Warman International Ltd v Dwyer: 1995

(High Court of Australia) A fiduciary diverted a business in breach of his fiduciary duty.
Held: ‘The outcome in cases of this kind will depend upon a number of factors. They include the nature of the property, the relevant powers and obligations of the fiduciary and the relationship between the profit made and the powers and obligations of the fiduciary. Thus, according to the rule in Keech v. Sanford, a trustee of a tenancy who obtains for himself the renewal of a lease holds the new lease as a constructive trustee, even though the landlord is unwilling to grant it to the trust . . A similar approach will be adopted in a case in which a fiduciary acquires for himself a specific asset which falls within the scope and ambit of his fiduciary responsibilities, even if the asset is acquired by means of the skill and expertise of the fiduciary and would not otherwise have been available to the person to whom the fiduciary duty is owed. But a distinction should be drawn between cases in which a specific asset is acquired and cases in which a business is acquired and operated. Such a distinction was drawn by Upjohn J in In re Jarvis (decd) in the context of considering a defence of laches, acquiescence and delay. However, in our view, the distinction is also relevant in the context of the fiduciary’s liability to account for profits.’ Their Honours continued: ‘In the case of a business it may well be inappropriate and inequitable to compel the errant fiduciary to account for the whole of the profit of his conduct of the business or his exploitation of the principal’s goodwill over an indefinite period of time. In such a case, it may be appropriate to allow the fiduciary a proportion of the profits, depending upon the particular circumstances. That may well be the case when it appears that a significant proportion of an increase in profits has been generated by the skill, efforts, property and resources of the fiduciary, the capital which he has introduced and the risks he has taken, so long as they are not risks to which the principal’s property has been exposed. Then it may be said that the relevant proportion of the increased profits is not the product or consequence of the plaintiff’s property but the product of the fiduciary’s skill, efforts, property and resources. This is not to say that the liability of a fiduciary to account should be governed by the doctrine of unjust enrichment, though that doctrine may well have a useful part to play; it is simply to say that the stringent rule requiring a fiduciary to account for profits can be carried to extremes and … in cases outside the realm of specific assets the liability of the fiduciary should not be transformed into a vehicle for the unjust enrichment to the Plaintiff’.


[1995] 128 ALR 201




CitedKeech v Sandford ChD 1726
Trustee’s Renewed Lease also Within Trust
A landlord refused to renew a lease to a trustee for the benefit of a minor. The trustee then took a new lease for his own benefit. The new lease had not formed part of the original trust property; the minor could not have acquired the new lease . .

Cited by:

CitedCrown Dilmun, Dilmun Investments Limited v Nicholas Sutton, Fulham River Projects Limited ChD 23-Jan-2004
There was a contract for the sale of Craven Cottage football stadium, conditional upon the grant of non-onerous planning permissions. It was claimed that the contract had been obtained by the defendant employee in breach of his fiduciary duties to . .
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 . .
CitedImageview Management Ltd v Jack CA 13-Feb-2009
The appellant company acted for the respondent footballer in placing him with a football club. The respondent said that he had also taken a payment from the club, nominally for arranging a work permit. The respondent said this was improper. The . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 13 May 2022; Ref: scu.192213