Re 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 the society, as to the irregularity should be imputed to the society, so as to preclude the society from recovering the loan.
Held: The rule of law that information held by an agent in the course of his agency is to be imputed to his principal, has an exception where the agent is committing a fraud on his principal.
Vaughan Williams J said: ‘The case is very much more like the one which [counsel for the society] had to admit was an exception to the general rule that they sought to lay down, for they admitted that if Wills had been guilty of a fraud, the personal knowledge of Wills of the fraud that had had committed upon the company would not have been knowledge of the society of the facts constituting that fraud; because common sense at once leads one to the conclusion that it would be impossible to infer that the duty, either of giving or receiving notice, will be fulfilled where the common agent is himself guilty of fraud. It seems to me that if you assume here that Mr. Wills was guilty of irregularity – a breach of duty in respect of these transactions – the same inference is to be drawn as if he had been guilty of fraud. I do not know, I am sure, whether he was guilty of actual fraud; but whether his conduct amounted to fraud or to breach of duty, I decline to hold that his knowledge of his own fraud or of his own breach of duty is, under the circumstances, the knowledge of the company.’

Vaughan Williams J, Viscount Dunedin
[1896] 2 Ch 743, [1896] UKLawRpCh 122
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedAbbey National Plc v Tufts CA 16-Feb-1999
A bankrupt husband, a mortgage broker, had applied for mortgage for his wife, fraudulently claiming that she had income. She appealed against an order for possession on the basis that he was agent of the bank, and that therefore the bank was fixed . .
CitedFassihim, Liddiardrams, International Ltd, Isograph Ltd v Item Software (UK) Ltd CA 30-Sep-2004
The first defendant (F) had been employed by a company involved in a distribution agreement. He had sought to set up a competing arrangement whilst a director of the claimant, and diverted a contract to his new company.
Held: A company . .
CitedMoore 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 . .
CitedStone and Rolls Ltd v Moore Stephens (A Firm) Comc 27-Jul-2007
The company claimed against its chartered accountants for negligence when acting as auditors. The sole directing mind of the company had used it as a vehicle for substantial frauds. The court was asked ‘whether and if so when can a claim by a . .
AppliedMoore Stephens (A Firm) v Stone and Rolls Ltd CA 18-Jun-2008
The company claimed against its accountants for negligence in not discovering the substantial dishonesty of the claimant’s employee, its directing mind and sole shareholder.
Held: Rimer LJ said that the critical question was whether it was . .
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 . .
CitedJetivia 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 . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Agency, Company

Leading Case

Updated: 29 November 2021; Ref: scu.181279