Ipsofactoj.com: International Cases [2002] Part 5 Case 5 [HL]


HOUSE OF LORDS

Coram

Brewin Dolphine Bell Lawrie[a]

- vs -

Philips[b]

LORD STEYN

LORD HUTTON

LORD HOBHOUSE OF WOODBOROUGH

LORD MILLETT

LORD SCOTT OF FOSCOTE

18 JANUARY 2001


Judgment

Lord Steyn

My Lords,

  1. For the reasons given by Lord Scott of Foscote in his opinion I would also make the order which he proposes.

    Lord Hutton

    My Lords,

  2. I have had the advantage of reading in draft the speech prepared by my noble and learned friend Lord Scott of Foscote and for the reasons which he gives I would dismiss the appeal and make the order which he proposes.

    Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough

    My Lords,

  3. I have had the advantage of reading in draft the speech to be delivered by my noble and learned friend Lord Scott of Foscote. I agree with the order which he is to propose and with the reasons which he will give.

    Lord Millett

    My Lords,

  4. I have had the advantage of reading in draft the speech prepared by my noble and learned friend, Lord Scott of Foscote.

    I agree with it, and with the order he proposes.

    Lord Scott of Foscote

    My Lords,

  5. Section 238 of the Insolvency Act 1986 provides a remedy where a company goes into liquidation within two years after entering into a transaction at an undervalue. Where the section applies the liquidator may apply to the court for an order (subsection (2)) and the court (subsection (3)):

    shall, on such an application, make such order as it thinks fit for restoring the position to what it would have been if the company had not entered into that transaction.

  6. Subsection (4)(b) elucidates the meaning of a transaction at an undervalue:

    .... a company enters into a transaction with a person at an undervalue if - .... the company enters into a transaction with that person for a consideration the value of which, in money or money's worth, is significantly less than the value, in money or money's worth, of the consideration provided by the company.

  7. The company in the present case is A. J. Bekhor & Co ("AJB"). On 10 November 1989 AJB entered into agreements with Brewin Dolphin & Co Ltd ("Brewin Dolphin") and into agreements with Private Capital Group Ltd. ("PCG"). PCG was the parent company of Brewin Dolphin. These agreements were linked. I will describe later the nature of the link and how it arose. The purpose of the agreements was the sale of AJB's stockbroking business to Brewin Dolphin. On 17 October 1989, in order to facilitate and set the stage for the sale, AJB sold its stockbroking business and business assets to Bekhor Securities Ltd ("BSL"), a wholly owned subsidiary, for a consideration of 1. The transfer of the business to Brewin Dolphin was to be brought about by a transfer of the BSL shares. Accordingly, under one of the 10 November 1989 agreements with Brewin Dolphin, AJB transferred to Brewin Dolphin its shares in BSL. Brewin Dolphin thus acquired AJB's business. AJB received in return

    1. from Brewin Dolphin, the assumption by Brewin Dolphin of AJB's obligations to its employees, including, in particular, the obligation to make redundancy payments; and

    2. from PCG, under one of the 10 November 1989 agreements between AJB and PCG, a covenant by PCG to pay AJB 312,500 per annum for four years, the first payment to be made on 10 November 1990.

    This agreement was expressed to be a computer equipment leasing agreement and the payments were expressed to be rent payable for the right to use the computer equipment. The total "rent" to be paid over the four years was 1.25m. It was by no means a coincidence that 1.25m was the sum that it had been agreed would be paid for the stockbroking business. The computer equipment in question was not owned by AJB but had been leased from two lessors, Wirral Equipment Ltd and Asterrose Ltd. Each of the leases required the consent of the lessor to any subletting by AJB. Consent to the subletting of the equipment by AJB to PCG had neither been sought nor given. On account of default by AJB in paying the rent due under these head leases, the head leases were terminated in early 1990 and the computer equipment was recovered by the head lessors. This took place before the date, 10 November 1990, on which the first payment of 312,500 was due to be paid to AJB under the 10 November 1989 sublease to PCG. So PCG treated the sublease as having been brought to an end by the termination of the head leases, and consequently made none of the 312,500 payments.

  8. In the negotiations between AJB and Brewin Dolphin that had led to the 10 November 1989 agreements, the value of AJB's stockbroking business, and the sum to be paid for it, had first been agreed at 2.5m but later negotiated down to the 1.25m. There were two reasons why, under the form the transaction finally took, the 1.25m was to be paid to AJB not by Brewin Dolphin, the purchaser of the business, but by PCG as rent for the computer equipment spread over four years. One reason was that PCG hoped to be able to deduct the "rent" from its taxable profits. The other reason was that the payment of 1.25m for the goodwill of the stockbroking business would have prompted requirements by the regulatory authority for additional capital funding for that business.

  9. AJB was, at the time of these agreements, in deep financial trouble. A winding up order was made against AJB on 25 April 1990. The petitioners were Wirral and Asterrose. On 4 May 1990 an administrative receiver was appointed by AJB's debenture holder. There is no dispute but that AJB is, and was when the winding up order was made, hopelessly insolvent.

  10. On 24 June 1994 Mr Phillips, the liquidator and administrative receiver of AJB, and AJB in liquidation commenced proceedings against Brewin Dolphin and PCG. It was contended that the transaction under which AJB had transferred its shares in BSL to Brewin Dolphin, thereby, in effect, transferring its stockbroking business to Brewin Dolphin, was a sale at an undervalue. An order against Brewin Dolphin under section 238 was sought. As against PCG, payment of the four annual sums of 312,500 was claimed. The payment of these was said to be the means by which "part of the value of the share capital of Bekhor Securities Limited was due to be paid to [AJB]" (para 10 of the amended statement of claim).

    THE JUDGMENT OF EVANS-LOMBE J

  11. The trial took place before Evans-Lombe J: [1998] 1 BCLC 700. An important issue at the trial was the extent to which the 10 November 1989 agreement under which the BSL shares were transferred to Brewin Dolphin and the 10 November 1989 agreement under which PCG was to make the four annual 312,500 payments should be treated as together providing the consideration for the transfer to Brewin Dolphin of the BSL shares. The judge held that the two agreements were linked "in the sense that it was never contemplated that one would not be entered into without the other". (There is an obviously unintentional double negative in this sentence). This finding of fact by the judge was not challenged in the Court of Appeal or before your Lordships. Brewin Dolphin and PCG were, said the judge, contending on the one hand that the 10 November 1989 sublease of the computer equipment was to be treated as a separate transaction, capable of being treated as at an end on the recovery of the equipment by the head lessors, but contending on the other hand that PCG's covenant in the sublease should be treated as part of the consideration for Brewin Dolphin's purchase of the BSL shares.

  12. The judge said, at pp 723-724:

    It seems to me that it is not open to the defendants to put forward these two contentions simultaneously. If the payments made under the lease agreement were, in truth, part of the consideration for the purchase of the BSL shares under the share purchase agreement, then the lease agreement is not to be treated as a contract for the hire of goods within section 7 of the 1982 Act. Failure to ensure that PCG would be in position to enjoy possession of the leased equipment was not a breach going to the root of the share acquisition agreement nor did it constitute a repudiation of that agreement nor has the consideration for that agreement wholly failed, nor does the doctrine of eviction by title paramount have the effect of terminating that agreement.

    PCG and Brewin Dolphin were, he said, trying to "blow hot and cold". He held that it was not open to Brewin Dolphin and PCG to represent the four 312,500 payments as being part of the consideration for the shares, and, thus, of the stockbroking business. PCG's intention had been to set-off the four 312,500 payments against profit for the purposes of corporation tax. This could not be done if the payments were in truth part of the purchase price of the BSL shares. The judge concluded, therefore, that the covenant to make the payments under the computer equipment sublease had to be left out of account in considering whether, in selling the BSL shares to Brewin Dolphin, AJB had entered into a transaction at an undervalue. Leaving out of account the covenant to make the four annual payments of 312,500 the judge then set about the task of considering, on the one hand, what the value was of the shares, ie. in effect what the value was of AJB's stockbroking business, and, on the other hand, what the value was of the consideration that AJB had received.

  13. As to the value of the consideration received by AJB, the judge took account of the obligation cast on Brewin Dolphin under the share-sale agreement to meet redundancy costs. These costs, he noted, were the reason why, in the negotiations, an initial valuation of the business of 2.5m was reduced by 500,000 in early September 1989. The redundancy obligations were in the event discharged by Brewin Dolphin at a net cost, after the gross cost had been taken into account for corporation tax purposes, of 325,000. The judge's calculation of this figure has not been challenged nor has his conclusion that the 325,000 should be treated as consideration given by Brewin Dolphin for the BSL shares. The 325,000 was, he held, the only consideration given for the shares that could be taken into account. I have already explained why he declined to allow the value of PCG's covenant to pay the four 312,500 payments to be taken into account, notwithstanding that the total, 1.25m, was the sum it had been agreed AJB should receive for the business.

  14. On 9 November 1989 PCG had lent AJB 312,500 as a loan for a year intended to be repaid by set-off against the 312,500 payment that would become due on 10 November 1990. Consistently with his view about the "rent" to be paid by PCG under the sublease, the judge declined to allow that 312,500 to be treated as consideration for the transfer of the shares.

  15. As to the value of the shares, the judge noted that Brewin Dolphin/PCG had treated 1.25m payable over a period of four years as the value of the stockbroking business. He discounted the 1.25 million to 875,000 in order to arrive at the value as at 10 November 1989. He took into account certain other business assets and put a total value of 1,050,000 on the value of the BSL shares as at 10 November 1989.

  16. It had been argued for Brewin Dolphin that for section 238 purposes the value of the stockbroking business, and thus of the shares, was no more than nominal. Various pieces of evidence were referred to and various arguments were advanced in support of this contention but, at the end of the day, the judge declined "to depart from the prima facie value which results from what Brewin Dolphin were prepared to spend in acquiring the BSL shares". He deducted the 325,000 from the 1.05m and ordered Brewin Dolphin to pay 725,000 with interest. He dismissed the claim against PCG.

    THE COURT OF APPEAL

  17. Both Brewin Dolphin and PCG appealed. It is not clear to me why PCG did so. AJB cross-appealed, reviving the claim that PCG should be held liable to AJB in respect of the sums covenanted to be paid under the sublease notwithstanding that all the subleased equipment had been recovered by the head lessors. The Court of Appeal dismissed both the appeal and the cross-appeal. Their grounds, however, were rather different from those of the judge.

  18. The judge had held that the 10 November 1989 share-sale agreement and the 10 November 1989 computer equipment sublease were linked in that one would not have been entered into without the other and the four 312,500 payments under the sublease were the means by which the agreed consideration of 1.25m for the shares was to be paid to AJB. But he held that Brewin Dolphin and PCG were barred from relying on the 312,500 payments as part of the consideration for the shares. Morritt LJ, with whose judgment Laws LJ and Lord Woolf MR agreed, took a stricter approach to the identification for section 238 purposes of the "transaction." Morritt LJ said that unless the sublease agreement could be said to be a sham, or unless there had been an artificial division of the real transaction entered into by the parties, the form of the agreement into which the parties had entered would be determinative in identifying the transaction on which section 238 would bite. He identified the two issues before the court as being

    1. the value of the shares in BSL to be taken into account for section 238 purposes and

    2. the value of the consideration for those shares provided to AJB.

    And, at p 2060 of the report at [1999] 1 WLR 2052, he said this:

    The first two issues to which I referred earlier, particularly the second, depend on ascertaining, for the purposes of section 238 of the Insolvency Act 1986, what was the transaction alleged to have been entered into by the company at an undervalue. The allegation of the liquidator is that the share sale agreement was the transaction so that only the consideration passing to and from the company thereunder is to be taken into account. This was disputed by Brewin Dolphin on the basis that the court must have regard to the whole transaction not just that part of it the liquidator seeks to challenge. This is a point of some importance on the true construction and application of section 238. It is true that the word 'transaction' is very widely defined. It is also true, as submitted by counsel for Brewin Dolphin, that, given the purposes of sections 238, 339 and 423 to which it applies, the court should not strain to narrow the definition by judicial decision. However, the word 'transaction' is to be construed and applied as part of section 238 as a whole .... First, the transaction must be identified by reference to the person (or persons, for the singular must include the plural) with whom the company entered into it. Only the elements of the transaction between the company and that person may be taken into account. Thus, without more, a contract between the company, A, and B cannot be part of a transaction entered into by the company, A, with C. I introduce the caveat 'without more' to guard against cases where the transaction is artificially divided. The second limit appears to me to flow from the comparison the statute requires the court to make. In each case it is necessary to ascertain the consideration to be received by the company. In the case of section 238(4)(a) the transaction is either a gift or 'on terms that provide for the company to receive no consideration.' In other cases, as provided for in subsection (4)(b), the task is to ascertain the value of the consideration provided by the other person 'for' the consideration provided by the company. Whether or not the word 'consideration' in those contexts is confined to its legal meaning it clearly connotes the quid pro quo for that which it is alleged the company disposed of at an undervalue.

  19. Then, addressing himself to the facts of this case, Morritt LJ concluded that "the transaction" was the share sale agreement alone. He explained his conclusion in the following passage at p 2061:

    First, the parties acting at arm's length and for readily understandable commercial reasons chose so to structure the deal between them so that on the face of the documents the share sale agreement and the lease agreement effected two separate, though linked, transactions. There is no indication that this different treatment was a sham or otherwise colourable. If parties in such circumstances choose so to structure their commercial dealings in my view the court should give full weight to their intentions. Second, for the reasons I have already given, the share sale agreement and the lease agreement cannot be the same transaction for the purposes of the section because, though the company was party to both of them, only Brewin Dolphin was party to the first and only PCG party to the second. Third, the parties to the lease agreement .... unambiguously attributed the four annual payments of 312,500 to rent due thereunder for possession and use of the computer equipment to which it related. The promise to make those payments cannot be recharacterised as consideration from PCG or Brewin Dolphin 'for' the shares being sold by the company.

  20. For those reasons, different from those of the judge, Morritt LJ declined to allow the value of PCG's covenant to pay the 312,500 to be treated as part of the consideration for the shares.

  21. On the values to be attributed to the shares on the one hand and to the consideration given for the shares on the other, Morritt LJ agreed with the judge. So the appeal and cross-appeal were dismissed.

  22. This appeal by Brewin Dolphin and PCG is brought with the leave of your Lordships' House. There is no cross-appeal by AJB. So PCG stands excused from any liability to AJB under the 10 November 1989 sublease. The four payments of 312,500 each are not going to be made.

    THE FIRST ISSUE

  23. The first issue for your Lordships to decide is whether Evans-Lombe J and the Court of Appeal were right in declining to allow PCG's covenant in the sublease to be taken into account in assessing the value of the consideration for which AJB entered into the share sale agreement. Evans-Lombe J would, I think, have allowed it but for the view he took about Brewin Dolphin and PCG "blowing hot and cold". The Court of Appeal based its decision on the form of the agreements into which the parties had entered. In my respectful opinion, neither approach was right. One must, obviously, start with the share sale agreement. That was the agreement under which AJB agreed to divest itself of its allegedly valuable asset, namely, the shares in BSL. It is worth repeating the language of section 238(4)(b): ".... the company [AJB] enters into a transaction [the share sale agreement] with that person [Brewin Dolphin] for a consideration the value of which ...." etc. The subsection does not stipulate by what person or persons the consideration is to be provided. It simply directs attention to the consideration for which the company has entered into the transaction. The identification of this "consideration" is in my opinion, a question of fact. It may also involve an issue of law, for example, as to the construction of some document. But if a company agrees to sell an asset to A on terms that B agrees to enter into some collateral agreement with the company, the consideration for the asset will, in my opinion, be the combination of the consideration, if any, expressed in the agreement with A and the value of the agreement with B. In short, the issue in the present case is not, in my opinion, to identify the section 238(4) "transaction"; the issue is to identify the section 238(4) "consideration".

  24. On the facts of this case it is, in my opinion, plain that the consideration for the BSL shares was, apart from obligations assumed by Brewin Dolphin under the share sale agreement itself, the entry by PCG into the sublease agreement under which it covenanted to pay 312,500 per annum for four years. The facts are fully and clearly set out in Evans-Lombe J's judgment and are concisely and accurately summarised by Morritt LJ at pp 2056 - 2058 of the report in [1999] 1 WLR Both set out the relevant part of a memorandum prepared in September 1989 by Brewin Dolphin's finance director. The memorandum described what had been agreed:

    The basic concept is that Brewin Dolphin purchases the trade of [AJB] for a consideration of 1.25 million payable over four years .... The detailed scheme is as follows (1) [AJB] forms [BSL] as a subsidiary. [AJB] sells its business excluding its computer and other fixed assets to [BSL] .... [AJB] sells [BSL] to Brewin Dolphin. The purchase consideration would be 1 .... (2) [AJB] enters into a finance lease for the computer and other assets with PCG. PCG enters into an operating lease with Brewin Dolphin for the computer, the lease payments to be yearly in arrears for four years at a rate of 312,500. This means that the purchase price will be tax allowable and there will be no goodwill.

  25. So the purchase price of 1.25m was to be paid under the sublease in four annual payments of 312,500 each. No other conclusion is, in my opinion, possible but that on those facts the consideration for the BSL shares included the benefit of the covenant given by PCG under the sublease. In In re MC Bacon Ltd [1990] BCLC 324, 340 my noble and learned friend, Lord Millett, then a Chancery judge, analysed the requirements of section 238(4)(b). He said:

    To come within that paragraph the transaction must be (i) entered into by the company; (ii) for a consideration; (iii) the value of which measured in money or money's worth; (iv) is significantly less than the value; (v) also measured in money or money's worth; (vi) of the consideration provided by the company.

    In my respectful opinion, that is a useful breakdown of the statutory requirements. In the present case the agreement for the sale of the shares was entered into for a consideration which included the benefit of the sublease agreement. So I now move on to the issues of value.

    WHAT WAS THE VALUE, IN MONEY OR MONEY'S WORTH, OF PCG'S COVENANT UNDER THE SUBLEASE?

  26. This was not an issue which either Evans-Lombe J or the Court of Appeal had to consider. The approaches of each, different though they were, were alike in treating this issue as irrelevant. Naturally enough Mr Mitchell, counsel for Brewin Dolphin and PCG, contends that the value of the covenant was its face value. He points out that there is not, and never has been, any question as to PCG's ability to pay. I agree that there is no doubt as to PCG's ability to pay but the value of the covenant needs, in my opinion, to be investigated a little more deeply. The covenant was, according to the sublease, given in exchange for the right to use the computer equipment. But it appears that, by the end of September 1989, Brewin Dolphin had decided not to use the equipment in order to run the business it was negotiating to acquire but, instead, to update its own existing computer system. This decision did not, of course, affect the willingness of PCG to pay the 312,500 per annum for four years. The amount of those payments was attributable to the purchase, via the BSL shares, of AJB's business and was not attributable in the least to any value placed on the right to use the computer equipment. Nonetheless, the payments, according to the terms of the sublease, were for the right to use the computer equipment. The computer equipment, as Brewin Dolphin and PCG knew, was held by AJB under head leases from Wirral and Asterrose. Under each of these head leases, the lessee, AJB, was barred from assigning or subletting any of the equipment. The bar was expressed as an absolute one. It was not subject to the lessor's consent first being obtained or anything of that character. In each head lease the events on the occurrence of which the lessor would become entitled to terminate the lease include

    1. failure by the lessee to pay the due rent,

    2. the appointment of an administrative receiver of the lessee's assets, and

    3. breach by the lessee of any of the terms of the lease.

    The right to terminate was expressed to be exercisable "at any time [after the event in question] notwithstanding any subsequent acceptance by the lessor of any rental "

  27. The 10 November 1989 sublease, under which the four 312,500 payments were to be made, constituted, ipso facto, a breach by AJB of a term of the head leases. So the head leases became terminable at any time by the head lessors and the equipment comprised in the sublease could at any time have been repossessed by the head lessors. The re-possession of the computer equipment, which is what happened, would, and did, bring to an end the sublease and the payment obligations of PCG. So, what was the value, in money or money's worth, of a covenant by PCG that was so precarious?

  28. Mr. Mitchell suggested that the covenant was worth something, because the benefit of the sublease, and of PCG's obligation to pay the 312,500 sums, could have been assigned by AJB to the head lessors. There is, however, no evidence that the head lessors would have had any interest at all in such an assignment. If a covenant with the precarious character of PCG's covenant in the sublease is to have value attributed to it for section 238 purposes, the value must, in my opinion, be placed on a more firm footing than that of speculative suggestion. The actual events that took place in 1990, before any payment under the sublease had become due, are in my opinion, relevant. First, within a week of the date of the sublease agents for the head lessors wrote to AJB complaining about the sublease and threatening proceedings. In January 1990 AJB defaulted in payment of the rents due under the head leases and shortly thereafter the head lessors demanded the return of the equipment. On 5 February PCG confirmed that neither it nor Brewin Dolphin would obstruct the repossession of the equipment by the head lessors and on 23 February 1990 solicitors for PCG wrote to solicitors for AJB notifying them that "our client intends to accept your clients' repudiatory breach of the agreement between them. Alternatively there has been a total failure of consideration by your clients in relation to the lease of equipment dated 10 November 1989."

  29. PCG's covenant, which had been precarious at the outset, had become worthless by 23 February 1990 at the latest. To complete the point, AJB went into compulsory winding up in April 1990 and an administrative receiver was appointed in May. These events would inevitably have led the head lessors to terminate the head leases and recover their equipment, if they had not done so previously, thereby bringing the sublease to an end.

  30. Mr Mitchell submitted that these ex post facto events ought not to be taken into account in valuing PCG's sublease covenant as at 10 November 1989. I do not agree. In valuing the covenant as at that date, the critical uncertainty is whether the sublease would survive for the four years necessary to enable all the four 312,500 payments to fall due, or would survive long enough to enable some of them to fall due, or would come to an end before any had fallen due. Where the events, or some of them, on which the uncertainties depend have actually happened, it seems to me unsatisfactory and unnecessary for the court to wear blinkers and pretend that it does not know what has happened. Problems of a comparable sort may arise for judicial determination in many different areas of the law. The answers may not be uniform but may depend upon the particular context in which the problem arises. For the purposes of section 238(4) however, and the valuation of the consideration for which a company has entered into a transaction, reality should, in my opinion, be given precedence over speculation. I would hold, taking account of the events that took place in the early months of 1990, that the value of PCG's covenant in the sublease of 10 November 1989 was nil. After all, if, following the signing of the sublease, AJB had taken the sublease to a bank or finance house and had tried to raise money on the security of the covenant, I do not believe that the bank or finance house, with knowledge about the circumstances surrounding the sublease, would have attributed any value at all to the sublease covenant.

  31. Where the value of the consideration for which a company enters into a section 238 transaction is as speculative as is the case here, it is, in my judgment, for the party who relies on that consideration to establish its value. PCG and Brewin Dolphin are, in the present case, unable to do so.

  32. For these reasons I, as did Evans-Lombe J and the Court of Appeal for different reasons, would treat the value of the consideration for which AJB entered into the share sale agreement as being confined to the value of the consideration under that agreement. The sublease covenant, in my opinion, adds nothing.

    THE VALUE OF THE CONSIDERATION GIVEN BY THE COMPANY

  33. On this issue, Mr Mitchell submitted that AJB's business as at 10 November 1989 was worthless and that the BSL shares were therefore valueless. This submission was based on the fact that AJB appears to have been hopelessly insolvent and by November 1989 was trading at a substantial loss of 13,000 odd per day. The judge's findings on the value of the BSL shares are conveniently summarised at para 4.3 of AJB's case:

    (1)

    Bekhor's business assets were an attractive package to buyers such as Brewin Dolphin.

    (2)

    It could not be inferred that Brewin Dolphin was the only potential purchaser.

    (3)

    Brewin Dolphin was a reasonably well informed potential purchaser from the class of typical purchasers.

    (4)

    The contemporary view of what a reasonably well-informed potential purchaser was prepared to pay was some evidence in assessing the market value of the BSL shares.

    (5)

    Brewin Dolphin had been prepared to pay about 1,050,000 for the BSL shares.

  34. I respectfully agree with this approach. The value of an asset that is being offered for sale is, prima facie, not less than the amount that a reasonably well informed purchaser is prepared, in arms' length negotiations, to pay for it.

  35. On this issue the judge reached his figure of 1,050,000 after hearing and assessing the evidence, including expert evidence. It has not been demonstrated that in doing so he misdirected himself. The Court of Appeal reviewed the judge's conclusion. Morritt LJ at p 2063, described his conclusion as "eminently sensible and evidently right" and upheld it. Your Lordships have, in my opinion, been provided with no reason to come to any different conclusion.

    THE 312,500 LOAN

  36. In my opinion, in agreement with the judge and the Court of Appeal, AJB succeeded in establishing that, for the purposes of section 238, it had entered into a transaction, namely the share sale agreement, at an undervalue and that the amount of the undervalue was 725,000, ie. 1,050,000 less 325,000. The order made by the judge and upheld by the Court of Appeal required Brewin Dolphin to pay that sum, with interest, to AJB. Neither before the judge nor before the Court of Appeal was any account taken of the 312,500 loan that had been made by PCG to AJB on 9 November 1989 and that had been intended to be repaid by set-off against the same amount due on 10 November 1990. In my opinion, however, that sum ought to be taken into account. It constituted an advance payment, as a loan, of a part of the consideration that had been given for the BSL shares. The receipt of that sum was an advantage that AJB would not have received but for its entry into the share sale agreement and the sublease agreement.

  37. PCG has proved for that sum in the liquidation of AJB, but what, if any, dividend will be received is not known. I imagine it will be negligible.

  38. Under section 238(3), the court has a broad discretion to make "such order as it thinks fit for restoring the position to what it would have been if the company had not entered into that transaction". In my opinion, an order under the subsection that did not take account of AJB's receipt of the 312,500 would be unfair to Brewin Dolphin and PCG. I would, therefore, vary the order against Brewin Dolphin by allowing credit to be taken for the 312,500 and interest thereon. The interest should run from the same date and at the same rate as the interest on the sum payable by Brewin Dolphin. PCG will, of course, have to withdraw its proof for the 312,500 in the liquidation. With that variation to the order made by Evans-Lombe J, however, I would uphold the order and dismiss the appeal.


Cases

In re MC Bacon Ltd [1990] BCLC 324

Legislations

Insolvency Act 1986: s.238

Notes:-

[a]  formerly Brewin Dolphin & Co Ltd

[b]  liquidator of AJ Bekhor & Co


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