Thursday 30 July 2020

UK: The Re Duomatic principle, ostensible authority and the consent of beneficial owners

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council delivered its opinion today in Ciban Management Corporation v Citco (BVI) Ltd & Anor (British Virgin Islands) [2020] UKPC 21: see here or here (pdf). The Board found, amongst other things, that the principle of informal, unanimous shareholder consent - often referred to as the Re Duomatic principle - could operate to confer ostensible authority. This operated subject to recognised exceptions or qualifications: where there is dishonesty; where the shareholder had not consented to the relevant act; and where the transaction would jeopardise the company's solvency or cause loss to creditors.

The Board also referred to what it called a further "possible" qualification in the operation of the principle: where the consent is that of the beneficial owners rather than the registered shareholders. But it stated: "... the correct view is that, at least as here where the ultimate beneficial owner and not the registered shareholder is taking all the decisions in the relevant transactions, the Duomatic principle applies as regards the consent of (and authority given by) the ultimate beneficial owner" (para. [47]).

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