if the resignation was long before, then there’s likely no breach (Island Expert)

  4. D sets up a competing company

    1. If a D poaches a company’s clients, they have exploited opportunities that rightly belonged to the company

    2. Must account for profits made (CMS Dolphin)

  5. D borrows equipment/money from Co.’s customer for his own use

    1. Even if there is no bad faith, no loss to the Co, and no Conflict the D is abusing his position as D (Towers v PWM)

Under s.176 a D must Not to Accept 3rd P Benefits
  • If receive a benefit because you are a D and you did/did not do something for a 3rd P, you mustn’t accept benefit...

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