For a company shares can be divided in classes, and rights may be conferred according to the classes at the time of starting a company in England or UK. This article discusses about rulings regarding the rights given to shareholders for opposing any change made in the class rights and the classification of class rights with relevant case studies.
Rights of Shareholders for Objecting to the Variation
Section 127 of Companies Act 1985 is dedicated for the provisions regarding this topic. It states that:
- The section under consideration may only be applicable if, after starting a ltd company UK there is a situation where the company owns a share capital which has been partitioned into different groups of shares i.e. classes:
- The memorandum or the company’s articles provide rulings for ratifying the variation in rights of classes of shares subject to:
- The assent of any proportion, as specified, of the shareholders of that class shares that have been issued.
- The permission via passing a resolution in a meeting arranged separately, for the shareholders of those shares.
- Also, the rights linked with any shares’ class can be subjected to variation whenever required while complying with that provision.
- Any class of shares’ rights can be changed under the second provision of Section 125 of Companies Act 1985.
- After starting a ltd company UK minimum of 15% aggregate of the shareholders shares that have been issued and belong to the questioned class, (as persons who did not agree to the variation or did not vote in support of the resolution proposing the variation), are allowed to give application to the court for revocation of the passed resolution and once the court is applied for such a purpose, the variation does not become effective unless the court confirms it.
- An application to the court should be given for the cancellation of variation in at most 21 days after the passing of resolution or giving the consent. Also, it should be submitted on behalf of those persons holding shares who are given authority to apply to the court by such 1 or greater number as may be appointed by them in written form for the purpose.
- When the court has heard from the applicant and other individuals who submitted application to the court for taking interest in this matter and call a hearing, then the court is allowed to, upon its satisfaction after giving regard to the situation, allow or disallow the variation. The verdict given by court may be final then.
- In 15 days after the verdict is given by the court regarding the submitted application, the company has to submit a copy of such order to the company’s registrar that monitors company’s record and the process of company formation companies house, and if this is not obeyed then the company along with its every officer who is responsible for the default, will be liable to a fine and if it is continued, then liable to a fine daily.
- By “variation” this section also refers to abrogation and by “varied” it should be deemed accordingly.
Case Study: Cumbrian Newspapers Group Limited
The rights given to a member after starting a company in England or UK can be deemed as rights of class although they do not refer to any specific shares. For further elaboration a case study of Ltd establish company in UK is presented.
For making it difficult for any person outside the company to gain hold of the local newspaper and for focusing the business of publishing newspaper under single title, an arrangement was made in 1968 between the plaintiff and the defendant company. In consequence to the arrangement, the plaintiff was given 10.67% of shares that were ordinary and belonging to the defendant company. the defendant company was Cumberland. The defendant company’s articles were subjected to alteration in a way that gave the plaintiff:
- According to articles 7 and 9, the pre-emptive rights for over the rest of the ordinary shares of the company.
- According to article 5, rights regarding the shares that had not been issued yet.
- According to article 12, right for appointment of directors, as long as it owned 10% shares.
The verdict given by Scott J was that these rights given to the plaintiff were its class rights that could only be subjected to any change by following Section 125 of Companies Act 1985.
The verdict he gave stated:
- I pay attention to the critical argument that are the rights given to the plaintiff by article 5,7,9,12, the plaintiff’s class rights or not? The authorities or rights given by company’s articles can belong to either of the three categories. The first category has rights belonging to specific shares. For instance, the rights for dividend and the rights for taking part in surplus property of the company at the time of liquidation. If it is specified in the articles that some specific rights attached to specific shares are not given to the shareholders of other shares then those rights will be deemed as attached to a specific group or class, under section 125 and 4th article of Table A. Rights belonging to this group are rights belonging to particular class of shares. It was agreed firstly by Mr. Howarth that there should be a limitation of including rights of the shareholders who own shares in question at the time, in this type. By imposing such a restriction would lead to deprive the named individual from his specific rights, given expressly for his shares, but expressed for determination upon transferring shares by that individual.
- In Palmer’s Company case, there is a form regarding creating a share of the life governor in the company. It was also accepted by Mr. Howarth that rights bestowed in accordance with this precedent would be deemed as rights linked with specific class of shares. He also agreed fairly, that the rights before alienation will be described as belonging to a class of shares, even if any clause annulling the rights on alienating the share which bestowed those rights exists. However, the rights given to the plaintiff by the articles 5,7,9 and 12 cannot be deemed as belonging to the first type, as the rights did not link with any particular group of shares. The rights given by 5,7,9 articles do not refer to any particular shares currently held by the plaintiff. Article 12 gives rights that depend upon the plaintiff who owns 10% of the ordinary shares that have been issued. However, the rights do not belong to any specific shares. Any of the ordinary shares belonging to the defendant company, when enough in amount and under the holding of the plaintiff would authorise the plaintiff to utilise those rights.
- The second category has rights or benefits given to any particular person, that do not lie within the authorities or rights of shareholding members, and other members but for unapparent goals they are linked with the governance of the matters of the company or the operation of businesses. In the case of Eley v Positive, there was a clause in the articles authorising the plaintiff to be the solicitor in the defendant company. It was sought by the plaintiff to be deemed as a contract between the company and the plaintiff. However, he failed for reasons that need not be mentioned here. But the case conferred a benefit upon the plaintiff that did not lie in the capacity of the members or shareholding members of the company. Probably it is apparent that such a category does not include class rights. In Eley v Positive, the plaintiff owned no shares when the articles were devised.
- In a situation where any person was issued the shares under the articles that gave him any right, simultaneously with the adoption of such articles, taking a decision would have been difficult. However, in every situation it should be concluded that the rights did not lie within the scope of the rights given to shareholders and other members, henceforth the rights cannot be termed as class rights. In my opinion, the rights given to the plaintiff cannot be termed as a type of the second category.
- The third category involves rights that are not linked with any class of shares, but lie within the scope of authorities given to the shareholding or non-shareholding members of the company. In my opinion the rights given to the plaintiff by 5th, 7th, 9th and 12th articles, fall into this type. In the case of Bushell v Faith, there was a provision in the articles of the company, when there was voting being done upon a resolution for removing any director, the director would hold three votes for each share. This was done to save the director from getting removed via simple majority’s votes. The provision was upheld by the court. This provision, in my views, falls within this third category. The right was not linked with any group of shares and they lied within the capacity of the director as a shareholding member of the company. The provision of the articles divided the shareholders into two categories, one of them held directorship along with shares, and one of them were just shareholders at the moment.
- The case of Bushell v Faith and the current case, are both relevant to rights given by the articles. In the case of Rayfield v Hands, there were restrictions upon the members by company’s articles. It was required from the members by a provision in the articles, to auction all of their shares to the directors of the company at a fair value. The members were given ‘put’ options that could be utilised against the directors. It was held by Vaisey J, that the restrictions imposed via the articles on the directors, could be enforced for that time. It was held by him that the restrictions that the directors were being subjected to lied in their capacity as company’s members.
- It can be seen from his verdict, that just like Bushell v Faith, there were two categories of shareholders. One group of shareholders were directors as well, whereas the other group was only holding shares in the company. There were certain advantages given to the latter over the former. The groups were divided not on the basis of the group of shares but on the basis of office that the former held. However, for the rights given to the latter and the restrictions on the former, the requirement was to hold shares in the company. The rights may fall, in my opinion in the third type.
- In the current case, the rights given to the plaintiff under the 5th, 7th,9th and 12th articles fall in the scope of membership or shareholding of the company. Hence, the rights can be exercised by the plaintiff unless he holds ordinary shares in the company. I believe, that if the plaintiff gave away all of its ordinary shares of the company, then the plaintiff would also not be able to exercise the rights given to it by the articles. However, the rights do not attach to any specific shares. Hence, the plaintiff would require to own at least few shares in the defendant company to enforce rights bestowed by articles 5,7,9. And for the power given by 12th article, the plaintiff would need to hold a minimum of 10% shares in the company.
- As, in my views, these rights fall in the third group, the question that is left to be answered is that whether these rights are attached to class in the meaning of section 125 of Companies Act 1985, and Table A’s article 4.
He then analysed the language and confirmed that they were rights attached to the class per Section 125 and Table A’s 4th clause.