Investing in a company naturally entails joining a complex web of rights and obligations. As a shareholder, you’re entitled to a portion of the company’s profits and have a voice in its governance.
Yet, disputes can often surface during a company’s lifecycle – posing a risk to shareholder value. Therefore, learning how to manage these disagreements is vital.
Understanding shareholder disputes
Various triggers can ignite shareholder disputes. They may stem from divergent views on the company’s trajectory, dividend disbursements, management choices, or violations of directors’ duties.
Such conflicts can severely impact the business, disrupting operations, influencing share prices, and tarnishing the company’s image.
The legal framework surrounding shareholder disputes
The Companies Act 2006 is instrumental in addressing shareholder disputes, detailing directors’ responsibilities and providing provisions for minority shareholder protection. The legislation recognises the principle of majority rule, wherein majority shareholder decisions bind the minority.
Nevertheless, there are checks in place to shield minority shareholders from ‘unfairly prejudicial conduct’.
Under Section 994 of the Companies Act 2006, minority shareholders can petition the court in such situations. If the court deems the company’s actions unfairly prejudicial, it has wide-ranging powers to correct the situation.
Methods of Resolving Shareholder Disputes
Shareholder disputes can be resolved through various means, ranging from informal negotiations and mediation to formal legal proceedings. The best approach depends on the situation, but swift and efficient resolution, causing minimal business disruption, is usually most beneficial.
Negotiation – The initial step towards resolution should involve direct discussions between the involved parties. Candid dialogue often leads to a mutually agreeable solution.
Mediation – If negotiations stall, mediation serves as an alternate option. An impartial third party can facilitate these discussions, promoting compromise.
Arbitration – If negotiations and mediation fail, arbitration can provide a quicker, less formal resolution. But it’s important to remember that arbitration is legally binding.
Legal Action – As a last resort, shareholders might consider legal action. This process requires a substantial investment in time, money, and resources, so it should be used sparingly.
Preserving shareholder value
Preserving shareholder value lies at the heart of dispute resolution. Implementing a strong corporate governance framework can help pre-empt disagreements. Having a comprehensive shareholders’ agreement that clearly outlines shareholders’ rights and obligations is also beneficial.
Shareholder disputes, while undesirable, are sometimes an inevitable part of business operations. By comprehending potential causes and available remedies, shareholders can better safeguard their interests and protect their investments’ value.
It is always wise to seek legal counsel when dealing with such matters to ensure the most favourable outcome. For assistance and advice on shareholder disputes, feel free to contact us today.