Jetivia Sa and Another v Bilta (UK) Ltd and Others: SC 22 Apr 2015

The liquidators of Bilta had brought proceedings against former directors and the appellant alleging that they were party to an unlawful means conspiracy which had damaged the company by engaging in a carousel fraud with carbon credits. On the pleaded facts, Mr Chopra and Mr Nazir were the directing organ of Bilta under its constitution. They constituted the board. Mr Chopra was also the sole shareholder. As between Bilta and Jetivia it was common ground on the pleadings that they were the ‘directing mind and will’ of Bilta for all purposes, and certainly in relation to those of its functions which are relevant in these proceedings.
Held: The defendant company and director failed in their appeals, both in relation to the illegality defence and in relation to section 213. The plea of ex turpi causa non oritur actio was not available to the directors of a company in a defence to an action against them by the company for acts involvig breaches of their duties as directors.
Lord Mance said: ‘ it is certainly unjust and absurd to suggest that the answer to a claim for breach of a director’s (or any employee’s) duty could lie in attributing to the company the very misconduct by which the director or employee has damaged it. A company has its own separate legal personality and interests. Duties are owed to it by those officers who constitute its directing mind and will, similarly to the way in which they are owed by other more ordinary employees or agents. All the shareholders of a solvent company acting unanimously may in certain circumstances (which need not here be considered, since it is not suggested that they may apply) be able to authorise what might otherwise be misconduct towards the company. But even the shareholders of a company which is insolvent or facing insolvency cannot do this to the prejudice of its creditors, and the company’s officers owe a particular duty to safeguard the interest of such creditors. There is no basis for regarding the various statutory remedies available to a liquidator against defaulting officers as making this duty or its enforcement redundant.’

Lord Neuberger, President, Lord Mance, Lord Clarke, Lord Sumption, Lord Carnwath, Lord Toulson, Lord Hodge
[2015] UKSC 23, [2015] WLR(D) 182, UKSC 2013/0206, [2015] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 61, [2015] 1 BCLC 443, [2015] 2 All ER (Comm) 281, [2015] BVC 20, [2015] 2 WLR 1168, [2015] BCC 343, [2015] 2 All ER 1083
Bailii, Bailii Summary, WLRD, SC Summary, SC
England and Wales
Citing:
Appeal fromJetivia Sa and Another v Bilta (UK) Ltd and Others CA 31-Jul-2013
Defendants appealed against refusal of their request for a summary striking out for lack of jurisdiction, of the claims against them arising from their management of the insolvency of the first defendant. . .
CitedBowman v Secular Society Limited HL 1917
The plantiff argued that the the objects of the Secular Society Ltd, which had been registered under the Companies Acts, were unlawful.
Held: The House referred to ‘the last persons to go to the stake in this country pro salute animae’ in 1612 . .
At first Instance (1)Bilta (UK) Ltd (In Liquidation) v Nazir and Others ChD 17-May-2010
The sixth defendant resisted a claim against it saying that matters between them were governed by a framework agreement which provided for matters to be resolved by arbitration. The claimant resisted, denying the arbitration agreement and saying . .
At first Instance (2)Bilta (Uk) Ltd v Nazir and Others ChD 24-Nov-2010
The company had been wound up by the Revenue on the basis that it had been used for a substantial VAT fraud. The liquidators now sued those said to have participated. A defendant denied the jurisdiction because of a disputed arbitration agreement. . .
Appeal fromBilta (UK) Ltd and Others v Nazir and Others ChD 30-Jul-2012
The company was said to have engaged in a fraud based on false European Trading Scheme Allowances, and had been wound up by the Revenue. The liquidators, in the company name, now sought recovery from former directors and associates.
Held: The . .
CitedAbrath v North Eastern Railway Co HL 15-Mar-1886
The plaintiff had brought an action against the company of malicious prosecution. It was rejected by the jury and again on appeal.
Held: The appeal failed. In an action for damages for the tort of malicious prosecution one of the elements of . .
CitedThe Citizens Life Assurance Company Limited v Brown PC 6-May-1904
(New South Wales) A malicious libel was alleged. The life assurance company was vicariously liable in respect of a libel contained in a circular sent out by a person who was employed by the company under a written agreement as its ‘superintendent of . .
CitedWest Mercia Safetywear Ltd v Dodds CA 1988
If a company continues to trade whilst insolvent but in the expectation that it would return to profitability, it should be regarded as trading not for the benefit of the shareholders, but for the creditors also. If there is a possibility of . .
CitedTinsley v Milligan CA 1992
The court considered the defence of illegal user to a claim to have established an easement by prescription: ‘These authorities seem to me to establish that when applying the ‘ex turpi causa’ maxim in a case in which a defence of illegality has been . .
CitedLennard’s Carrying Company Limited v Asiatic Petroleum Company Limited HL 1915
The House was asked as to when the acts of an individual became those of his employer under section 502 (‘any loss or damage happening without (the ship owner’s) actual fault or privity’).
Held: Viscount Haldane LC said: ‘It must be upon the . .
CitedEl Ajou v Dollar Land Holdings Plc and Another ChD 3-Jan-1993
A non active director may still be company’s ‘directing mind’. The doctrine of attributing the actions of individuals to a company is that ‘Their minds are its mind; their intention its intention; their knowledge its knowledge.’
Tracing was no . .
CitedTinsley v Milligan HL 28-Jun-1993
Two women parties used funds generated by a joint business venture to buy a house in which they lived together. It was vested in the sole name of the plaintiff but on the understanding that they were joint beneficial owners. The purpose of the . .
CitedEl Ajou v Dollar Land Holdings Ltd CA 2-Dec-1993
The court was asked whether, for the purposes of establishing a company’s liability under the knowing receipt head of constructive trust, the knowledge of one of its directors can be treated as having been the knowledge of the company.
Held: . .
CitedMeridian Global Funds Management Asia Ltd v The Securities Commission Co PC 26-Jun-1995
(New Zealand) Lord Hofmann said: ‘There is in fact no such thing as the company as such, no ‘ding an sich’, only the applicable rules. To say that a company cannot do something means only that there is no one whose doing of that act would, under the . .
Not to be followedMoore Stephens (A Firm) v Stone Rolls Ltd (in liquidation) HL 30-Jul-2009
The appellants had audited the books of the respondent company, but had failed to identify substantial frauds by an employee of the respondent. The auditors appealed a finding of professional negligence, relying on the maxim ex turpi causa non . .
CitedHounga v Allen and Another SC 30-Jul-2014
The appellant, of Nigerian origin had been brought here at the age of 14 with false identity papers, and was put to work caring for the respondent’s children. In 2008 she was dismissed and ejected from the house. She brought proceedings alleging . .
CitedLes Laboratoires Servier and Another v Apotex Inc and Others SC 29-Oct-2014
Ex turpi causa explained
The parties had disputed the validity a patent and the production of infringing preparations. The english patent had failed and damages were to be awarded, but a Canadian patent remained the defendant now challenged the calculation of damages for . .
CitedAbrath v North Eastern Railway Company CA 22-Jun-1883
A claim was brought against the company for malicious prosecution. The jury acquitted it. And the plaintiff appealed.
Held: The judge’s direction had been correct.
Bowen LJ said: ‘Wherever a person asserts affirmatively as part of his . .
CitedJC Houghton and Co v Northard, Lowe and Wills HL 1927
The court was asked whether the knowledge of the directors of the latter company should be attributed to it, with the effect that the latter company could and should be treated as estopped from denying that it had consented to a particular . .
CitedRegina v ICR Haulage Ltd KBD 1944
A company can be guilty of conspiracy, in this case to defraud. Both the managing director and, through him, the haulage company were convicted of conspiracy to defraud. His acts ‘were the acts of the company and the fraud of that person was the . .
CitedMoore v I Bresler Ltd KBD 1944
The company had been required to make a return for revenue purposes (purchase tax) and the statute made it an offence to make a false return with intent to deceive. The company was charged with such, but responded that the action was of employees . . .
CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions v Kent and Sussex Contractors Ltd 1945
The court considered the liability of a company under provisions being, ‘with intent to deceive, made use . . of a document which was false in a material particular’
Held: The General Manager was capable of acting or speaking as the company; . .
CitedBelmont Finance Corporation Ltd v Williams Furniture Ltd CA 1979
The company directors operated an elaborate scheme to extract value from Belmont by causing it to buy the shares of a company called Maximum at a considerable overvalue. This was a breach of the fiduciary duties of the directors. They sought to . .
CitedRe Hampshire Land Company 9-Jul-1896
A company had borrowed from a building society. The borrowing was not properly authorised by resolution of the shareholders in general meeting The court was asked whether whether the knowledge of the company secretary common to both the company and . .
CitedLloyd v Grace, Smith and Co HL 1912
Mrs Lloyd delivered the title deeds of her cottages at Ellesmere Port to the solicitors’ managing clerk, who defrauded her.
Held: Vicarious liability can extend to fraudulent acts or omissions if those were carried out in the course of the . .
CitedTesco Supermarkets Ltd v Nattrass HL 31-Mar-1971
Identification of Company’s Directing Mind
In a prosecution under the 1968 Act, the court discussed how to identify the directing mind and will of a company, and whether employees remained liable when proper instructions had been given to those in charge of a local store.
Held: ‘In the . .
CitedAshmore, Benson, Pease and Co v A V Dawson Ltd CA 1973
By acquiescing in the overloading of the hauliers’ lorries, the consignors’ assistant transport manager and his assistant made the haulage contract unenforceable at the instance of the consignors, who were unable to recover when a lorry toppled over . .
CitedAttorney-General’s Reference (No. 2 of 1982) CACD 1984
Two men were charged with theft from a company which they wholly owned and controlled. The court considered the actions of company directors in dishonestly appropriating the property of the company, and whether since the title to the goods was . .
CitedRoyal Brunei Airlines SDN BHD v Tan PC 24-May-1995
(Brunei) The defendants were a one-man company, BLT, and the one man, Mr Tan. A dishonest third party to a breach of trust was liable to make good a resulting loss even though he had received no trust property. The test of knowledge was an objective . .
CitedLancashire County Council v Municipal Mutual Insurance Ltd CA 3-Apr-1996
The defendant agreed to indemnify the insured ‘in respect of all sums which the insured shall become legally liable to pay as compensation arising out of’ various matters including wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment. The . .
CitedLister and Others v Hesley Hall Ltd HL 3-May-2001
A school board employed staff to manage a residential school for vulnerable children. The staff committed sexual abuse of the children. The school denied vicarious liability for the acts of the teachers.
Held: ‘Vicarious liability is legal . .
CitedSafeway Stores Ltd and Others v Twigger and Others CA 21-Dec-2010
The court was asked whether, when a company had been fined for anti-competitive practices, the company could then recover the penalties from the directors and senior employees involved.
Held: The undertaking was not entitled to recover the . .
CitedAberdeen Railway Co v Blaikie Brothers HL 1854
The plaintiff needed a large quantity of iron chairs (rail sockets) and contracted for their supply over an 18-month period with Blaikie Bros a partnership. Thomas Blaikie was the managing partner of Blaikie Bros and a director and the chairman of . .
CitedSalomon v A Salomon and Company Ltd HL 16-Nov-1896
A Company and its Directors are not same paersons
Mr Salomon had incorporated his long standing personal business of shoe manufacture into a limited company. He held nearly all the shares, and had received debentures on the transfer into the company of his former business. The business failed, and . .
CitedBowman v Secular Society Limited HL 1917
The plantiff argued that the the objects of the Secular Society Ltd, which had been registered under the Companies Acts, were unlawful.
Held: The House referred to ‘the last persons to go to the stake in this country pro salute animae’ in 1612 . .
CitedBrink’s Mat Ltd v Noye CA 1991
The proceeds of the theft of gold bullion from a warehouse owned by the plaintiffs were laundered through the bank account of a company called Scadlynn Ltd with Barclays Bank. The directors and sole shareholders of Scadlynn were signatories of the . .
CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions v Gomez HL 3-Dec-1992
The defendant worked as a shop assistant. He had persuaded the manager to accept in payment for goods, two cheques which he knew to be stolen. The CA had decided that since the ownership of the goods was transferred on the sale, no appropriation of . .
CitedHall v Hebert 29-Apr-1993
(Canadian Supreme Court) After they had been drinking heavily together, Mr Hebert, who owned a car, allowed Mr Hall to drive it, including initially to give it a rolling start down a road on one side of which there was a steep slope. The car . .
CitedSouth Australia Asset Management Corporation v York Montague Ltd etc HL 24-Jun-1996
Limits of Damages for Negligent Valuations
Damages for negligent valuations are limited to the foreseeable consequences of advice, and do not include losses arising from a general fall in values. Valuation is seldom an exact science, and within a band of figures valuers may differ without . .
CitedMarks and Spencer Plc v Palmer CA 9-Oct-2001
The claimant had tripped against a weather strip which protruded by less than 1 cm above the surface of doorway of the staff exit from one of the defendant’s stores. It was a permanent fixture and, as such, was part of the construction of the floor. . .
CitedMarks and Spencer plc v Palmer CA 9-Oct-2001
A shopper carrying some heavy bags tripped and fell over a weather strip, which was proud of the floor at an exit door to the extent of some 8 to 9.5 mm high. The recorder had said that, once he was satisfied that the claimant came into contact with . .
CitedGray v Thames Trains and Others HL 17-Jun-2009
The claimant suffered severe psychiatric injured in a rail crash caused by the defendant’s negligence. Under this condition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the claimant had gone on to kill another person, and he had been detained under section . .
CitedRalph Schmid (Acting As Liquidator of The Assets of Aletta Zimmermann) v Lilly Hertel ECJ 16-Jan-2014
ECJ Reference for a preliminary ruling – Judicial cooperation in civil matters – Regulation (EC) No 1346/2000 – Insolvency proceedings – Action to set a transaction aside by virtue of the debtor’s insolvency – . .

Cited by:
CitedBurnden Holdings (UK) Ltd v Fielding and Another CA 17-Jun-2016
The company, now in liquidation sought to claim for the alledged misapplication by former directors of its funds in 2007. It now appealed against a summary rejection of its claim as time barred.
Held: The appeal succeeded. Section 21(1)(b) . .
CitedRoyal Mail Group Ltd v Jhuti SC 27-Nov-2019
‘if a person in the hierarchy of responsibility above the employee determines that she (or he) should be dismissed for a reason but hides it behind an invented reason which the decision-maker adopts, the reason for the dismissal is the hidden reason . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Insolvency, Torts – Other, Limitation

Leading Case

Updated: 29 November 2021; Ref: scu.545696