Monthly Archives: May 2017

ESG investing and section 172 of the Companies Act 2006: Desperate times call for soft law measures

By Dr Georgina Tsagas, Lecturer in Corporate Law (University of Bristol Law School).

In this blog entry, Dr Tsagas provides an overview of her proposal for the reform of the UK’s Corporate Governance Code. Her full arguments will soon be published in G Tsagas, “Section 172 of the Companies Act 2006: Desperate times call for soft law measures”, in N Boeger and C Villiers (eds.), Shaping the Corporate Landscape: towards corporate reform and enterprise diversity, Oxford: Hart Publishing, forthcoming.

Section 172 CA 2006: Not worth the paper it is written on?

Section 172 of the Companies Act 2006 has been afforded much attention during Parliamentary discussions on the codification of directors’ duties and has since the enactment of the Companies Act 2006 occupied much space in discussions among scholars who share an academic interest in the shareholder/stakeholder debate, in policy documents on law reforms following a series of corporate failures, as well as in company law lecture notes provided by Law Schools across the UK.

The previous duty to act bona fide in the interests of the company has been substituted by section 172 CA 2006, which imposes on a director the duty to ‘act in a way he considers, in good faith, would be most likely to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole’ and in doing so must have regard to a series of factors listed in the section. The factors are: (a) the likely consequences of any decision in the long term, (b) the interests of the company’s employees, (c) the need to foster the company’s business relationships with suppliers, customers and others, (d) the impact of the company’s operations on the community and the environment, (e) the desirability of the company maintaining a reputation for high standards of business conduct, and (f) the need to act fairly as between members of the company.

With the UK leaving the EU, it is a critical time to discuss enlightened decision-making on boards, considering that, arguably, one of the key benefits of joining the EU with regard to UK company law, was that the UK was prompted to consider incorporating provisions affording a certain level of protection to the interests of other constituencies across a wide range of company and securities law Acts and regulations. What often escapes the attention of participants in discussions surrounding s. 172 CA 2006, is the section’s limitations not so much in terms of it prioritising the interests of shareholders over the interests of other constituencies, but with regard to its enforcement and utility overall. Continue reading

Advising vulnerable young people

By Mr John Peake, Director of the Law Clinic (University of Bristol Law School).

© David McKelvey

Kate Aubrey-Johnson writes that vulnerable children are not impressed by barristers’ textbooks. But then who would be. Certainly not the majority of young people who are drawn into the criminal justice world.

But the points she makes about the need for youth advocates to be specially trained and equipped with the communication skills needed to engage with vulnerable young people are as valid when advising the majority of young people as when representing those young people who are brought into the youth justice system.

For the first few months of my time as Director of the University of Bristol Law Clinic we were running drop in sessions initially with Creative Youth Network and then in conjunction with Kids Company. Both of these sessions operated from premises in Silver Street in the centre of Bristol but there was a marked disparity between take up. In the three months we were running sessions through Creative Youth we maybe saw two people. In contrast we would normally see at least two young people at each of the weekly Kids Company sessions. Some of the Kids Company young people continue to receive help from the Clinic. So why the difference?  Continue reading

Penalty clauses and the courts – Does the UK approach differ from the rest of Europe?

by Prof Paula Giliker, Professor of Comparative Law (University of Bristol Law School).*

Contractual penalty clauses raise questions going to the heart of contract law: should the courts enforce clauses which make payment of a large sum of money due on breach of contract? The argument is that such clauses act as a penalty for breach and are used by economically stronger parties to “discourage” the other party from breaching the contract. The sums in question are often extortionate and bear no resemblance to the true losses of the parties. Should the courts intervene – and diminish the parties’ freedom to contract as they will – or should they simply enforce the contract?

This question was addressed by the UK Supreme Court in Cavendish Square Holdings BV v Makdessi; ParkingEye Ltd v Beavis ([2015] UKSC 67) and raises profound questions of the role of judges in policing contractual agreements and the “morality” of contract law. Continue reading

Bristol Law Review’s 2017 Edition Published

By Miss Christina Chambers, Law Student (MA, 2017) and Editor-in-Chief of the Bristol Law Review for the 2017 Edition (University of Bristol Law School).

The University of Bristol Law School is proud to announce the publication of this year’s edition of the Bristol Law Review, which is freely accessible at https://bristollawreview.co.uk/print/. The Law School Blog also warmly welcomes its Editor in Chief’s reflections on the importance of this project for our students and as an opportunity to further develop the Law School as a learning community.

It was my great privilege to be the Editor-in-Chief of the Bristol Law Review for the 2017 Edition. The Bristol Law Review represents a platform for exceptional students to showcase their writing and also provides a unique educational experience for its editors. As Dr Eirik Bjorge so rightly pointed out in the preface to this year’s Law Review, “[m]any of today’s law students strive first and foremost to be qualified for ‘jobs in the modern world’, and believe that the study of law in a university should be geared in the first instance towards learning just about enough successfully to answer four prepared questions in an examination.”

At times the pressure to consider a law degree as a means to an end is overwhelming. I am sure that there are a great number of students who would consider the process of spending hours reading, editing and critiquing the work of their peers to be some sort of punishment, but this is to ignore the great benefits that come with such an endeavor. Of course, there is the instant benefit of reading in great detail the best work that has been produced at all levels of study and incorporating the strongest elements of this into your own work. The feedback I received from the editorial board this year following their training session certainly attests to this! However, there is also the long term benefit of truly engaging with law as an academic pursuit, something that I believe is sometimes overlooked in the effort to simply make it through your degree. Continue reading

Hostages and Human Rights at the European Court of Human Rights: The Tagayeva and Others v Russia Case

By Dr Sofia Galani, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

On Thursday, 13 April 2017, the European Court of Human Rights released one of the most anticipated decisions in the Court’s history – the Tagayeva and Others v Russia case. The judgment concerned the siege of the Beslan School, North Ossetia by Chechen fighters in September 2004 and the ensuing rescue operation by the Russian forces. During these tragic incidents, 330 people lost their lives, including more than a hundred children. Almost 180 of the victims were burnt to an extent that the identification of the remains and establishment of the cause of death were impossible.

The purpose of this blog is to summarise the key findings of the Court’s 239-page decision and provide a brief overview of the human rights obligations of states in the context of hostage-taking as discussed by the Court. Although this hostage-taking incident was of an unprecedented scale, terrorist groups have never stopped taking hostages within or outside Europe, and as a result European states have been involved in a number of rescue operations. Therefore, this judgment can help clarify the obligations that states have before, during and after a hostage-taking incident occurs. Continue reading

New LLM: Health, Law, and Society

By Prof John Coggon, Professor of Law and Co-Director, Centre for Health, Law, and Society (University of Bristol Law School).

Scholars at the University of Bristol Law School have enjoyed a longstanding presence at the forefront of research in health law, and the undergraduate unit in Medical Law has become one of the most popular options on our degree programme. The School is home to leaders in fields that examine health law topics such as reproduction, mental health, public and global health, medical innovation, public procurement, and professional regulation. Our academics explore these issues from critical perspectives that include ethical, justice-based, historical, regulatory, economic, political and socio-legal approaches. As well as leading in research and education, we have close engagement with bodies responsible for advocacy, regulation, standard-setting, professional training, and providing ethical review and advice.

In reflection of this excellent concentration of expertise and experience, we have founded a new research Centre and are launching an exciting LLM Programme in Health, Law, and Society. Our aim with this innovative degree is to advance a course that looks at, but also reaches far beyond, questions concerning medicine and healthcare, to incorporate knowledge and understanding of how law and governance across all social and political sectors may impact health—for better or for worse. The breadth and depth of study on the course, reflecting directly our diverse range of teaching and research interests, is enhanced by the inclusion throughout the year of guest sessions led by scholars and specialists whose work and practice afford them unique insights and perspectives. Continue reading

Age discrimination is not in fashion: AG Bobek’s Opinion in Abercrombie & Fitch v Bordonaro

By Dr Jule Mulder, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).*

This blog post provides a case comment of AG Bobek’s Opinion C-143/16 in Abercrombie & Fitch Italia Srl v Antonino Bordonaro delivered 23 March 2017. This comment was first published on EUtopia law on April 7, 2017 and is reproduced here with thanks.

The Facts

The case is concerned with the conformity of Italian law on on-call contracts with the EU principle of non-discrimination on grounds of age. Antonino Bordonaro was employed under an on-call contract (similar to a zero-hour contract) by Abercrombie & Fitch Italia Srl on a permanent basis. Upon his 25th birthday Mr Bordonaro was dismissed due to the fact that he no longer complied with the conditions for the intermittent contract, as laid down by Article 34(2) Legislative Decree No 276/2003 applicable at the time he was hired.

The (now repealed) Italian law in question provided special arrangements regarding access to and dismissal from on-call contracts for some workers. While on-call contracts under Italian law are usually subject to objective reasons and certain conditions, the provision allowed for such contract to be offered ‘in any event’ to workers under the age of 25 or above the age of 45. At the time of Mr Bordonaro’s dismissal, Article 34(2) had been modified. The older age bracket was lifted from 45 to 55 years of age. Moreover it was specified that an on-call contract can ‘in any event’ be concluded ‘with a person under 24 years of age, on the understanding […] that the contractual service must be performed before the age of 25 is reached’. The modified provision thus allowed automatic termination of permanent on-call contracts with younger workers once they reached the age of 25, in addition to allowing more flexibility regarding younger and older workers’ exposure to on-call contracts.

Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court of Cassation (Corte Suprema di Cassazione) identified the direct and clear reference to age in Article 34 as potentially problematic and asked the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to rule on its compatibility with the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of age in Directive 2000/78 and Article 21 of the EU Charter. Continue reading