Selangor United Rubber Estates Ltd v Cradock (No 3): ChD 1968

The expressions ‘constructive trust’ and ‘constructive trustee’ are ‘nothing more than a formula for equitable relief. It is the actual control of assets belonging beneficially to a company which causes the law to treat directors as analogous to trustees of those assets.’
He continued: ‘It is essential at the outset to distinguish two very different kinds of so-called constructive trustees: (1) Those who, though not appointed trustees, take upon themselves to act as such and to possess and administer trust property for the beneficiaries, such as trustees de son tort. Distinguishing features for present purposes are (a) they do not claim to act in their own right but for the beneficiaries, and (b) their assumption to act is not of itself a ground of liability (save in the sense of course of liability to account and for any failure in the duty so assumed), and so their status as trustees precedes the occurrence which may be the subject of claim against them. (2) Those whom a court of equity will treat as trustees by reason of their action, of which complaint is made. Distinguishing features are (a) that such trustees claim to act in their own right and not for beneficiaries, and (b) no trusteeship arises before, but only by reason of, the action complained of.’
. . And ‘It seems to me imperative to grasp and keep constantly in mind that the second category of constructive trusteeship (which is the only category with which we are concerned) is nothing more than a formula for equitable relief. The court of equity says that the defendant shall be liable in equity, as though he were a trustee. He is made liable in equity as trustee by the imposition or construction of the court of equity. This is done because in accordance with equitable principles applied by the court of equity it is equitable that he should be held liable as though he were a trustee.’
Ungoed-Thomas J
[1968] 1 WLR 1555, [1968] 2 All ER 1073
England and Wales
Cited by:
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These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 24 June 2021; Ref: scu.193893