Financial and accounting duties and responsibilities of directors | Members in business
Guidance to members who are directors on their responsibilities in relation to financial and accounting matters; and an overview of their general duties.
Effective from 1 October 2008. Financial and accounting duties and responsibilities of directors.
This statement was issued in October 2008 by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, principally concerning the main duties and responsibilities of a financial or accounting nature owed by directors to their company and its shareholders and others, but also including an overview of more general duties and responsibilities. It sets out, where appropriate, what is considered to be good practice rather than what may be acceptable as the legal minimum required. It is hoped that the statement will be useful to members acting as directors and to members generally in conveying to directors the extent of these responsibilities. It is stressed, however, that the statement is not intended to cover other aspects, however important, of a director's position.
The statement is concerned with companies in the United Kingdom subject to the provisions of the Companies Act 2006. It has, with one exception (see below), been prepared on the basis of the complete implementation of that Act, in relation to a company formed under that Act, whereas at the time of issue some provisions of the Act have not yet commenced and readers should be aware that certain 1985 Act provisions and transitional adaptations remain in force until 1 October 2009 (see Appendix B for a list of commencement dates, extracted from the Final Implementation Timetable published by BERR in December 2007).
The exception is in relation to the model articles. Under section 20 a company formed under the 2006 Act will, unless it adopts articles that provide otherwise, have as its articles the model articles prescribed by secondary legislation under section 19. At the time of issue no model articles are yet prescribed. Accordingly references to typical articles herein are to the 1985 Act Table A (modified in 2007) that apply to companies formed under the 1985 Act (on or after 1 October 2007). Where Table A articles apply by default to a company - i.e. by statutory provision in lieu of specific provision by the company - it is the version of Table A in force at the time of the company's formation that is relevant.
References to legislation should be taken to mean legislation as amended up to 1 October 2008. The meaning of terms can be found in the Glossary at the end of the statement.
This statement replaces its predecessor issued in 1996 as revised in 2000, which was itself an updated version of that originally issued in 1970.
English counsel have confirmed that this statement is consistent with the English law as at 1 October 2008 had the 2006 Act been fully implemented as at that date. Counsel accept no responsibility (other than to the Institute) in relation to advice ascribed to them in this statement.
Scope and purpose
|1. ||Directors of companies, whether public or private, have various responsibilities towards their companies, breach of which may not only be detrimental to those companies and their shareholders, but also may lead to civil and criminal liability of the individual director concerned. The aim of this statement is to provide guidance to members who are directors as to their responsibilities, principally in relation to financial and accounting matters, but also including an overview of their general duties. The responsibilities of shadow directors (see paragraph 7 below) are not the subject matter of this guidance although they are referred to from time to time. |
|2. ||In discussing these responsibilities, companies which are subject to the 2006 Act are considered, differentiating between public and private companies as appropriate. Special categories of entities such as those incorporated by Royal Charter, special Act or pursuant to other legislation, for example, building societies or friendly societies, are not dealt with but the responsibilities discussed may usefully be borne in mind in the context of incorporated entities not within the Act . However, the guidance in this statement does not apply to members of a Limited Liability Partnership, whether they be designated members or otherwise. Certain specialised areas, including special rules for charitable companies and banks are not covered. |
|3. ||It is to be stressed that the aim is to guide directors and not to provide them with a detailed analysis of the law on the topic under discussion. Interpretation of the law often depends upon the particular circumstances and if directors are in difficulty over interpretation of their duties they should seek independent legal or other professional advice, or contact the Institute's Technical Enquiries helpline or Ethics helpline services. Reference to Section 7.1 'Professional conduct and disclosure in relation to defaults or unlawful acts', Section 9.5 'Anti-money laundering guidance for the accountancy sector' and to the Code of Ethics 3.4 'Professional accountants in business (Part C)' may also be useful. |
Part 1: General Duties and Responsibilities of Directors
Directors' status, powers and duties
Who is a director?
|4. ||A director, by whatever title, is one who is in practice responsible for the management of a company's affairs. There is no comprehensive definition of a director in statute, the only guidance given being that the term 'director' includes any person occupying the position of director, by whatever name called (Companies Act 2006, section 250). For example, in some companies management may be entrusted to 'Governors' or 'Council Members'. They will be directors. Further, and separately, the word director in some statutory provisions includes a de facto director, that is a person who acts as a director without having been appointed. 1 A definition of 'director' for certain taxation purposes is given in the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003, section 67. |
|5. ||A company must have a minimum of two directors if public, and a minimum of one if private (Companies Act 2006, section 154). At least one director must be a natural person (Companies Act 2006, section 155). The method of appointment of directors will generally be governed by the Articles. Normally the first directors are chosen by the subscribers to the company's Memorandum and thereafter by procedures as provided by the Articles, eg by the members in general meeting or by written resolution. At a general meeting of a public company, the appointment of each director must be voted on individually, unless a resolution that a single resolution will suffice has first been agreed by the meeting without opposition (Companies Act 2006, section 160(1)). |
|6. ||Certain particulars need to be filed with the Registrar of Companies. The Companies Act 2006 permits directors to file a service address with the Registrar of Companies for the public record. However, their home addresses must still be provided to the Registrar on a confidential basis (which are only accessible by certain government departments, and by credit reference agencies unless the director benefits from a Confidentiality Order). The conditions for service addresses are set out in The Companies Act 2006 (Annual Return and Service Addresses) Regulations 2 . |
|7. ||Certain legislative provisions concerning directors extend to 'shadow directors'. A shadow director is a class of director distinct from actual directors of the company, whether de jure/appointed directors or de facto directors (see paragraph 4 above). A 'shadow director' is defined as 'a person in accordance with whose directions or instructions the directors of a company are accustomed to act' (Companies Act 2006, section 251; CDDA86, section 22; and IA86, section 251), although it is provided that 'a person is not deemed a shadow director by reason only that the directors act on advice given by him in a professional capacity'. It should be stressed, however, that what is necessary is that the whole board of directors acts under the direction of the shadow director. Depending on the facts, it is possible for a bank or a 'company doctor' to be a shadow director. Where a shadow director is itself a company, it does not necessarily follow that directors of the corporate shadow director are themselves shadow directors. Instead each such person's own actions are looked at separately. Further analysis of the term shadow director is to be found in case law. 3 |
|8. ||'Executive' and 'non-executive' directors have the same duties in law. An 'executive director' is merely a director who has specific delegated responsibilities within the company, as an executive. Directors are not required to give continuous attention to company affairs unless their executive position so requires. However, all directors, including non-executive directors, should familiarise themselves with the company's affairs, including its financial position, and should attend meetings of the board, and of any committee of the board of which they are members, whenever they are reasonably able to do so 4 . The role of the non-executive director is discussed further in paragraphs 13 to 15 below. |
Who cannot be a director?
|9. ||Normally, the company's Articles will deal with the appointment of the directors ( Table A, regulations 73 to 80), but there are certain statutory restrictions: |
- a person may not be appointed a director of a company unless he has attained the age of 16 years subject to any exceptions granted by the Secretary of State (Companies Act 2006, sections 157 and 158);
- an undischarged bankrupt or a person subject to a bankruptcy restrictions order may not, without leave of the court, act as a director ( CDDA86, section 11);
- a person subject to a disqualification order from the court, or who has given a disqualification undertaking, may not act as a director ( CDDA86, sections 1 and 1A);
- a person cannot be a company's auditor and a director at the same time (Companies Act 2006, section 1214).
Status of directors
|10. ||A director is an officer of the company but is not necessarily an employee. The status of an employee is governed by the contract under which he serves the company. An executive director is normally both a director and an employee. |
|11. ||A director is entrusted with powers by the Articles. In some ways he is treated as an agent of his company and in others as a trustee of its assets, but strictly speaking he is neither one nor the other. |
|12. ||A director owes to his company seven statutory general duties (Companies Act 2006, sections 170 to 177), which might conveniently be divided into those of loyalty and good faith, analogous to those owed by a trustee, and those of care and skill, differing fundamentally from those owed by a trustee (see paragraphs 19 et seq below). |
|13. ||A director may have executive status or operate in a non-executive capacity. The non-executive director has a positive contribution to make in ensuring that the board fulfils its main objectives. He can exercise an impartial influence and bring to bear experience gained from other fields; executive directors would therefore be well advised to consider the appointment of such directors to serve alongside them. The Combined Code emphasises the importance of non-executive directors (see paragraphs 231 et seq ). The Combined Code is applicable to listed companies and operates on a 'comply or explain' basis. |
|14. ||The Combined Code provides that a board of directors should establish an audit committee of at least 3 non-executive directors, all of whom should be independent non-executive directors,. In the case of smaller quoted companies , the audit committee may have two members, and the committee may include (but not be chaired by) the company chairman. A smaller quoted company is, for this purpose, one that is below the FTSE 350 throughout the year immediately prior to the reporting year. At least one member of the audit committee should have recent and relevant financial experience. |
|15. ||Institute members are well qualified for appointment as non-executive directors because of the special skills and experience which they have to offer. It is important that, before accepting a board appointment, prospective non-executive directors should be aware that, other than as indicated in paragraph 8 above, their responsibilities in law are no different from those of directors holding executive status, and that they will be held to a standard of care and skill reflecting their professional expertise. They should also ensure that, in applying their skills, they do not act as professional advisers to the board - a director does not advise his fellow directors but has collective responsibility with them - and should satisfy themselves that the company has access to and gets all the outside professional advice that it needs. |
Powers of directors
|16. ||Directors are under a statutory duty to act within their powers (Companies Act 2006, section 171). They derive their powers from the Articles and they should study carefully the articles of their particular company. Directors also should have regard to the powers given to the company by its constitution (although a company need not have an objects clause - see Companies Act 2006, section 31). These powers must be exercised in a manner which is lawful under the Companies Acts. Acts which are beyond the company's powers or in contravention of the Companies Acts are likely to be ultra vires. |
|17. ||The company in general meeting may in certain circumstances exercise powers normally vested in directors, for example where there is deadlock on the board 5 or where there are no directors 6 , but these circumstances will be rare. |
|18. ||Directors must exercise their powers collectively and the majority decision will usually prevail. The Articles will govern how the directors are to proceed ( Table A, regulations 88 to 98) and will often authorise directors to delegate the exercise of their powers to a committee consisting of one or more directors, or to a managing, or other executive, director ( Table A, regulation 72). |
Duties of directors
|19. ||The duties of directors are owed to the company as a whole. Their duties and responsibilities arise out of common law and have been partly codified into statute (Companies Act 2006, sections 170 to 177). In codifying directors' duties, the Government's intention was for the most part not to change them but to 'make the law clearer and more accessible', which reflects 'the modern view that it is good business sense for companies to embrace wider social responsibilities' 7 . Therefore, interpretation of the general duties should take place within the previous structure of common law, which is acknowledged in section 170(4) of the 2006 Act. |
|20. ||A director of a company owes seven general statutory duties to the company (Companies Act 2006, sections 171 to 177). These seven duties are set out below: |
The Government has issued 8 the following high-level guidance as to how directors should act to ensure compliance with their duties:
- to act within powers;
- to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole (see paragraphs 21 to 24);
- to exercise independent judgment;
- to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence (see paragraph 25);
- to avoid conflicts of interest (see paragraphs 30 to 36);
- not to accept benefits from third parties; and
- to declare interest in proposed transaction or arrangement (see paragraphs 32 to 36).
- 'Act in the company's best interests, taking everything you think relevant into account.
- Obey the company's constitution and decisions taken under it.
- Be honest, and remember that the company's property belongs to it and not to you or to its shareholders.
- Be diligent, careful and well informed about the company's affairs. If you have any special skills or experience, use them.
- Make sure the company keeps records of your decisions.
- Remember that you remain responsible for the work you give to others.
- Avoid situations where your interests conflict with those of the company. When in doubt disclose potential conflicts quickly.
- Seek external advice where necessary, particularly if the company is in financial difficulty.'
|21. ||In promoting the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole, directors must have regard to, amongst other matters, six ancillary factors (Companies Act 2006, section 172). These factors are: |
- the likely consequences of any decision in the long term;
- the interests of the company's employees (see below);
- the need to foster the company's business relationships with suppliers, customers and others;
- the impact of the company's operations on the community and the environment;
- the desirability of the company maintaining a reputation for high standard business conduct; and
- the need to act fairly as between members of the company.
|22. ||This duty to promote the success of the company for the benefit of the members as a whole is often referred to as the 'enlightened shareholder value' duty and is related to the business review requirement in the directors' report discussed at paragraph 119. At the time of passage of the legislation, this caused concern that directors would need to document the considerations behind every decision so as to protect themselves from liability for breach of this duty in actions brought by the company itself (perhaps following a change of management) or by minority shareholders suing either in the name of the company (a derivative action - see Companies Act 2006, sections 260 to 269) or on the basis that they have been 'unfairly prejudiced' within the meaning of section 994. However, it is important to remember that this is a single duty owed solely to the company. Each factor should be taken into account in the context of its implications for the success of the company, and thus its members as a whole. Frequently some of the listed factors will be irrelevant to the particular decision. |
|23. ||The courts are likely to be reluctant to interfere with business decisions unless there is clear evidence of bad faith. The derivative claims provisions of the Act clarify the criteria and procedure for minority shareholders to bring a claim in the name of the company, but include protections to ensure that unmeritorious suits are quickly dismissed. Further, the directors will only be liable for breaches of duty that cause the company to suffer loss, or as a result of which they make a profit. |
|24. ||Directors should not therefore feel obliged automatically to create documentation showing they have considered all of the listed factors in making every decision; they should instead encourage a culture amongst themselves, and among those charged with briefing them and preparing board papers, where the wider consequences of decisions, on the success of the company, are routinely considered. As was the case before the Companies Act 2006, minutes should be produced so as to record decisions taken. |
|25. ||In performing their duties, directors must exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence. This means the care, skill and diligence that would be exercised by a reasonably diligent person with the general knowledge, skill and experience that may reasonably be expected of a person carrying out the functions carried out by the director in relation to the company (sometimes called the objective test) and the general knowledge, skill and experience that the director has (sometimes called the subjective test) (Companies Act 2006, section 174). Under the objective test, in general more would be expected of a director with an executive function (particularly a specific function such as finance director), whereas under the subjective test more would also be expected of a director having specifically relevant knowledge, skills and experience (such as a member of the Institute in respect of financial matters). The Combined Code, Schedule B gives guidance as to the care, skill and diligence expected of a non-executive director. Even in the case of a small company certain minimum standards should be attained 9 . |
|26. ||The statutory general duties do not include a duty to the company's creditors but the common law rules in this area continue to apply. The extent to which, for a company in a deteriorating financial condition, creditors' interests need to be taken into account, before they become overriding, cannot be stated with precision. The issue was succinctly summarised by the Company Law Review (Modern Company Law for a Competitive Economy - Final Report, Volume II, paragraph 3.17), when discussing whether a statutory rule could be formulated in this area, as follows: 'Arguably directors should also be bound to take a balanced view of the risks to creditors at an earlier stage in the onset of insolvency. Such a principle has been recognised in . . . one case in [the] Court of Appeal [ West Mercia Safety Wear Ltd v Dodds  BCLC 250 CA]. It would require directors, where they know or ought to recognise that there is a substantial probability of an insolvent liquidation, to take such steps as they believe, in their good faith judgement, appropriate to reduce the risk, without undue caution and thus continuing also to have in mind the interests of members. The greater the risk of insolvency in terms of probability and extent, the more directors should take account of creditors' needs and the less those of members. At the point where there is no reasonable prospect of avoiding insolvent liquidation the interests of creditors become overriding under . . . section 214 [of the IA86 ]'. 10 Where there is a real possibility of insolvent liquidation, the directors should seek appropriate professional advice (see paragraphs 296, 288 and 309 to 312 regarding wrongful and fraudulent trading). |
|27. ||Directors should bear in mind that breach of these duties, inter alia, may result in them being judged unfit to be concerned in the management of a company ( CDDA86, section 9) and lead to disqualification ( CDDA86, sections 6 and 8). |
Specific statutory duties
|28. ||Company law imposes a number of specific duties on directors, such as the preparation of annual accounts, and these are dealt with in later sections. However, one specific duty is examined in paragraphs 144 to 151, namely, the duty in relation to auditors. |
Duties falling upon the company
|29. ||The above are duties that under companies legislation fall directly upon the directors. Company law places other duties upon the company itself, as does other law, eg tax law in relation to the preparation of tax computations. The company can, however, act only through its directors, who in this regard are its agents. 11 Thus it will fall upon the directors to ensure that the company complies with such obligations, although it is of course customary that the directors delegate such tasks to others. The fact that a task may be delegated will not, however, relieve a director of all responsibility; if a task is delegated the director must ensure that the person concerned is suitable for the task and the director should take reasonable steps to monitor the work. However, a director may, depending on the circumstances, rely on his co-directors and the officers of the company although such reliance should not be wholly unquestioning. 12 |
Directors' relationship with company
|30. ||A director of a company must avoid any situation in which he has, or can have, a direct or indirect interest that conflicts or may conflict with the interests of the company. This applies in particular to the exploitation of any property, information or opportunity. It does not apply to a conflict of interest arising in relation to a transaction or arrangement with the company or if the matter has been authorised by the directors. Authorisation may be given by the directors of a private company if it does not conflict with the constitution of the company. 13 For a public company, the constitution may enable the directors to give such authority. Any such meeting must be quorate without counting the director in question (Companies Act 2006, section 175). Directors are advised to study the constitution of the company, which is normally the Articles, with care. |
|31. ||A director of a company must not accept any benefit from a third party by reason of his being a director. For these purposes, a third party is any person other than the company or associated body corporate or person acting on behalf of the company (Companies Act 2006, section 176). This does not prevent, for example, a firm contracting with a company to provide the company with a person's services as director and that firm paying that person. |
|32. ||If a director is in any way directly or indirectly interested in a proposed transaction or arrangement with the company he must declare the nature and extent of the interest to the other directors and this declaration must be made before the company enters into the contract or arrangement (Companies Act 2006, section 177). This declaration may (but need not) be made at a meeting of the directors or by notice in writing (Companies Act 2006, section 184) or by a general notice (Companies Act 2006, section 185). Where the declaration is required of a sole director of a company that should have more than one director, it must be in writing (Companies Act 2006, section 186). A director need not declare an interest if it cannot reasonably be expected to give rise to a conflict of interest or the other directors are, or ought to be, aware of the interest or it concerns terms of his service contract (Companies Act 2006, section 177). |
|33. ||A declaration by a notice is one sent to each other director in writing and may be in hard copy or in an electronic form agreed by the recipient and will be deemed to form part of the proceedings of the next meeting of the directors (Companies Act 2006, section 184). |
|34. ||General notice that the director has an interest in a specified body corporate or firm or is connected with a specified individual and that, after the date of the notice, the director is to be recognised as having an interest in any transaction or arrangement with such body corporate or firm or individual is a sufficient declaration. Such general notice may be given to the directors of the company at a meeting of the directors or brought up and read at the next such meeting. The notice must state the nature and extent of the director's interest in the body corporate, firm or person (Companies Act 2006, section 185). |
|35. ||Where a director becomes aware of an interest arising after the company has entered into a transaction or arrangement he must declare it in the same manner and with the same provisos as set out in paragraphs 32 and 33 above as soon as is reasonably practicable (Companies Act 2006, section 182). |
|36. ||If an unauthorised conflict or a failure to make a required declaration of interest does arise, the director will be personally liable for any loss suffered by the company and will have to account for any benefit which accrued to him. Under common law, if notice has not been given to the company, it may in certain circumstances avoid the contract (Companies Act 2006, section 178). Furthermore, failure to declare an interest in an existing transaction or arrangement is a criminal offence (Companies Act 2006, section 183). |
|37. ||Where there is any contract of service with the director, the contract or a written memorandum of its terms must be kept by the company and be open to inspection by its members who are also entitled to copies subject to payment (Companies Act 2006, sections 227 and 228). These rules also apply to contracts with the subsidiaries of the company. Members carrying out executive functions would be well advised to ensure that they have a written contract with the company. A contract should address, inter alia, duties, pay, sickness, holidays, pension, notice and dismissal procedures, confidentiality, proportion of time spent on company duties and competition. Best practice in the area of remuneration and contracts is addressed in the Combined Code. |
|38. ||Where the guaranteed term of a director's employment with the company or a subsidiary is or may be longer than two years, approval has to be given by a resolution of the members of the company and of the company's holding company of which he is also a director (Companies Act 2006, section 188). If a company agrees to a long-term provision in contravention of the requirement for such approval, the provision is void to the extent of the contravention and the company is entitled to terminate the contract at any time by giving reasonable notice (Companies Act 2006, sections 188 and 189). |
|39. ||The resolutions in paragraphs 38 41 and 42 below must not be passed unless, for a written resolution, a memorandum setting out the proposed contract is sent to every member at the same time as they are sent the resolution and, in the
case of a meeting, it is available at the registered office of the company at least 15 days before the meeting and at that meeting. Where a memorandum is not sent to or submitted to a member by accident, the requirement is disregarded for the purpose of determining whether the requirement has been met but the Articles may override this (Companies Act 2006, section 224).
Substantial property transactions
|40. ||An arrangement under which a director of a company or its holding company or a person connected with such a director acquires or disposes of a substantial non-cash asset from or to the company is voidable at the instance of the company unless it is first approved by a resolution of the members of the company or is conditional upon such a resolution being received. For this purpose substantial non-cash assets are those which either |
If the transaction or arrangement is subsequently approved within a reasonable time by the members of the company or the holding company as appropriate it can no longer be avoided. Whether or not the transaction has been avoided the director or the connected person is liable to the company for any gain he may have made and to indemnify the company for any loss or damage resulting from the arrangement or transaction. The Act should be consulted for further details (Companies Act 2006, sections 190 to 196).
- exceed 10% of the company's asset value and are more than 5,000 or
- exceed 100,000.
Arrangements of a financial nature
|41. ||Subject to the exceptions noted in paragraph 43, a company may not make a loan to a director of the company or of its holding company or give a guarantee or provide security in connection with a loan made by any person to such a director without the approval by a resolution of the members of the company. If the director is a director of the company's holding company then the transaction must also be approved by a resolution of the members of the holding company. The resolution must be accompanied by a memorandum, the requirements for which are set out in paragraph 39 and, in addition, the memorandum must disclose the nature of the transaction, the amount of the loan and its purpose and the extent of the company's liability under any transaction connected with the loan (Companies Act 2006, section 197). If the company is a public company, or is a company associated with a public company, the foregoing also applies to a person connected with a director of the company or of its holding company, if any. |
|42. ||Subject to the exceptions noted in paragraph 43, if the company is a public company or a company associated with a public company, it may not make a quasi-loan to, or enter into a credit transaction with, a director of the company or of its holding company or a person connected with such a director or give a guarantee or provide security in connection with a quasi-loan or credit transaction made by a person to such a director or connected person unless the transaction has been approved by a resolution of the members of the company. A memorandum is required to accompany the resolution, the requirements for which are equivalent to those specified in paragraph 41 above. A quasi-loan is one in which the company indirectly advances a sum to a person by paying that person's liability such as by paying that person's credit card or personal bills (Companies Act 2006, sections 198 to 203). A credit transaction is one under which a creditor disposes of land or supplies goods or services on the understanding that payment is to be deferred (Companies Act 2006, sections 198 to 203). |
|43. ||Various transactions are excepted from the above requirements for shareholder approval as follows: |
- Expenditure on company business if the value of the transaction and other relevant transactions or arrangements does not exceed 50,000 (Companies Act 2006, section 204).
- The cost of defending proceedings (Companies Act 2006, section 205).
- Expenditure in connection with a director defending himself in an investigation or proposed investigation by a regulatory authority or in order to avoid such expenditure (Companies Act 2006, section 206).
- Loans, quasi-loans, or the provision of a guarantee or security for a loan or quasi-loan not exceeding £10,000, and a credit transaction (or the provision of a guarantee or security in respect a credit transaction) not exceeding 15,000 (Companies Act 2006, section 207). The value of the transaction includes the value of any other relevant transactions or arrangements as defined by the 2006 Act, sections 210 and 211.
- A credit transaction, or a guarantee or provision of security in connection with a credit transaction, if it is in the ordinary course of business of the company and the value and terms are no more favourable than would have been offered to a person of similar financial standing not connected to the company (Companies Act 2006, section 207).
- Intra-group transactions (Companies Act 2006, section 208).
- Loans, quasi-loans or the provision of a guarantee or security for a loan or quasi-loan by a money-lending company in the ordinary course of its business that is not more favourable than would have been offered to a person of the same financial standing not connected with the company (Companies Act 2006, section 209).
|44. ||The consequences of contravention of the above requirements in relation to members' approval for loans etc are that the transactions or arrangements are voidable at the instance of the company. In the case of a contravention of the requirement for a members' resolution this can be rectified by a subsequent resolution within a reasonable period, after which the transaction or arrangement is no longer voidable (Companies Act 2006, sections 213 and 214). |
Directors' remuneration and compensation for loss of office
|45. ||Company law does not confer on a director any right to remuneration - such a right must come from the company's Articles and/or the director's service contract. Listed companies are expected to establish remuneration committees to act in setting directors' remuneration. The Combined Code addresses best practice provisions relating to remuneration committees and their procedures and also remuneration policy, service contracts and compensation. |
|46. ||A company may remove a director by ordinary resolution at a meeting before the expiration of his period in office provided Special Notice of such resolution has been given (Companies Act 2006, section 168) 14 , or by special resolution (Companies Act 2006, sections 282(5) and 283), in which case special notice is not required The board may be able to remove a director if it is given this right by the Articles of the company. This does not deprive the director of compensation or damages that may be due to him in respect of the termination. |
|47. ||A company may not make a payment to a director for loss of office unless the payment has been approved by a resolution of the members of the company, nor may it make a payment for loss of office to a director of its holding company unless payment has been approved by the members of that company by a resolution (Companies Act 2006, sections 217). This rule does not apply to certain termination payments or liquidated damages set out in an existing legal obligation in an employment contract (see paragraph 50 below). This rule also applies to payments for loss of office in connection with a transfer of the whole or any part of the undertaking or property of the company and to payments in connection with a share transfer resulting from a takeover bid (Companies Act 2006, sections 218 and 219). |
|48. ||A memorandum must be circulated with the resolution to the members under the same formalities as described in paragraph 39 above. Definitions of 'payments for loss of office' and further conditions relating to the sale of shares and the amounts to be taken for loss of office are set out in sections 215 to 217 of the Act . |
|49. ||Accounting regulations made under Sections 412 and (for quoted companies ) 421 of the Act specify the disclosure to be made in a company's accounts in respect of a director's remuneration and compensation for loss of office (see paragraphs 111 and 127 below). In addition, UK listed companies are required by the Listing Rules to make additional disclosures (see paragraph 128 below). |
|50. ||Approval by the members is not required for payments made in good faith: |
- by way of discharge of an existing legal obligation or by way of damages for breach of such an obligation;
- by way of settlement or compromise of any claim arising in connection with the termination of a person's office or employment;
- by way of a pension in respect of past services;
- if the amount or value of the payment by the company or any of its subsidiaries together with the amount or value of any other relevant payments does not exceed 200 (Companies Act 2006, section 220 and 221).
|51. ||If a payment is made without the members' approval it is held in trust for the company making the payment and any director who approves the payment is jointly and severally liable to indemnify that company. If the payment is made in connection with a share transfer it is held on trust for the persons selling the shares and any costs of distributing it to those persons must be covered by the person holding the monies in trust (Companies Act 2006, section 222). |
Statutory provisions in relation to directors' liability
|52. ||Any provision that purports to exempt a director of a company, to any extent, from any liability that would otherwise attach to him in connection with any negligence, default, breach of duty or breach of trust in relation to the company is void. Similarly, any provision by which a company directly or indirectly provides an indemnity, to any extent for a director of the company, or an 'associated company' against any such liability is void. (Both provisions are however subject to exceptions as described below.) An 'associated company' is broadly defined for this purpose as a company in the same group (Companies Act 2006, section 256). Note that this is different from the definition of an associate (or associated undertaking) for accounting purposes. Both prohibitions are however subject to the following exceptions (Companies Act 2006, section 232). |
|53. ||A company is permitted to purchase and maintain for a director of the company, or an 'associated company' (see paragraph 52 above), insurance against any such liability (Companies Act 2006, section 233). The existence of such 'Directors and Officers' (D&O) insurance does not exonerate members from their obligations. |
|54. ||The other exceptions are qualifying third party indemnity provisions and qualifying pension scheme indemnity provisions (Companies Act 2006, sections 234 and 235). These provisions permit, subject to certain conditions, companies to indemnify directors in respect of proceedings brought by third parties. The indemnity may cover liability incurred by the directors to any person other than the company or an 'associated company' (see paragraph 52 above). This may include legal costs and the costs of an adverse judgment. However, the indemnity must not cover criminal fines, penalties imposed by regulatory bodies (e.g. the FSA ), the defence costs of criminal proceedings where the director is found guilty, and (for third party indemnity provisions) the defence costs of civil proceedings successfully brought against the director by the company or an 'associated company' and the costs of unsuccessful applications by the director for relief under section 1157 of the Act (honest and reasonable conduct). Companies entering into any indemnity provisions should consider obtaining appropriate legal advice. Such qualifying indemnity provisions have to be made available for inspection by members of the company and disclosed in the directors' report of the company whose directors benefit from the provisions and also, where relevant, in the directors' report of the 'associated company' giving the indemnity (Companies Act 2006, sections 236 and 237). |
|55. ||A company may ratify conduct by a director amounting to negligence, default, breach of duty or breach of trust in relation to the company. The decision of the company to ratify such conduct must be made by resolution of the members of the company. The director in question and any member 'connected with him' may not vote on the resolution. This provision does not affect any other enactment or rule of law imposing additional requirements for valid ratification or any rule of law as to acts that are incapable of being ratified by the company (Companies Act 2006, section 239). |
|56. ||There is a specific 'safe harbour' in the case of the directors' report, the directors' remuneration report and any summary financial statement so far as it is derived from either of those reports. A director is not subject to any liability to a person other than the company resulting from reliance, by that person or another, on information in such a report. It also prevents any third party seeking any other relief (Companies Act 2006, section 463(5)). A director of a company is liable to compensate the company for any loss suffered by it as a result of any untrue or misleading statement in such a report or the omission from such a report of anything required to be included in it. However, the director is liable only if he knew the statement to be untrue or misleading, or was reckless as to whether it was untrue or misleading, or he knew the omission to be dishonest concealment of a material fact (Companies Act 2006, section 463). |
|57. ||There are specific provisions concerning liability of the company for false and misleading statements in certain publications made pursuant to the Transparency Obligations Directive for companies with securities traded on a regulated market. The publications concerned are annual financial reports, half-yearly reports and interim management statements. The provisions also cover material included in a preliminary announcement that will appear in the annual financial report in substantially the same form ( FSMA2000, section 90A). |
|58. ||An issuer of securities to which these provisions apply is liable to pay compensation to a person who has acquired such securities issued by it (but not a person who has sold or held them) and has suffered a loss in respect of them as a result of any untrue or misleading statement in a publication to which the provisions apply or the omission from any such publication of a matter required to be included in it. A person is not considered to have suffered a loss unless he can demonstrate that it was reasonable for him to place reliance on, and had relied on, the information in the relevant publication. Furthermore, the company is so liable only if a director knew the statement to be untrue or misleading, or was reckless as to whether it was untrue or misleading, or was reckless as to whether it was untrue or misleading, or knew the omission to be dishonest concealment of a material fact, and only if the claimant acted in reliance on such statement in circumstances where it was reasonable for the claimant so to rely. A person other than the issuer (e.g. a director) is not subject to any liability, other than to the issuer, in respect of such loss ( FSMA2000, section 90A). |
|59. ||These provisions restrict liability, to pay compensation to a third party, to the company. However, if a director is party to an untrue or misleading statement, he might still be liable (under common law) to compensate the company for any loss suffered as a result of a claim from a third party. |
|60. ||HM Treasury is consulting 15 on whether to extend this statutory regime on issuer liability:to issuers with securities admitted to trading on non-regulated markets and to cover all disclosures to a Regulatory Information Service. The proposals would also permit sellers (but not holders) of securities to recover losses incurred through reliance on fraudulent misstatements, and impose liability on issuers for dishonest delay. |
|61. ||There is nothing in company law to prevent a director, his spouse or minor child entering into any transaction relating to his company's shares, so long as it does not constitute insider dealing (see paragraph 63 below), market abuse (see paragraph 64 below) or infringe the Articles (for example, care should be taken to ensure compliance with any restrictions on transfer such as pre-emption rights). However, for a company with shares traded on a regulated market, under Chapter 3.1.2R of the DTRs, any person with managerial responsibility and their connected persons must notify the company in writing within four business days of all transactions on their own account in the shares of the company or any other derivatives or financial instruments related to the company's shares. DTR Chapter 3.1.3R specifies what has to be reported. As soon as possible after receipt of the information and, in any case not later than the end of the next business day following its receipt, the company must inform a Regulated Information Service of any information given to it ( DTR 3.1.4R). |
|62. ||All directors of companies traded on any market ( regulated markets and non-regulated markets ) must establish and comply with internal protocols to control share dealings. For example, listed company directors must comply with the Model Code set out in the Annex to LR9. Such rules provide that no directors (or employees with access to inside information) may deal in shares without first obtaining clearance from a designated director, and clearance to deal must not be given during a period where there exists any matter which constitutes inside information in relation to the company, nor when the company is in a 'close period' 16 , broadly speaking, covering its year end and results announcements (including half yearly and quarterly announcements). |
|63. ||For a company traded on any market ( regulated markets and non-regulated markets ), a director must not deal in any of its securities if he is in possession of unpublished price sensitive information in relation to those securities. Part V of the Criminal Justice Act 1993 makes insider dealing a serious criminal offence; contravening the legislation can lead to an unlimited fine or imprisonment. Insider dealing may involve dealing in securities on the basis of inside information, encouraging another on the basis of such information or disclosing inside information otherwise than in the proper performance of a person's duties. A person has information as an insider if it is, and he knows that it is, inside information or he has it, and knows that he has it, from an inside source. Inside information must relate to a specific issue of securities or to a particular issuer or issuers of securities, which is specific or precise and would be likely, if made public, to have a significant effect on the price of the security. Information that relates to securities or issuers of a general nature or has been made public is not inside information. |
|64. ||Market abuse is behaviour in relation to qualifying investments admitted (or in respect of which a request has been made for admission) to trading on any market, whether a regulated market or non-regulated market. Market abuse includes dealing or attempting to deal on the basis of inside information (subject to certain defences), disclosing inside information otherwise than in the proper course of one's employment, profession or duties, and the creation of a false or misleading impression relating to qualifying investments (including artificial prices) through transactions or orders to trade. The market abuse offences are civil rather than criminal offences. They are contained in FSMA2000, section 118 and are enforced by the FSA, which can publicly censure offenders, and require them to pay unlimited penalties and/or compensation. They sit alongside the criminal insider dealing offences mentioned at paragraph 63 above, so action can be taken against a person under FSMA2000, section 118 in addition to prosecution for the criminal offence of insider dealing. |
Part 2: Financial Reporting and Accounting Responsibilities
|65. ||In relation to financial and accounting matters, directors have extensive, specific duties. This part 2 of this statement gives an overview of this wide area. Put shortly, directors are required to maintain accounting records and to prepare accounts. There is a choice of accounting standards (ie, UK standards or EU-adopted IFRS ) to apply and if UK standards are used there are special rules in the Act dependant on size. A company must also prepare a directors' report containing a business review (not required of a certain size of company) and quoted companies must prepare a detailed directors' remuneration report. Subject (principally) to a size-based exemption, these accounts and reports are subject to audit. The audited accounts and reports must be sent to members and filed on public record; there are however provisions facilitating the sending to members of a summary document and the filing, for certain sizes of company, of cut-down or abbreviated versions of the accounts. Where these accounts and reports are found to be defective, the Act facilitates revision. In addition to these duties under company law, other requirements can arise in relation to accounts and reports by virtue of market or regulatory rules, such as in relation to corporate governance codes or half-yearly reports. All of these matters are discussed in some further detail in paragraphs 66 to 241. |
|66. ||A company is required to keep adequate accounting records, being those that are sufficient to show and explain the company's transactions (Companies Act 2006, section 386). 17 More specifically they must: |
- disclose with reasonable accuracy, at any time, the financial position of the company at that time;
- enable the directors to ensure that any accounts required to be prepared comply with the requirements of the Companies Act and, where applicable, of Article 4 of the IAS Regulation;
- contain entries from day-to-day of all sums of money received and expended by the company and the matters in respect of which the receipt and expenditure take place; and
- contain a record of company assets and liabilities.
In the case of a company dealing in goods, the accounting records must also:
- contain statements of stock held by the company at the end of each financial year;
- contain statements of stocktakings from which any statement prepared under (v) above is made; and
- except when the sale is an ordinary retail sale, contain statements of all goods sold and purchased showing the goods and the buyers and sellers in sufficient detail to enable the goods and the buyers and sellers to be identified.
|67. ||A parent company which has a subsidiary undertaking in relation to which the above does not apply (e.g. an overseas subsidiary), must take reasonable steps to ensure that the undertaking keeps such records as are needed to enable the directors of the parent company to ensure that any accounts required to be prepared under Part 15 of the Companies Act 2006 (including consolidated accounts) comply with the requirements of that Act and, where applicable, of Article 4 of the IAS Regulation. |
|68. ||Failure to keep accounting records in accordance with the above requirements may render every officer of the company liable to a fine, imprisonment or both (Companies Act 2006, section 387). |
|69. ||In addition to the statutory requirement to keep adequate accounting records, the directors have an overriding responsibility to ensure that they have adequate information to enable them to discharge their responsibility to manage the company's business. |
|70. ||The duty to promote the success of the company will involve ensuring that adequate control is kept over its records and transactions, for example: |
The nature and extent of the accounting and management information needed to exercise this control will depend upon the nature and extent of the company's business.
- debtors and creditors;
- stock and work in progress;
- capital expenditure; and
- major contracts.
|71. ||To restrict the possibility of actions for wrongful trading, directors will need constantly to be aware of the company's financial position and progress, and the accounting records should be sufficient to enable them to be provided with the information required for drawing conclusions on these matters. The directors should also be satisfied that proper systems to provide them with regular and prompt information are in place (see also paragraph 310 et seq below). |
|72. ||Directors must also be aware of a company's prospects. It may therefore be prudent to prepare a budget in the short term and a business plan in the longer term against which the subsequent performance of the business can be measured. Periodic management accounts assist in enabling the actual operating results and cash position to be compared with the plan. Once again, the need for, extent and frequency of the preparation of such accounts and the level of management to which they are presented, will depend upon the size, scope and nature of the business. However, the directors' report on the financial statements must contain an indication of the likely future developments in the business of the company (and its subsidiary undertakings when group accounts are prepared) ( Large/Medium Companies Accounts Regulations 2008, Schedule 7, Paragraph 7(b)), and a business plan is likely to be helpful in this context. 18 It is also likely to be relevant for the preparation of the business review which requires a description of the principal risks and uncertainties facing the company as well as (in the case of a quoted company ) details of the main trends and factors likely to affect the future development, performance and position of the company's business (Companies Act 2006, section 417). |
Retention of records
|73. ||Accounting records are required to be kept at the company's registered office or at such other place as the directors think fit and such records must be open at all times to inspection by the company's officers (Companies Act 2006, section 388). Special provisions apply where the records are kept outside the United Kingdom. |
|74. ||Subject to any directions in respect of the disposal of records in a winding up, the records must be preserved in the case of a private company, for 3 years from the date on which they were made, and in the case of a public company, for 6 years from the date on which they were made (Companies Act 2006, section 388). |
|75. ||However, directors may feel that it is wise to keep documents for longer in view of the periods which the law allows for legal actions to be brought. The main minimum limitation periods are: |
- in the case of simple (i.e. non-specialty) contracts, 6 years from the date on which the cause of action arose (Limitation Act 1980, section 5);
- in the case of specialty contracts (i.e. contracts under seal), 12 years from the date on which the cause of action arose (Limitation Act 1980, section 8);
- in cases of personal injury, 3 years from (i) the date the cause of action accrued; or (ii) the date of knowledge (if later) of the person injured (Limitation Act 1980, section 11);
- in cases of negligence (excluding personal injuries), the time limit for an action for latent damage will be the later of:
- six years from the date on which the cause of action accrued; and
- where the facts are not known at the date the cause of action accrued, three years from the earliest date on which the plaintiff, or any person in whom the cause of action was vested before him, had the knowledge required to bring an action and a right to bring such action (Limitation Act 1980, section 14A);
- an overriding time limit for actions for negligence (excluding personal injuries) of 15 years is imposed from the date on which there occurred any act or omission:
- which is alleged to constitute negligence;
- to which the damage in respect of which damages are claimed is alleged to be attributable (Limitation Act 1980, section 14B);
- in actions to recover trust property, 6 years from the date on which the right of action accrued, save where the claim relates to a fraudulent breach of trust or where the action is to recover trust property from the trustee (Limitation Act 1980, section 21). In this context, directors are treated as trustees 19 ; and
- Companies within the scope of the Money Laundering Regulations are required to retain records of the identification of their customers or clients for the duration of the business relationship and for five years after the termination of the business relationship or after an occasional transaction has been completed. Specific transaction records must be retained for five years from the date the transaction was completed, or general transaction records until the business relationship ends.
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