Shepherds Investments Ltd and Another v Walters and others: ChD 12 Apr 2006

The claimant company accused former directors and employee of setting up a competing business, of diverting business opportunities and of misusing confidential information. They said that they had acted in breach not only of their fiduciary obligations but their implied obligation of fidelity the moment that they procured the services of attorneys in the Cayman Islands to set up the rival business.
Held: On the facts, a former employee was also in breach of obligations as a fiduciary, whether or not he was to be regarded as a director, and that he was in breach of his duty of fidelity.
Etherton J said: ‘What the cases show, and the parties before me agree, is that the precise point at which preparations for the establishment of a competing business by a director become unlawful will turn on the actual facts of any particular case. In each case, the touchstone for what, on the one hand, is permissible, and what, on the other hand, is impermissible unless consent is obtained from the company or employer after full disclosure, is what, in the case of a director, will be in breach of the fiduciary duties to which I have referred or, in the case of an employee, will be in breach of the obligation of fidelity. It is obvious, for example, that merely making a decision to set up a competing business at some point in the future and discussing such an idea with friends and family would not of themselves be in conflict with the best interests of the company and the employer. The consulting of lawyers and other professionals may, depending on all the circumstances, equally be consistent with a director’s fiduciary duties and the employee’s obligation of loyalty. At the other end of the spectrum, it is plain that soliciting customers of the company and the employer or the actual carrying on of trade by a competing business would be in breach of the duties of the director and the obligations of the employee. It is the wide range of activity and decision making between the two ends of the spectrum which will be fact sensitive in every case.’


Etherton J


[2006] EWHC 836 (Ch), [2007] 2 BCLC 202, [2007] FSR 15, [2007] IRLR 110




England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedHelmet Integrated Systems Ltd v Tunnard and others CA 15-Dec-2006
Whilst employed by the claimants as a salesman, the defendant came to want to develop his idea for a modular helmet suitable for fire-fighters and others. He took certain steps including showing the proposal confidentially to a competitor, and then . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Torts – Other, Financial Services, Company

Updated: 05 July 2022; Ref: scu.240440