Mothew (T/a Stapley and Co) v Bristol and West Building Society: CA 24 Jul 1996

The solicitor, acting in a land purchase transaction for his lay client and the plaintiff, had unwittingly misled the claimant by telling the claimant that the purchasers were providing the balance of the purchase price themselves without recourse to further borrowing when he knew that they were using an overdraft to obtain further funding. The plaintiff claimed in breach of trust.
Held: A claim for damages for a solicitor’s failure to disclose the existence of a 2nd mortgage must show that damage flowed from the failure alleged.
Millett LJ said: ‘A fiduciary is someone who has undertaken to act for or on behalf of another in a particular matter in circumstances which give rise to a relationship of trust and confidence. The distinguishing obligation of a fiduciary is the obligation of loyalty. The principal is entitled to the single-minded loyalty of his fiduciary. This core liability has several facets. A fiduciary must act in good faith; he must not make a profit out of his trust; he must not place himself in a position where his duty and his interest may conflict; he may not act for his own benefit or the benefit of a third person without the informed consent of his principal. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but it is sufficient to indicate the nature of fiduciary obligations. They are the defining characteristics of the fiduciary.’
He is not subject to fiduciary obligations because he is a fiduciary; it is because he is subject to them that he is a fiduciary: ‘A fiduciary who acts for two principals with potentially conflicting interests without the informed consent of both is in breach of the obligation of undivided loyalty; he puts himself in a position where his duty to one principal may conflict with his duty to another . . This is sometimes described as ‘the double employment rule.” and
‘Finally, the fiduciary must take care not to find himself in a position where there is an actual conflict of duty so that he cannot fulfil his obligations to one principal without failing in his obligations to the other . . If he does, he may have no alternative but to cease to act for at least one and preferably both. The fact that he cannot fulfil his obligations to one principal without being in breach of his obligations to the other will not absolve him from liability.’
As to breach of the duty: ‘Breach of fiduciary obligation, therefore, connotes disloyalty or infidelity. Mere incompetence is not enough. A servant who loyally does his incompetent best for his master is not unfaithful and is not guilty of a breach of fiduciary duty.’
If the trustee has benefited from the breach, the court will order him to account for it on the application of the beneficiary. Millett LJ described such relief as ‘primarily restitutionary or restorative rather than compensatory’.
Millett LJ
Times 02-Aug-1996, [1996] EWCA Civ 533, [1998] Ch 1, [1997] 2 WLR 436, [1996] 4 All ER 698
England and Wales
Cited by:
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The defendant solicitors had acted for the lenders and borrower in a mortgage transaction. The claimant sought repayment of the entire loan, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, in having preferred the interests of one client over those of another. . .
CitedArklow Investments Ltd and Another v Maclean and Others PC 1-Dec-1999
PC (New Zealand) Land was offered for sale. A potential buyer, the appellant was approached by a merchant bank with a proposal for finance. When he sought finance elsewhere, a company associated with the bank . .
CitedDEG-Deutsche Investitions und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH v Koshy and Other (No 3); Gwembe Valley Development Co Ltd (in receivership) v Same (No 3) CA 28-Jul-2003
The company sought to recover damages from a director who had acted dishonestly, by concealing a financial interest in a different company which had made loans to the claimant company. He replied that the claim was out of time. At first instance the . .
CitedThe Secretary of State for Trade and Industry v Goldberg, Mcavoy ChD 26-Nov-2003
The Secretary of State sought a disqualification order. The director argued that one shoul not be made in the absence of some breach of legal duty, some dishonesty should be shown.
Held: The answer was a mixture of fact and law. A breach of . .
CitedMarks and Spencer plc v Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (A Firm) ChD 2-Jun-2004
The claimant sought an injunction preventing the respondent form of solicitors acting for a client in a bid for the claimant, saying that the firm was continuing to act for it, and that a conflict of interest arose.
Held: Though the . .
CitedMarks and Spencer Group Plc and Another v Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer CA 3-Jun-2004
The defendant firm of solicitors sought leave to appeal against an injunction requiring them not to act for a client in making a bid to take over the business of the claimant, a former client of the firm.
Held: Leave was refused. The appeal . .
CitedNewgate Stud Company, Newgate Stud Farm Llc v Penfold, Penfold Bloodstock Limited ChD 21-Dec-2004
The claimants sought damages from the defendant. He had been employed to manage their horse-racing activities, and it was alleged that he had made secret profits. The defendant denied any dishonesty, saying all matters were known to the deceased . .
CitedHilton v Barker Booth and Eastwood HL 3-Feb-2005
The claimant had instructed the defendant solicitors to act for him, where he was to contract with another client of the same solicitor in a land development. The solicitor failed to disclose that the other client had convictions for dishonesty, and . .
CitedUltraframe (UK) Ltd v Fielding and others ChD 27-Jul-2005
The parties had engaged in a bitter 95 day trial in which allegations of forgery, theft, false accounting, blackmail and arson. A company owning patents and other rights had become insolvent, and the real concern was the destination and ownership of . .
CitedRatiu, Karmel, Regent House Properties Ltd v Conway CA 22-Nov-2005
The claimant sought damages for defamation. The defendant through their company had accused him acting in such a way as to allow a conflict of interest to arise. They said that he had been invited to act on a proposed purchase but had used the . .
CitedLloyds TSB Bank Plc v Markandan and Uddin (A Firm) ChD 14-Oct-2010
The claimant sought damages saying that the defendant firm of solicitors had failed to deal properly with a conveyance having paid across the mortgage funds to a non-existent firm of solicitors and without obtaining the appropriate documents at all. . .
CitedBarnes and Another v Black Horse Ltd QBD 31-May-2011
The claimants sought repayment by the bank of sums paid to them for Payment Protection Insurance policies sold to them in connection with loans made by the bank. The Bank now resisted an application for leave to amend the particulars of the . .
CitedCook v The Mortgage Business Plc CA 24-Jan-2012
The land owners sought relief from possession orders made under mortgages given in equity release schemes: ‘If the purchaser raises all or part of the purchase price on mortgage, and then defaults, the issue arises whether the mortgagee’s right to . .
CitedPortman Building Society v Hamlyn Taylor Neck (a Firm) CA 22-Apr-1998
The mortgage advance had been against an express requirement that the client use the property as his private residence. After the client defaulted, the appellant lender discovered that the solicitors acting for themselves and the lay client had . .
CitedMortgage Express v Abensons Solicitors (A Firm) ChD 20-Apr-2012
The claimant lender sought damages against the defendant solicitors alleging negligence and breach of fiduciary duty by them in acting for them on mortgage advances. The defendants now argued that the allowance of an amendment to add the allegation . .
CitedLeeds and Holbeck Building Society v Arthur and Cole ChD 2001
A claim for breach of fiduciary duty by a solicitor as against his lender client, required that it be found that the solicitor ‘did not disclose matters which he admittedly ought to have done to the claimant, intentionally and consciously, knowing . .
CitedFHR European Ventures Llp and Others v Cedar Capital Partners Llc SC 16-Jul-2014
Approprietary remedy against Fraudulent Agent
The Court was asked whether a bribe or secret commission received by an agent is held by the agent on trust for his principal, or whether the principal merely has a claim for equitable compensation in a sum equal to the value of the bribe or . .
CitedAIB Group (UK) Plc v Mark Redler and Co Solicitors SC 5-Nov-2014
Bank not to recover more than its losses
The court was asked as to the remedy available to the appellant bank against the respondent, a firm of solicitors, for breach of the solicitors’ custodial duties in respect of money entrusted to them for the purpose of completing a loan which was to . .
CitedHalton International Inc (Holding) and Another v Guernroy Ltd ChD 9-Sep-2005
Parties had entered into a shareholders’ agreement as to voting arrengemets within a company. Thay disputed whether votes had been used in reach of that agreement, particularly as to the issue of new shares and their allotment, but the court now . .
CitedLehtimaki and Others v Cooper SC 29-Jul-2020
Charitable Company- Directors’ Status and Duties
A married couple set up a charitable foundation to assist children in developing countries. When the marriage failed an attempt was made to establish a second foundation with funds from the first, as part of W leaving the Trust. Court approval was . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 27 December 2020; Ref: scu.140400