Two recent cases on Beddoe relief: What happens if you forget to apply and Beddoe relief for appeals

The Grand Court of the Cayman Islands and the High Court in England and Wales have recently considered two unusual applications for Beddoe relief: an application by a trustee for retrospective Beddoe relief after the conclusion of proceedings; and an application by a trustee for Beddoe relief in respect of bringing an appeal in the Supreme Court of England and Wales. These two cases are discussed below.

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English High Court considers scope of beneficiaries right to request information from trustees

In the recent case of Lewis v Tamplin ([2018] EWHC 777 Ch) the London High Court was asked to exercise its jurisdiction to supervise trustees in the performance of their obligations by requiring trustees to give disclosure of documents requested by certain beneficiaries. The case also serves as a reminder of the rules regarding privilege between trustees and beneficiaries. We consider this case further below. Continue reading

ENGLISH HIGH COURT CONSIDERS THE USE OF THE COURT’S EQUITABLE JURISDICTION TO REMEDY DEFECTIVE EXECUTION

In the recent High Court decision of English v Keats [2018] EWHC 637 (Ch), the Court confirmed that it will use its equitable jurisdiction to remedy the defective execution of a deed of appointment. The case, in certain circumstances, has arguably also widened the meaning of ‘defective execution’, to include cases where one of the appointers failed to sign the deed. The case has cemented the modern application of this doctrine which dates back to at least 1728 and the case has also provided the potential for the scope of the “categories of people” condition to be reformed and widened in the future. Continue reading

Supreme Court considers limitation defence where directors have benefited from breach of fiduciary duty

The UK Supreme Court has recently considered section 21(3) of the Limitation Act 1980 which provides or a six-year limitation period for actions by a beneficiary to recover trust property or in respect of any breach of trust (other than where the claim is based upon a fraud or fraudulent breach of trust, or where the claim is to recover trust property held by a trustee, for which there is no limitation period).

In Burnden Holdings (UK) Limited v Fielding and another [2018] UKSC 14, the Supreme Court held that directors of companies are to be treated as being in possession of the property of their company. This means that in actions brought by companies against their directors in relation to the company’s property, the directors will be unable to rely on the six year limitation period where they are in possession of the trust property or its proceeds or have converted the trust property. The Court also commented, in passing, in relation to the (very common) position where trustees hold assets through companies. Continue reading

ENGLISH HIGH COURT FINDS SETTLOR RETAINED BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP

In the latest decision in the long running Pugachev dispute, the High Court considered the effect of five trusts set up by Mr Pugachev, and whether the trusts were shams. Birss J held that he would have been prepared to declare the five trusts shams, but on the true interpretation of the trust documents and considering the powers reserved to Mr Pugachev as protector, all five trusts were, in effect, bare trusts for the benefit of Mr Pugachev.

The first part of the decision has potentially wide effects in relation to assets held in trust subject to freezing orders. Paragraph 6 of the standard form freezing order in the annex to PD25A refers to “any asset which [the Respondent] has the power, directly or indirectly, to dispose of or deal with as if it were his own”. Following Birss J’s decision, this may include discretionary beneficial interests where the settlor has retained sufficient powers so as to be able to exercise effective control.

While the decision does not alter the test applied to whether a trust will be a sham, it is a rare example of the courts being prepared to find that a trust arrangement constituted a sham, and shows that the courts will look critically at the intentions on the part of the establishing trustees. We consider the decision further below.

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Transfer into Guernsey trusts set aside on grounds of mistake despite the fact the transfer was made solely to reduce tax

The Guernsey Royal Court recently ordered, under s. 69(1)(a)(iv) of the Trusts (Guernsey) Law 2007 (the “Act“), that a transfer of shares into Guernsey trusts be set aside on grounds of mistake. This was despite the fact that the transfer had been made for the sole reason of reducing tax liability. We consider the case, Whittaker v Concept Fiduciaries Ltd, further below. Continue reading

When not to tell a beneficiary?

In a recently released judgment, In the matter of C Settlement [2017] JRC 035A, the Jersey Royal Court confirmed that, in principle, a trustee can withhold information from a beneficiary with capacity about his rights under a trust. However the trustee will need to have sufficient reasons justifying withholding this information. The decision also confirmed that such non-disclosure could be maintained even if the trustee applied to the court for a ‘Beddoe order’ – a process which would normally involve the court seeking representations from all of the trust’s beneficiaries.

We consider this decision further below.

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IN THE MATTER OF THE A LIMITED FURBS AND THE B EBT [2017] 21/2017

Summary

The recent case of A Limited FURBS decided in the Guernsey Royal Court provides helpful clarification on the question often faced by offshore trustees about whether to submit to the jurisdiction of a foreign court in overseas legal proceedings. This was the first Guernsey case to consider this issue, prior to which it was thought the Guernsey court would take a similar approach to that of the Jersey court.

The decision confirms that Guernsey court will usually take the same approach as the Jersey court, namely that trustees of a discretionary trust should normally resist submission to the jurisdiction of a foreign court. The case clarified, however, that in certain circumstances (for example where the trustee has limited discretion) submission may be appropriate to assist the foreign court. The facts of A Limited FURBS fell into this latter category and so the judge sanctioned the trustee’s submission to the jurisdiction of the English court in the underlying matrimonial proceedings.

The case also confirmed that trustees should be encouraged to apply to their “home” court for directions before deciding whether to submit to the jurisdiction of an overseas court.

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Cayman courts emphasise the importance of Beddoe relief and its availability in situations where a third party claim is for an amount greater than the Trust assets.

In the case of X (as Trustee of the A Trust) v Y (beneficiary of the A Trust)[1], the court reiterated the importance for Trustees of seeking Beddoe relief before commencing or defending an action. Obtaining Beddoe relief ensures that Trustees are more likely to be indemnified against any adverse costs consequences than without such relief. The court also found that interested non-beneficiary third parties should be provided with informal notice of a Beddoe application but that the interests of the beneficiaries of a Trust outweigh the interest (actual or potential) of any third party in the trust assets in assessing the Trustees’ application.

Background Facts

The Claimant in these proceedings was the Trustee of the A Trust. The Trustee was involved in English proceedings in respect of a Sale and Purchase Agreement (“SPA“) which involved a claim against a consortium of sellers (including the Trustee) in relation to (a) breach of warranty, and (b) the tort of deceit.

The breach of warranty claim related to, amongst others, failure to disclose a dispute between the Trustee and another defendant (in the English proceedings) which was ongoing at the time of the execution of the SPA. The claim for deceit arose on the basis that the defendants (in the English proceedings) allegedly made material misrepresentations to the claimant (in the English proceedings) (“Z“) that no funds had been invested in the ill-fated Madoff Funds. Z avers that such investments were made before the SPA was signed and came to its attention after the SPA was executed.

The Trustee had sought directions from the Court to defend the English proceedings.  It also sought orders permitting it to borrow funds from the C Trust (i.e. another Trust), to discharge the costs of defending the English proceedings and, pre-emptively, for an indemnity for any costs and expenses properly incurred for those purposes, which would have been ultimately reimbursed from the A Trust assets.

Beddoe Relief

The case of Re Beddoe[2] established the principle that Trustees are able to apply to the court to seek permission to commence or defend proceedings using the trust assets while also obtaining an indemnity from the Trust for any adverse cost consequences. (That indemnity can be lost if the Trustees have failed to make full disclosure of all material facts when making the application for relief.)

It is important to note Trustees who do not seek Beddoe relief are not automatically barred from recovering the costs of litigation from the Trust funds.  However, such Trustees do not have the same certainty of protection as they would if they had obtained Beddoe relief.

The importance of seeking Beddoe relief

The Cayman courts have general jurisdiction to provide relief to a trustee in relation to the management or administration of trust money under section 48 of the Trusts Law (2011 revision). The case of Re Beddoe allows for the applicability of such directions specifically on the question of engagement in litigation.

Smellie CJ re-iterated Lindley LJ’s position in Re Beddoe where he stated that “…a trustee who, without the sanction of the Court, commences an action or defends an action, unsuccessfully, does so at his own risk as regards the costs, even if he acts on counsel’s opinion” especially given the “ease and comparatively small expense with which trustees can obtain the opinion of the Chancery Division on the question whether an action should be brought or defended at the expense of the trust estate“.

Therefore, the Court found the Trustee had adopted the correct approach in this case by seeking Beddoe relief from the court before proceeding with the litigation.

Rights of non-beneficiary third parties in a Beddoe application

The Trustee had provided Z with informal notice of the Beddoe application. However, Z contested that it should have been provided with formal notice so that it could have made appropriate formal representations to the court.

Smellie CJ found that in circumstances where Z is not a beneficiary in the A Trust, it is merely a third party asserting a disputed personal claim in contract or tort against the Trustee. Therefore, Z’s claim is one which is a dispute between a third party and a Trustee in relation to liabilities assumed by the Trustee in administration of the Trust. In such circumstances there is no need for Z to be provided with formal notice of the Beddoe application. However, Smellie CJ also found that Z would be adversely affected if its claim was successful and the Trustee had defended the claim at the expense of the Trust because the costs of the defence would reduce the value of the assets against which Z would have been able to enforce its judgment. The Trustee had therefore been correct to provide Z with informal notice of the Beddoe application. The court also took into account the representations made by Z in its response letter.

Decision

Given that Z’s claim exceeded the value of A Trust, if that claim were to be undefended the A Trust would certainly be exhausted to the detriment of the beneficiaries. However, in deciding how much weight should be given to Z’s interests, Smellie CJ decided that a contingent or putative creditor in Z’s position is not capable of asserting a proprietary claim to the Trust assets, and takes the Trust Assets as it finds them at the time of the judgement. The Trustee obtained Beddoe relief in these proceedings and was allowed to defend the English proceedings and would have had an indemnity from the Trust assets for the costs reasonably incurred in defending the claim.

Conclusion

As this case illustrates, it is important for trustees to ensure that:

  1. they seek the court’s permission before bringing or defending claims in relation to the trust assets (i.e. seek Beddoe relief); and
  2. to the extent that there are third parties interested in the trust assets who would be adversely affected by the outcome of any litigation, they should be provided with informal notice of any application for Beddoe relief.

 

[1] in the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands, Financial Services Division (unreported) 15 March 2017, Smellie CJ

[2] [1893] 1 CH 547