Barclays Bank Plc v O’Brien and Another: HL 21 Oct 1993

The wife joined in a charge on the family home to secure her husband’s business borrowings. The husband was found to have misrepresented to her the effect of the deed, and the bank had been aware that she might be reluctant to sign the deed.
Held: The charge was not to be enforced. The bank was under constructive notice, and ought to have known of the undue influence of the husband. The security was obtained by undue influence or misrepresentation. The House set a low level for the threshold which must be crossed before a bank is put on inquiry.
Lord Browne-Wilkinson: ‘Therefore in my judgment a creditor is put on inquiry when a wife offers to stand surety for her husband’s debts by the combination of two factors: (a) the transaction is on its face not to the financial advantage of the wife; and (b) there is a substantial risk in transactions of that kind that, in procuring the wife to act as surety, the husband has committed a legal or equitable wrong that entitles the wife to set aside the transaction.’ Unconscionable conduct is ‘ some other legal wrong’. ‘if the doctrine of notice is properly applied, there is no need for the introduction of a special equity in these types of cases. A wife who has been induced to stand as a surety for her husband’s debts by his undue influence, misrepresentation or some other legal wrong has an equity as against him to set aside that transaction. Under the ordinary principles of equity, her right to set aside that transaction will be enforceable against third parties (e.g. against a creditor) if either the husband was acting as the third party’s agent or the third party had actual or constructive notice of the facts giving rise to her equity. Although there may be cases where, without artificiality, it can properly be held that the husband was acting as the agent of the creditor in procuring the wife to stand as surety, such cases will be of very rare occurrence. The key to the problem is to identify the circumstances in which the creditor will be taken to have had notice of the wife’s equity to set aside the transaction. The doctrine of notice lies at the heart of equity. Given that there are two innocent parties, each enjoying rights, the earlier right prevails against the later right if the acquirer of the later right knows of the earlier right (actual notice) or would have discovered it had he taken proper steps (constructive notice).’

Lord Templeman, Lord Lowry, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, Lord Slynn of Hadley and Lord Woolf
Gazette 17-Dec-1993, Times 22-Oct-1993, Independent 22-Oct-1993, [1993] 3 WLR 786, [1994] 1 AC 180, [1993] 4 All ER 417, [1993] UKHL 6
England and Wales
CitedAvon Finance Co Ltd v Bridger CA 1985
The son arranged finance for his parents to move near to him. He borrowed money to help finance it, secured by an expensive second loan. He deceived his parents into executing the loan. After the son defaulted, the plaintiff sought possession.
CitedBainbrigge v Browne ChD 19-May-1881
An impoverished father had prevailed upon his inexperienced children to charge their reversionary interests under their parents’ marriage settlement to pay his mortgage debts. Undue influence was claimed.
Held: The defendants who were not . .
CitedBank of Credit and Commerce International SA v Aboody CA 1989
In a case where the defendant said that a mortgage had been signed from undue pressure the court may find actual undue influence as opposed to presumed undue influence. Slade LJ said: ‘Ever since the judgments of this court in Allcard v Skinner a . .
CitedBank of Montreal v Stuart PC 1911
The court used the phrase ‘immoderate and irrational’ to describe the character of a transaction which might of its nature suggest undue influence. A solicitor who is advising a client about a transaction and has reason to suspect that the client is . .
CitedBank of Victoria Ltd v Mueller 1925
Cussen J opined that a wife was entitled to relief from a guarantee granted to the bank undertaken under pressure from her husband where amongst other matters it could be shown: ‘that the husband in procuring and pressing for such consent . .
CitedBischoff’s Trustee v Frank 1903
. .
CitedCIBC Mortgages Plc v Pitt and Another HL 21-Oct-1993
Mrs Pitt resisted an order for possession of the house saying that she had signed the mortgage only after misrepresentations by and the undue infuence of her husband who was acting as the bank’s agent.
Held: A bank was not put on enquiry as to . .
CitedColdunell Ltd v Gallon CA 1986
Even in the absence of agency, if the debtor has been guilty of undue influence or misrepresentation in securing the giving of security by a third party to cover his debt to the creditor, the creditor may not be able to enforce the surety contract . .
CitedGrigby v Cox 1750
The court considered a claim that the husband had exercised undue influence over his wife.
Held: The court rejected any presumption of undue influence, and said that a court of equity ‘will have more jealousy’ over dispositions by a wife to a . .
CitedHoghton v Hoghton CA 16-Apr-1852
When a person has made a large voluntary disposition the burden is thrown on the party benefitting to show that the disposition was made fairly and honestly and in full understanding of the nature and consequences of the transaction. Romilly MR . .
CitedHowes v Bishop 1909
The relationship of husband and wife does not bring a case within Class 2(A). . .
CitedKings North Trust Ltd v Bell CA 1986
The wife claimed to have signed a legal charge in favour of the plaintiffs by virtue of her husband’s fraudulent misrepresentation. The charge secured the business borrowings of the husband. She did not get independent advice.
Held: The bank . .
CitedMidland Bank Plc v Shephard CA 1988
Setting aside of bank’s charge where execution by a third party to secure the creditors debt had been secured by the creditors misrepresentation of the charge. . .
CitedTurnbull and Co v Duval PC 1902
Mr Duval owed three separate sums to a firm Turnbull and Co including andpound;1,000 owed to the Jamaican branch for beer. Turnbulls’ manager and agent in Jamaica was a Mr Campbell. Mr Campbell was also an executor and trustee of a will under which . .
CitedYerkey v Jones 1939
The relationship of husband and wife is not enough of itself to raise a presumption of undue influence. The Court of Chancery was not blind to the opportunities of obtaining and unfairly using influence over a wife which the husband often possesses. . .
Appeal fromBarclays Bank Plc v O’Brien and Another CA 22-May-1992
A bank leaving a husband to explain a proposed charge over the matrimonial home to his wife to secure his business debts, could not enforce that charge against her. There was a presumption of undue influence in the husband which made the charge . .

Cited by:
CitedCooke v National Westminster Bank Plc; Waldron Wetherell and Co CA 17-Jun-1998
Where a bank had failed to require the solicitors witnessing a wife’s signature to a guarantee, to write to confirm that she had received independent advice, and there had been undue influence, they were deemed to be on notice of such influence. . .
CitedRoyal Bank of Scotland v Etridge, Loftus and Another v Etridge and Another, Etridge v Pritchard Englefield (Merged With Robert Gore and Co ) Midland Bank Plc v Wallace and Another (No 2) CA 31-Jul-1998
Detailed guidance was given on the quality of independent legal advice, which would be required to be given to wives signing charges to secure their husbands’ business etc accounts on the matrimonial home. The interaction of legal advice and . .
CitedRoyal Bank of Scotland v Etridge (No 2); Barclays Bank plc v Harris; Midland Bank plc v Wallace, etc HL 11-Oct-2001
Wives had charged the family homes to secure their husband’s business borrowings, and now resisted possession orders, claiming undue influence.
Held: Undue influence is an equitable protection created to undo the effect of excess influence of . .
CitedGovernor and Company of Bank of Scotland v Bennett and Another CA 21-Dec-1998
The bank appealed an order setting aside a deed of guarantee and mortgage and denying the possession order sought. The guarantee had been given to support borrowings of the defendant’s company. The defendant was the wife of the director and had been . .
CitedPortman Building Society v Dusangh and Others CA 19-Apr-2000
The defendant sought to set aside an order for possession under a mortgage.
Held: Where a case was strong enough on its face in terms of conduct and terms, unconscionable conduct could be inferred if there was no explanation offered to . .
CitedUCB Group Ltd v Hedworth CA 4-Dec-2003
The defendant challenged the claimant’s right to possession under a legal charge. She appealed a finding that she had not established the undue influence of her husband, a solicitor.
Held: A lender who received a voidable security was entitled . .
CitedNiersmans v Pesticcio CA 1-Apr-2004
A house have been given by a man with learning difficulties to her sister. The case appealed an order that undue influence had applied.
Held: The gift failed despite the attempt at independent legal advice. The court reviewed the law of undue . .
CitedBarclays Bank Plc v Boulter and Another HL 26-Oct-1999
The question of whether notice of certain facts amounted to constructive notice of other facts is a question of law. Where it was claimed that a party should be exempt from liability under a document which it was claimed was signed because of . .
CitedScotlife Home Loans (No 2) Limited v Melinek and Melinek CA 9-Sep-1997
The second defendant sought leave to appeal against a possession order obtained by the claimant. The loan obtained had been misapplied by the first defendant, her husband. She had been advised in the transaction by his partner in their solicitors’ . .
CitedR Griggs Group Ltd and others v Evans and others (No 2) ChD 12-May-2004
A logo had been created for the claimants, by an independent sub-contractor. They sought assignment of their legal title, but, knowing of the claimant’s interest the copyright was assigned to a third party out of the jurisdiction. The claimant . .
CitedRandall v Randall ChD 30-Jul-2004
The executor sought to set aside gifts made by the deceased, an elderly aunt before her death to his brother, alleging undue influence.
Held: The recipient had acted falsely in failing to declare overpayments of benefits. The deceased had been . .
CitedForsdike v Forsdike CA 21-Feb-1997
The claimant appealed dismissal of his claim to set aside a transfer by way of gift by his father on the basis of an alleged undue influence.
Held: The judges was entitled to make the findings he had done, and to be impressed by the spacing of . .
CitedInvestors Compensation Scheme Ltd v West Bromwich Building Society HL 19-Jun-1997
Account taken of circumstances wihout ambiguity
The respondent gave advice on home income plans. The individual claimants had assigned their initial claims to the scheme, but later sought also to have their mortgages in favour of the respondent set aside.
Held: Investors having once . .
CitedGreene King Plc v Stanley and others CA 30-Nov-2001
The claimant challenged an order that the two defendant chargors were discharged from liability to the claimants under their individual voluntary arrangement and on the basis that it had been entered under undue influence. . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Undue Influence, Banking

Leading Case

Updated: 15 January 2022; Ref: scu.78210