Privy Council rules on Fairfield

more+
less-

On 16 April 2014, the Privy Council ruled in the claims brought by the liquidators of Fairfield, one of the largest feeder funds into Bernard Madoff’s investment company.

The BVI Commercial Court and the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal had dismissed the claims on the basis that the redeemers had given good consideration for the payments they received. Not only did the Privy Council unanimously agree with the courts below on good consideration, it also indicated the claims failed on additional grounds under Fairfield’s articles of association.  Delivering the judgment Lord Sumption found that the subscription agreement bound the investor and was primarily concerned with representations and warranties on the investments but did not deal with redemptions which were dealt with in the articles of association.

Lord Sumption then reviewed the articles and the redemption procedure together with the information provided by the professional administrator. These included information concerning the Net Asset Value (NAV) from the following:

(1)    An investor website;
(2)    Investor e-mails each month;
(3)    Contract notes; and,
(4)    Summary account details.

The Privy Council stated that the good consideration and defence under the articles were closely related and in approving Barclays Bank Limited v. W.J. Simms Son & Cooke (Southern) Ltd (1980) QB 677, said that if a payment made under a mistake discharges a contractual debt of a payee, that sum cannot be recovered unless the mistake is such as to avoid the contract. 

Lord Sumption reasoned that Fairfield’s claim to recover the redemption payment would depend on whether it was bound by the redemption terms to make payment which it did make. This in turn depends on whether the effect of those terms is that Fairfield was obliged upon redemption to pay either,

(i)   The true NAV per share, ascertained in the light of information which subsequently became available about Madoff’s funds, or
(ii)   The NAV per share which was determined by the directors at the time of redemption.

Lord Sumption said that (ii) was the only reasonable conclusion and continued that a certificate had no standard meaning and what constitutes a certificate would depend on the commercial context in which it appeared.  A certificate would mean a statement or writing, issued by an authoritative source, communicated to a recipient, in a form which showed it intended to be definitive and the Privy Council found that the monthly e-mails, contract notes and monthly statements would all be certificates within the meaning of the articles.

Harneys has acted for a lead group of defendants in the claw back claims brought by the liquidators of Fairfield throughout the years-long process in the BVI courts.
 

Topics:  Bernie Madoff, Fraud, Ponzi Scheme

Published In: Bankruptcy Updates, Civil Procedure Updates, General Business Updates, Finance & Banking Updates, International Trade Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Harney Westwood & Riegels | Attorney Advertising

Don't miss a thing! Build a custom news brief:

Read fresh new writing on compliance, cybersecurity, Dodd-Frank, whistleblowers, social media, hiring & firing, patent reform, the NLRB, Obamacare, the SEC…

…or whatever matters the most to you. Follow authors, firms, and topics on JD Supra.

Create your news brief now - it's free and easy »