Partnership and Shareholder Disputes: Understanding your Rights
Partnership and shareholder disputes
With top-level business agreements, there is always the potential for partnership disputes between directors and shareholders. One of the most effective things you can do when involved in a shareholder dispute, even one involving a breach of fiduciary duty, is to fully understand your position, your legal rights and the range of potential outcomes of your specific disputes.
Shareholder and partner dispute solicitors are necessary for resolving disputes, whilst keeping the interests of the company a priority. Partnership and shareholder disputes can also be expensive; it is therefore, important that you are aware of your funding and insurance options to ensure your dispute resolution is dealt with in the most cost effective way.
Types of partnership and shareholder disputes
Shareholder disputes can arise at any point during the course of business, for a range of reasons. Some of the main types of partnership and shareholder disputes we have encountered include:
- Partnership disputes – Disputes can arise within any partnership due to disagreements on the apportionment of the partnership, when one partner wants to leave the partnership, or during an equitable winding down process. All of these situations have potential to give rise to issues and complications for the business and remaining partners.
- 50/50 shareholder deadlocks– Disputes often arise in situations where no written shareholders’ agreement has ever been drawn. When there are no minority and majority shareholders, disagreements can arise when minority shareholders are required to make key business decisions and no shareholder has the majority vote.
- Unfair prejudice claims– In situations where shareholders believe the company’s affairs have been conducted in a manner that is unfair and could impact the interests of the shareholders, an unfair prejudice claim can be brought by majority shareholders under Part 30 of the Companies Act 2006. Through Court proceedings, an Order can be sought which allows an affected shareholder to effectively be “bought out” by the company or other shareholders.
- Funding disagreements– Disputes regarding funding of a business are extremely common, especially when there has been no clear agreement made as to how the business will be funded beyond initial contributions from shareholders.
- Breaches of fiduciary duties – Conflict may arise from a director’s breach of a fiduciary duties and these breaches may ultimately result in derivative actions such as fraud or misfeasance claims.
Funding a shareholder dispute
Partnership and shareholder disputes can result in high levels of legal costs. Fortunately, there are funding and insurance options available to help you conduct litigation in a cost effective manner.
Third party funding
One funding method that is commonly used for partnership disputes is third party funding. Third party funding acts as a form of non-recourse financing for litigation. Third party litigation providers take on the financial risk of litigation so that clients can pursue a claim without having to worry about the legal fees associated with it.
In return for taking the risk, the litigation funder will typically seek a share of the proceeds in the region of a fifth to a third of any damages recovered. This means that you keep up to 80% of the reward, having taken none of the risk. If the claim is unsuccessful, the funder will lose their investment.
Damages based agreement
A damages based agreement (DBA), also known as a contingency fee agreement, is a type of arrangement made between a client and a solicitor in which the solicitor agrees to fund their case and share the risk of litigation. In return, the solicitor will be paid a percentage sum of the damages recovered as long as the client’s case is successful.
DBAs provide that, instead of being paid on a conventional hourly rate, the solicitor’s legal fees are only payable in the event that the case is successful. Therefore, these types of agreements allow clients the opportunity to pursue a case without having to worry about the solicitors’ fees associated with it. In some circumstances, however, fees for Counsel and other disbursements may still be payable by the client.
After the event (ATE) legal expenses insurance is taken out after the event that has led to a dispute has taken place to protect you in the case of your claim being unsuccessful. ATE insurance can protect you from paying your opponent’s legal costs, should your claim not be successful.
However, ATE insurance is not free, and it is important to remember that if your case is successful, you may have to use some of your reward to pay the cost of the insurance premium, which will be included in the terms and conditions.
The use of third-party litigation funding, CFAs and ATE insurance can sound complicated, but they are simply risk management tools and when used correctly, they can make all the difference to a partnership or shareholder dispute case.
How Annecto Legal can help with shareholder disputes
Concerned about a conflict of interest or the development and direction of a company? Maybe you’re a shareholder aggrieved that directors are not meeting their legal responsibilities or that they’re paying themselves too much?
Are you worried that taking legal advice could be too expensive? Or that speaking to a lawyer will escalate matters?
Getting the right advice early, and without spending lots on legal fees, is the best way to save money and protect your position.
Annecto Legal helps clients realise the value of their shareholder disputes. We work closely with litigation funders, insurers and lawyers that seek alternatives to the traditional hourly rate funding model.
Annecto Legal Ltd, 106 Kennedy Building, Murray Street, Manchester , M4 6HS
0800 612 6587