A more recent version of these Directors' Duties notes – written by Cambridge And Oxilp And College Of Law students – is available here.
The following is a more accessble 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 Directo r?
(Civil Lit Chap 7)
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 isalso an agent and a fiduciary. A director will not necessarily be a shareholder of the Co.Step 2: To Whom is the Duty Owed?if D assumed responsibility)
b. other Ds or creditors (if the Co. is insolvent or approaching insolvency s.172(3))
c. members/S'holders see: Derivative Action, Unfair Prejudice Petitions, and Wind up (see separate notes Below)Step 3: Who can Take Action?
Step 4: Which Duty has been Breach ed?
Note that more than one duty may be breached and applied to a D at any given time
T&F NOTE The DUTY is always owed to the company (s.170(1)) and Very exceptionally to: a. members/S'holders, (where D's agree to act as agents for the S'hold or?
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: o Derivative Action (see separate notes Below) o Unfair Prejudice Petitions (see separate notes Below) o Wind up (see separate notes Below) Under s.171 a D must act within Powers s17 CA defines Constitution to include the Art of Association
Under s.172 a D must Promote the Success of Company (Re Smith and Fawcett Ltd)??
s.171 A director must act : (a) under the constitution and (b) only exercise powers conferred on him. Apply the test: o Objectively, what was the purpose of the power for?
o Was this D's primary purpose in acting as he did?
s.172 A director must act in a way he considers, in faith, to promote the "success" of the company for the benefit of the members as a whole. Must have regard to s.172(1): a. Likely long-term consequences b. Interests of Co.'s employees c. Need to foster Co.'s good business relationships d. Co.'s Impact on the environment and the community e. Maintenance of the company's reputation f. Act fairly between the Co.'s members g. Any other relevant circumstances
Under s.173 a D must exercise Independen t Judgment
Court applies a Subjective test, i.e. what the D 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.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.: o Acting in accordance with an arrangement entered into by the company (s.173(2)(a)) o Authorised by the constitution (s.173(2)(b))
Apply both parts of the test:
1. Objective: did D act with the general knowledge, skill
& experience expected of such a person in his Under s.174 position (s.174(2)(b)) a D must
2. Subjective: did D act diligently by a person with D's exercise general knowledge, skill & experience (s.174(2)(b) Due care,
[e.g. if he's worked for 20 years as a D, he'll be skill and judged by a higher standard; NEDs by a lower one diligence ? Delegation: this does not allow a D to escape liabilityNo 5)
Director: may be liable for other Ds' wrongdoing
in family Co.s when spouses, children & relatives are appointed as inactive D's)
Under s.175 a D must Avoid a Conflict of Interests
D' has a Service Contract: did D breach a term of this contract?s.175(1): direct/indirect/possible conflict will trigger this dutys.175(2): must not make a profit unless authorisedA 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 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 Examples:
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) a. This breaches s175(2), unauthorised profit
2. D invests after a company decides not to a. Must account to company for the profits made because they obtained the opportunity to invest only because they were Ds (Regal Hastings)
Buy the full version of these notes or essay plans and more in our Business Law and Practice Notes.