Stanford Worldwide Financial institution Ltd (in liquidation) v HSBC Financial institution PLC (Expedited) [2022] UKSC 34 – UKSC Weblog

On attraction from: [2021] EWCA Civ 535

The Appellant (“SIB”) is an organization integrated in Antigua and Barbuda that went into liquidation in 2009. Most of SIB’s enterprise was promoting funding merchandise to worldwide clients. Nonetheless, throughout 2003 to 2009, SIB was being run as a big Ponzi scheme. Buyer withdrawals and funds when funding merchandise supposedly matured had been being comprised of capital invested by different clients reasonably than funding proceeds. In 2008, many shoppers requested withdrawals from SIB fearing that it might turn out to be bancrupt.

SIB had 4 financial institution accounts with the Respondent (“HSBC”). These accounts had been frozen by HSBC on 17 February 2009 following SIB’s proprietor, Mr Robert Stanford, being charged by the US Securities and Change Fee. Previous to the accounts being frozen, from August 2008, Mr Stanford purportedly approved varied funds from the accounts. This attraction issues funds from the accounts totaling £116 million which had been used to pay SIB’s clients, some immediately and a few after cash was transferred by HSBC to SIB’s account with a special financial institution in Toronto (the “disputed funds”).

SIB’s declare is that HSBC was on discover that the directions to make the disputed funds might have been a part of a fraud. Accordingly, it’s alleged that HSBC was beneath an obligation of care, referred to as the Quincecare responsibility, to refuse to just accept Mr Stanford’s directions to pay out cash from the accounts (the “Quincecare declare”). HSBC’s software for abstract judgment to strike out SIB’s Quincecare declare was refused by the Excessive Court docket. Nonetheless, on attraction HSBC was profitable.

This attraction is worried solely with the next query: even when HSBC did owe SIB the Quincecare responsibility and was in breach of this responsibility, did the breach give rise to any recoverable loss by SIB?

HELD – Attraction dismissed by a majority. Woman Rose gave the lead judgment, with which Lord Hodge and Lord Kitchin agreed. Lord Leggatt, in settlement with Woman Rose, gave a concurring judgment. Lord Gross sales gave a dissenting judgment.

The Supreme Court docket distinguished between two units of SIB’s clients. First, clients who escaped with out loss as a result of they withdrew their funds (as they had been contractually entitled to do) earlier than the SIB scheme collapsed and so had been paid from the disputed funds (known as the “early clients”). Second, clients who threat shedding virtually all their cash as a result of they didn’t withdraw their funds earlier than the collapse (known as the “late clients”).

The bulk held that the disputed funds which relieved SIB of its legal responsibility to its early clients don’t quantity to a financial loss. Within the hypothetical state of affairs the place HSBC had complied with its Quincecare responsibility, SIB may need had an additional £116 million on liquidation. Nonetheless, it additionally wouldn’t have disbursed any of the money owed it owed to the early clients so they’d additionally declare a dividend within the insolvency alongside the late clients. As there could be an additional £116 million for the liquidators to distribute, all the shoppers would get, say, 12pence within the pound reasonably than the early clients getting 100pence and the late clients solely fivepence. However exactly the identical quantity of SIB’s debt could be extinguished when the corporate was dissolved in each the hypothetical and real-world state of affairs. There’s due to this fact no recoverable loss.

Addressing a sub-issue, the bulk held that the place a director, in breach of their fiduciary duties to an organization, causes an bancrupt firm to repay sure firm money owed, there could also be circumstances the place the director will be required to repay the bancrupt firm in respect of the funds. Nonetheless, this fiduciary legal responsibility doesn’t imply there’s a extra common precept that an individual who’s negligent will be liable the place the negligence leads to no financial loss.

Lord Leggatt agreed with Woman Rose that SIB has not suffered loss due to the disputed funds. He holds that the basic precept of separate company character means the pursuits of an organization are in regulation distinct from these of the individuals who’ve financial pursuits within the firm. Thus, the losses suffered by an organization should not the identical as losses suffered by its collectors. Whereas there could also be a correlation between these totally different losses, as a way to maintain the regulation coherent, the excellence between them shouldn’t be blurred. Lord Leggatt additionally agreed with the bulk with regard to the sub-issue on the legal responsibility of administrators.

Lord Gross sales dissented. In his view SIB has suffered a loss. On the related instances SIB was hopelessly bancrupt. Due to this fact, SIB couldn’t legally have paid the early clients the face worth of the money owed and, if it had not been deceived by Mr Stanford, it might not have chosen to take action; as an alternative, it might have retained its cash to spend on different, lawful functions. Cost of greater than was essential to the early clients depleted SIB’s property which constitutes a loss to SIB. It isn’t right to deal with the corporate as a pure abstraction. When SIB paid its early clients, its company character in regulation was a car to guard common collectors as an entire. The funds used to make the disputed funds is not going to be used to pay the overall collectors as an entire, as they need to have been. This diversion of funds is a loss to SIB. In relation to the sub-issue, Lord Gross sales held that his view supplies a transparent clarification as to a director’s legal responsibility on this context. In regulation, the pursuits of an organization which is hopelessly bancrupt are absolutely aligned with these of its collectors as a common physique. If an organization’s cash, beneath the management of the administrators, is paid out to discharge the money owed of some collectors out of the overall physique of collectors, the pursuits of the collectors as a common physique, and therefore the pursuits of the corporate, are prejudiced and this may give rise to recoverable losses.

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