Directors of companies: Liability, Indemnification and Insurance

In terms of the previous Companies Act directors could generally only act with the consent or approval of shareholders in a number of cases. The Companies Act 71 of 2008 (“the Act”) grants more default powers to directors than the previous Company Act. The increased powers come at a cost to directors: they are more exposed to personal liability should the company suffer harm or loss due to the actions of a director.

One of the most important sections of the Act is Section 77 which sets out the liability of directors for various contraventions of certain sections of the Act. Three of the subsections imposing liability will be briefly highlighted below.

Section 77(2) provides that the director of a company may be held liable in accordance with the principles of the common law relating to breach of a fiduciary duty for any loss, damages or costs sustained by the company as a consequence of any breach by the director of the duty as envisaged in the Act.

A director can furthermore be held liable in terms of Section 77(2)(b) in accordance with the principles of a common law relating to delict for any loss, damages or costs sustained by the company as a consequence of any breach by the director of a duty of care, skill and diligence.

Section 77(3) also provides that a director of a company is liable for any loss, damages or costs sustained by the company as a direct or indirect consequence of a director having amongst others acquiesced in the carrying on of the company’s business, despite knowing that it was being conducted in a manner which could be reckless, grossly negligent or fraudulent. In the context of reckless trading it is important to bear in mind that the question is very relevant when the company incurs debts at a stage when it is insolvent.

To guard against the possibility of liability, a director may wish to be indemnified by the company for any damages caused by the director, or, alternatively, to be covered by insurance, paid for by the company, to hold the directors harmless against any claim by the company for damages caused by the director. The Act regulates the circumstances under which such indemnity and the purchase of insurance are possible.

Should you wish to obtain advice on any of the issues raised in this article, you may contact any of the following people:

Richard Stevens – richards@cluvermarkotter.law
Max Loubser – maxl@cluvermarkotter.law
Luzanne Brink – luzanneb@cluvermarkotter.law
Anton Melck – amelck@cluvermarkotter.law
Marieke Wild – mariekew@cluvermarkotter.law

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Changes in Trust administration at the Master’s Office Part two: Amendment and Deregistration of Trusts

Recently we published an article about the changes in the way the Master’s Office deals with Trust Administration in terms of a Circular issued in March 2017.  Some of the other important implications of the amended procedures are:

Amendment of Trusts:

  • The Master will in future ensure that amendments comply with the prescribed provisions regarding amendments, and will not amend any protected provisions of a Trust Deed.
  • Inter Vivos Trusts can be amended without the consent of the Beneficiaries with vested rights, if the Trust Deed expressly permits the amendment thereof by the Trustees, and as long as the amendment falls within the conditions for amendment as set out in the Trust deed. If the amendment clause does not refer to Beneficiaries, the consent of all the Beneficiaries with vested rights should still be obtained.
  • Testamentary Trusts cannot be amended by the Trustees and Beneficiaries of the Trust, although Beneficiaries may renounce their rights.

Deregistration of Trusts:

Reasons for the termination, as well as proof that the Trust has no further assets or liabilities to be submitted to the Master.

Special Trusts:

The administration of Special Trusts and Trusts created for the receipt of Road Accident Fund Compensation, are contained in the Master’s Circular.

Should you wish to discuss what the impact of the changes would be in respect of a specific Trust Deed, or need assistance with any Trust related administration, you are most welcome to contact our Trust Administration Department today.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Changes in trust administration at the Master’s Office Part one: Trustees

The Master of the High Court recently published a Circular which changes the way in which Trust Administration is handled by the Master’s Office.  Some of the most important implications of the changed procedures are:

Independent Trustees:

  • Updated requirements and amended forms to be completed by Independent Trustees
  • The Master must, when a Trust is registered for the first time, and is a “family business unit”, consider appointing an Independent Trustee

Appointment of Trustees:

  • Identity of Trustees are to be confirmed with certified copies of Identity Documents
  • New rules prescribed for the way in which a corporate Trustee is replaced
  • Confirmation that the Master may refuse the appointment of a Trustee only under certain circumstances
  • In case of a change in Trustees, the Letters of Authority are to be returned to the Master
  • Before dealing with Trust Assets, Trustees need to be authorized to act as Trustees in terms of a Letter of Authority issued by the Master

Resignation of Trustees:

  • If the Trust Deed makes provision for the resignation of a Trustee, those procedures are to be followed
  • If no provision is made for resignation, notice should be given to the Master and Beneficiaries with vested rights in terms of Sec 21 of the Trust Property Control Act, 1988.

Should you need assistance with any Trust related administration, or would like to discuss what the impact of the changes would be in respect of a specific Trust Deed, please contact our Trust Administration Department today.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Changes in trust administration at the master’s office Part two: amendment and deregistration of trust

Recently we published an article about the changes in the way the Master’s Office deals with Trust Administration in terms of a Circular issued in March 2017.  Some of the other important implications of the amended procedures are:

Amendment of Trusts:

  • The Master will in future ensure that amendments comply with the prescribed provisions regarding amendments, and will not amend any protected provisions of a Trust Deed.
  • Inter Vivos Trusts can be amended without the consent of the Beneficiaries with vested rights, if the Trust Deed expressly permits the amendment thereof by the Trustees, and as long as the amendment falls within the conditions for amendment as set out in the Trust deed. If the amendment clause does not refer to Beneficiaries, the consent of all the Beneficiaries with vested rights should still be obtained.
  • Testamentary Trusts cannot be amended by the Trustees and Beneficiaries of the Trust, although Beneficiaries may renounce their rights.

Deregistration of Trusts:
Reasons for the termination, as well as proof that the Trust has no further assets or liabilities to be submitted to the Master.

Special Trusts:

The administration of Special Trusts and Trusts created for the receipt of Road Accident Fund Compensation, are contained in the Master’s Circular.

Should you wish to discuss what the impact of the changes would be in respect of a specific Trust Deed, or need assistance with any Trust related administration, you are most welcome to contact our Trust Administration Department today.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Antenuptial contracts: With or without the accrual system?

The default matrimonial property law regime in South Africa is a marriage in community of property.  This happens by law if parties sign a marriage register (which is usually signed on the day of the wedding) without having signed an Antenuptial Contract before signing the marriage register.  The parties to such a marriage share one estate, i.e. all debts and assets are jointly owned by both parties.If parties decide to marry out of community of property, they have to enter into an Antenuptial Contract to separate their respective estates.

What is an antenuptial contract?

An Antenuptial Contract is an agreement in terms of which the parties determine that they want their marriage to be out of community of property.  When preparing the Antenuptial Contract, one of the important decisions is whether the accrual system (explained below) will be applicable to their matrimonial property regime or not.  An antenuptial contract is prepared by a Notary Public and signed by both parties and two witnesses in the presence of the Notary Public.  The signed Antenuptial Contract has to be registered in the Deeds Registries Office within 3 months after date of signature.  The date of signing the marriage register and/or the wedding date is not relevant in this context.

What is the accrual system?

The accrual system is a regime that implements a formula whereby the party whose estate shows no accrual during the marriage, or a smaller accrual than the estate of the other, or in the case of the death of the first mentioned party, his or her executor, will have a claim against the other party or his or her estate for an amount equal to one half of the difference between the accruals of the respective estates of the parties.  For purposes of determining the accrual of each party, they will be expected to declare their asset values at the commencement of the marriage, which will be deducted from their asset value at the termination of the marriage, to determine the accrual.

The accrual claim only vests at the dissolution of the marriage and shall not during the subsistence of the marriage be transferable or liable to attachment or form part of the insolvent estate of either party.

Whether or not to include the accrual system in an Antenuptial Contract is a personal choice of the prospective spouses.

It is important that both parties consult with the Notary Public preparing the Antenuptial Contract so that they are both fully appraised of the consequences of the different regimes.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Employers Beware: Dismissal for Poor Performance Could Backfire

It is reasonable to want to dismiss an employee for not performing on the job, or failing to meet a specific target. However, Employers should ensure that the targets they set are actually achievable for the employee. If not, they could be found at fault for dismissing an employee who failed to achieve unreasonable targets.Damelin (Pty) Ltd vs Parkinson

In a recent judgement, delivered in January 2017, tertiary education company Damelin (Pty) Ltd, hired Parkinson as the general manager of the Boksburg campus. Parkinson’s employment contract stated that, ‟continued nonattainment of performance goals may result in the termination of employment.”

When Parkinson took up his position in January 2011, the campus had 352 enrolled students of which 168 were first-year students. His target for 2012, which was the national target, was to enrol 420 first year students by February 2012. Andrew Pienaar, the national sales director, estimated that there were 15 000 grade 12 learners in the catchment area of the Boksburg campus. Parkinson queried the target, saying that his team contacted all the schools in the area and there were only 12 735 grade 12 learners in his area. He claimed that unrealistic numbers give rise to unrealistic targets, and that it was like being set up to fail.

The actual enrolment of first-year students for the Boksburg campus for 2012 was 117 first year students. In 2011, the figure had been 168. Parkinson had not met the target. A disciplinary inquiry was convened. Parkinson was charged with poor work performance relating to his failure to reach sales targets and was dismissed.

Unhappy with his dismissal, Parkinson and his union went to the CCMA. The commissioner determined that the dismissal was the appropriate sanction. Still dissatisfied, Parkinson then went to court. The court determined that dismissal could only be considered as a fourth step in terms of Damelin’s disciplinary code. The court set aside the award and reinstated Parkinson saying that the informal letters written to Parkinson could not be considered warnings, and that he was not given an appropriate amount of time to reach his targets.

Conclusion

Employers should remember that problems relating to an employee’s performance should, generally speaking, not be dealt with as misconduct but as incapacity which necessitates a different process than misconduct. Setting unrealistic expectations on employees could set them up for failure. In these circumstances, dismissal would not be appropriate. It is therefore important that employers ensure the standards they set for their employees are achievable within a reasonable amount of time. Employers should also first assist their employees where performance is not of the required standard before dismissal can be considered.

Reference: Case no: JA 48/15

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

How and when to use the small claims court

The small claims court (SCC) is for any natural person who wants to institute a minor civil claim against someone else. Juristic persons, for instance a company, cannot institute claims in the SCC, but only file a counterclaim.  You can also claim against companies and associations. However, the claims are limited to amounts that are less than R 15 000. This excludes the State, meaning a person cannot make a claim against a local municipality, for example. Claims made in the SCC are done quickly and cheaply without having to use an attorney and anyone, except juristic persons, are allowed to use them. The SCC is located in every Magistrate’s Court.Read more about the SCC on The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s website: justice.gov.za.

Where do I start?

Before running to the court to make a claim, first contact the person you intend to claim from (“the Defendant”) and ask them to fulfil your request. Let them know you are planning on going to the court to make a claim against them if they don’t comply. If your claim can not be settled informally, the next step would be to deliver a written letter of demand to the Defendant.

The clerk of the SCC will help you to draft your letter of demand. The letter should set out the details of the claim, including the amount. Give the Defendant at least 14 days from the day of receiving your letter to settle your claim.  Make sure the Defendant receives an actual physical copy of the letter. This can be posted to the Defendant, or you can simply take it to the Defendant directly.

So, 14 days has passed and the Defendant didn’t respond. Now you can go to the clerk of the SCC with documents to institute your claim. Firstly, you will need proof that you delivered the letter of demand. This can be a post office slip, for example.  You will also need a contract or document that gives a basis for your claim. Your claim can’t just be based on thin air. Lastly, provide the SCC with all the details of the person you’re claiming from, such as name, address and phone number.

The summons

The clerk of the SCC will help you in drawing up the summons.  Once the summons is complete a hearing will also be scheduled. You then have to serve the summons to the Defendant in person and get them to sign it. Don’t be surprised if they are visibly upset. Remember to make copies of all the documents and keep them. Also give copies to the Defendant. The original documents must be handed over to the clerk of the SCC before the day of the hearing. This information will be kept in the court file.

After the Defendant receives the summons, the Defendant may deliver a plea (written statement) to the clerk of the court. The Defendant may also issue a counterclaim. Regardless of whether the Defendant institutes a plea or counterclaim, the Defendant still has to attend the hearing. On the other hand, the Defendant may decide to fulfil your claim before the hearing, you should then issue a written receipt and let the clerk of the SCC know that you won’t be continuing with the case.

Going to the hearing

You and the Defendant must appear in court in person, attorneys or lawyers are not necessary. Remember to bring along all the documents on which your claim is based, there’s no point in showing up empty-handed. If you have witnesses, make sure they also come with you to the hearing. The SCC proceedings are basic and straight-forward. As mentioned, no attorneys are involved. As the proceedings begin, answer any questions that the commissioner of the court asks you. If you want and the commissioner agrees, then you can direct questions to the Defendant.

The final judgment

After the proceedings have been completed, the court will make a judgment, which is final. There may, however, be some grounds for review. If the judgment is against you, then you should settle any order for costs. Since the court judgment is final, you have to abide by it. You can’t change your mind afterwards.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Can I amend my Will?

Having a Will is a final statement of how you want your assets to be managed after your death. However, sometimes you may want to change it. You may have had a child, for example, and want to add him/her into your Will. You may have also acquired more assets and would like to reconsider how they get divided among your possible heirs.

What is a Codicil?

When you want to add something to your Will or make a minor change, then you can make use of a Codicil. A Codicil is a minor addition or minor amendment to an existing Will. The legal requirements for a valid Will also apply to a Codicil. A Codicil needs not be signed by the same witnesses who signed the original Will.

What if I want to amend my Will?

  1. All amendments to a Will must comply with the legal requirements as stipulated in the Wills Act. If you want to make material amendments to an existing Will, it is always advisable to draft and sign a new Will.
  2. The original Will and the Codicil are separate documents, signed at different times and not necessarily before the same witnesses.

Must I amend my Will after divorce?

A bequest to your divorced spouse in your Will, which was made prior to your divorce, will not necessarily fall away after divorce.

  1. The Wills Act stipulates that, except where you expressly provide otherwise, a bequest to your divorced spouse shall not take effect if you die within three months of the divorce.
  2. This provision is to allow a divorced person a period of three months to amend his/her Will, after the trauma of a divorce.
  3. Should you however fail to amend your Will within three months after your divorce, your divorced spouse will benefit as indicated in the Will.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.

References:

http://www.justice.gov.za/master/m_deseased/deceased_wills.html

 

When is there a cooling-off period after a sale; allowing a purchaser to have second thoughts?

Consumer Protection Act

The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) provides for a cooling-off period if a transaction results from direct marketing, allowing a purchaser to get out of a sale agreement. It is often mistakenly thought that this applies to all transactions where the CPA applies. This is not so.

Section 16 of the Consumer Protection Act says:

A consumer may rescind a transaction resulting from any direct marketing without reason or penalty, by notice to the supplier in writing …, within five business days after the later of the date on which

  1. The transaction or agreement was concluded; or
  2. The goods that were the subject of the transaction were delivered to the consumer.

What is direct marketing?

The Act defines direct marketing as follows:

“direct marketing” means to approach a person, either in person or by mail or electronic communication, for the direct or indirect purpose of-

   (a)   promoting or offering to supply, in the ordinary course of business, any goods or services to the person; or

   (b)   requesting the person to make a donation of any kind for any reason;

 This means that if you conclude a transaction for the supply of goods or services in response to an unsolicited offer made to you in person, or by telephone or by email, you can get out of the transaction within five business days.

The “cooling-off” period does not apply to sales that result from any other form of marketing such as conventional print advertising or any transaction concluded when a customer buys goods in a shop.

How can you get out of the transaction?

You can do this by without reason and without having to pay a penalty, by simply giving notice to the supplier in writing, or in another recorded manner and form.

You must give the notice within five business days after the date on which-

(a)   the transaction or agreement was concluded; or

(b)   the goods were delivered;

whichever is the later date.

Cooling-off period when buying certain residential property

Under the Alienation of Land Act, residential property transactions for R 250 000.00 or less are also subject to a “cooling-off” period of five working days. This does not apply to residential properties sold for more than R 250 000.00. This provision remains in place and is not affected by the CPA.

Section 29A of the Alienation of Land Act says that a purchaser may revoke the offer to buy the land or the deed of sale within five days after signing the offer or deed of sale personally or through an authorized agent acting on written authority.

The written notice to revoke must be signed personally or by an authorized agent and must be unconditional.

Where an offer is revoked or deed of sale is terminated within the cooling-off period, every person who received any amount from the purchaser or prospective purchaser in respect of the offer or sale, shall refund the full amount of such payment to the purchaser within ten days of the date on which the notice to revoke was delivered to the seller or his or her agent.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal advice. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.

5 Reasons to do Estate Planning TODAY

Drawing up a Will and doing Estate Planning may sound like hard work, but here are some reasons why you should do this TODAY:

  1. It means that you are providing for your loved ones:

In addition to looking after your health and the health of your family, you also should be planning for their financial wellbeing after your death.  None of us wants to think about dying, but to neglect planning for it can be disastrous for your family.

  1. No estate is too small for planning:

Even if you think that you do not own much, you need to plan for somebody to be appointed as Executor of your Estate.  You have to make provision for a Guardian if you have minor children, and plan how inheritances of minors should be managed after your death.

  1. With proper advice, the process is not complicated:

You may think that Estate Planning is complicated and difficult.  Now is the time to discuss with our experts the questions you have.  They can explain the process, and advise on which documents you need to have drawn up.

  1. Estate Planning need not be time-consuming:

Once you have discussed the basics with one of our experts and taken the important decisions, most of the planning process can be done via email or the telephone.  We will then finalize the documents for your signature, and assist you with the formalities.

  1. Spending money now will save money later:

Yes, it will cost money to have an attorney draw up your Will and Estate Plan, but having a properly drawn up Will, which has been executed (signed) correctly, ensures that there will be no complications after your death.  If your Estate Plan is updated regularly to take into account any changes in legislation, you also ensure that no unnecessary taxes are paid after your death.

Should you want to draw up a Will, or update your Will, or simply check that your Estate Plan still meets your needs, you are most welcome to contact our Trust and Estate Planning Department today.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)