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Likhetsprincipen och generalklausulerna i aktiebolagslagen (2005:551)

Petersen, Mårten LU (2014) JURM02 20141
Department of Law
Abstract (Swedish)
I förevarande undersökning behandlas likhetsprincipen och generalklausulerna i ABL. Likhetsprincipen innebär att ett bolags aktier som huvudregel ska ha lika rätt i bolaget medan generalklausulerna förbjuder vissa åtgärder som är ägnade att ge en otillbörlig fördel åt en aktieägare eller någon annan till nackdel för bolaget eller någon annan aktieägare. Föreställningen om att aktier och aktieägare ska behandlas lika har gamla anor och utgör en viktig del av det aktiebolagsrättsliga minoritetsskyddet. När den ursprungliga generalklausulen infördes var det emellertid osäkert hur långt den redan existerande likhetsprincipen sträckte sig. Det föreslogs exempelvis att den dåvarande generalklausulen var överflödig. Likhetsprincipen och... (More)
I förevarande undersökning behandlas likhetsprincipen och generalklausulerna i ABL. Likhetsprincipen innebär att ett bolags aktier som huvudregel ska ha lika rätt i bolaget medan generalklausulerna förbjuder vissa åtgärder som är ägnade att ge en otillbörlig fördel åt en aktieägare eller någon annan till nackdel för bolaget eller någon annan aktieägare. Föreställningen om att aktier och aktieägare ska behandlas lika har gamla anor och utgör en viktig del av det aktiebolagsrättsliga minoritetsskyddet. När den ursprungliga generalklausulen infördes var det emellertid osäkert hur långt den redan existerande likhetsprincipen sträckte sig. Det föreslogs exempelvis att den dåvarande generalklausulen var överflödig. Likhetsprincipen och generalklausulerna är alltjämt förenade med ett flertal oklarheter och meningsskiljaktigheterna kring reglernas innebörd är iögonfallande.
En viktig fråga är hur tillämpningsomfånget för likhetsprincipen och generalklausulerna ska definieras samt när respektive regel är tillämplig. Högsta domstolen har fastslagit att likhetsprincipen inte åsidosätts när följderna av ett bolagsbeslut formellt är desamma för bolagets aktieägare. Därmed ska likhetsprincipen förmodligen bara ges en snäv och formell tillämpning. Mycket talar för att likhetsprincipen inte bör kunna tillämpas mot åtgärder som träffar samtliga aktier i ett bolag lika även om de resulterar i en reell särbehandling av bolagets aktieägare. Däremot kan generalklausulerna tillämpas vid sådan reell särbehandling.
En anslutande fråga är i vilken mån det finns undantag från likhetsprincipen. Avsteg verkar åtminstone kunna göras med stöd av lag, vissa bolagsordningsföreskrifter eller med samtycke från relevanta aktieägare. Det är däremot tveksamt om avvikelse dessutom kan ske med stöd av sakliga skäl, vilket har föreslagits mot bakgrund av uttalanden i NJA 1977 s. 393. Rättsfallet tycks inte medge en sådan tolkning. Inom sitt snäva tillämpningsområde har det istället föreslagits att likhetsprincipen ska tillämpas strikt och utan hänsynstaganden till vad som in casu är sakligt motiverat.
När generalklausulerna tillämpas är otillbörlighetsrekvisitet av stor betydelse. Innebörden av detta rekvisit är omdiskuterad. Det finns mycket som tyder på att företagsekonomiska överväganden ofta påverkar otillbörlighetsbedömningen. En viktig fråga är om företagsekonomiskt riktiga åtgärder alltid är att anse som tillbörliga. I många avseenden tycks detta vara en riktig konklusion. Emellertid verkar vissa åtgärder kunna medföra en otillbörlig särbehandling även om de är företagsekonomiskt riktiga. Så kan exempelvis vara fallet vid riktade emissioner. (Less)
Abstract
This thesis analyses the equality principle and the general clauses in the Companies Act (Sw. aktiebolagslag (2005:551)). The equality principle states, as main rule, that all shares shall carry equal rights in the company whereas the general clauses prohibit certain measures which are likely to provide an undue advantage to a shareholder or another person to the disadvantage of the company or any other shareholder. The conception to treat shares and shareholders equally has old ancestry and constitutes an important component of the protection of minority shareholders. However, when the original general clause was introduced, the scope of the already existing equality principle was uncertain. It was for example suggested that the former... (More)
This thesis analyses the equality principle and the general clauses in the Companies Act (Sw. aktiebolagslag (2005:551)). The equality principle states, as main rule, that all shares shall carry equal rights in the company whereas the general clauses prohibit certain measures which are likely to provide an undue advantage to a shareholder or another person to the disadvantage of the company or any other shareholder. The conception to treat shares and shareholders equally has old ancestry and constitutes an important component of the protection of minority shareholders. However, when the original general clause was introduced, the scope of the already existing equality principle was uncertain. It was for example suggested that the former general clause was superfluous. The equality principle and the general clauses are still united with several uncertainties, and the differences of opinion regarding the meaning of the rules are conspicuous.
An important issue is how the scope of the equality principle and the general clauses shall be defined as well as when each rule is applicable. The Supreme Court has concluded that the equality principle is not violated when the consequences of a company decision formally are the same for the company’s shareholders. Accordingly, the equality principle shall probably just be given a narrow and formal application. There is much to suggest that the equality principle cannot be applied against measures that affect all shares of a company equally but nonetheless imply actual differences in the treatment of the company’s shareholders. However, the general clauses can be applied against such measures.
A related question is to what extent exceptions to the equality principle exist. Deviations can at least be made in accordance with law, provisions in the articles of association or with consent from the relevant shareholders. It is on the other hand doubtful if exceptions also can be made due to objective reasons, as has been proposed in the light of statements in NJA 1977 s. 393. The case does not seem to allow such an interpretation. It has been suggested that the equality principle – within its limited scope – rather shall be applied strictly and without considerations to what in casu is objectively justified.
When applying the general clauses the ”undue”-prerequisite is of great significance. The meaning of ”undue” is controversial. There is much to suggest that commercial considerations often affect the assessment. An important issue is whether or not commercially correct measures always should be deemed to be compatible with the general clauses. This seems to be an accurate conclusion in many respects. However, it appears as if certain measures that are commercially correct still may entail an undue advantage to one shareholder to the disadvantage of another. This may for example be the case with directed share issues. (Less)
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author
Petersen, Mårten LU
supervisor
organization
alternative title
The equality principle and the general clauses in the Companies Act (2005:551)
course
JURM02 20141
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
associationsrätt, likhetsprincipen, generalklausulerna, aktiebolagslagen
language
Swedish
id
4450386
date added to LUP
2014-06-12 08:58:24
date last changed
2014-06-12 08:58:24
@misc{4450386,
  abstract     = {This thesis analyses the equality principle and the general clauses in the Companies Act (Sw. aktiebolagslag (2005:551)). The equality principle states, as main rule, that all shares shall carry equal rights in the company whereas the general clauses prohibit certain measures which are likely to provide an undue advantage to a shareholder or another person to the disadvantage of the company or any other shareholder. The conception to treat shares and shareholders equally has old ancestry and constitutes an important component of the protection of minority shareholders. However, when the original general clause was introduced, the scope of the already existing equality principle was uncertain. It was for example suggested that the former general clause was superfluous. The equality principle and the general clauses are still united with several uncertainties, and the differences of opinion regarding the meaning of the rules are conspicuous. 
An important issue is how the scope of the equality principle and the general clauses shall be defined as well as when each rule is applicable. The Supreme Court has concluded that the equality principle is not violated when the consequences of a company decision formally are the same for the company’s shareholders. Accordingly, the equality principle shall probably just be given a narrow and formal application. There is much to suggest that the equality principle cannot be applied against measures that affect all shares of a company equally but nonetheless imply actual differences in the treatment of the company’s shareholders. However, the general clauses can be applied against such measures. 
A related question is to what extent exceptions to the equality principle exist. Deviations can at least be made in accordance with law, provisions in the articles of association or with consent from the relevant shareholders. It is on the other hand doubtful if exceptions also can be made due to objective reasons, as has been proposed in the light of statements in NJA 1977 s. 393. The case does not seem to allow such an interpretation. It has been suggested that the equality principle – within its limited scope – rather shall be applied strictly and without considerations to what in casu is objectively justified. 
When applying the general clauses the ”undue”-prerequisite is of great significance. The meaning of ”undue” is controversial. There is much to suggest that commercial considerations often affect the assessment. An important issue is whether or not commercially correct measures always should be deemed to be compatible with the general clauses. This seems to be an accurate conclusion in many respects. However, it appears as if certain measures that are commercially correct still may entail an undue advantage to one shareholder to the disadvantage of another. This may for example be the case with directed share issues.},
  author       = {Petersen, Mårten},
  keyword      = {associationsrätt,likhetsprincipen,generalklausulerna,aktiebolagslagen},
  language     = {swe},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Likhetsprincipen och generalklausulerna i aktiebolagslagen (2005:551)},
  year         = {2014},
}