Advanced

Företagsförvärv – En analys av det köprättsliga felansvaret

Tellenmark, Vanessa LU (2018) JURM02 20182
Department of Law
Faculty of Law
Abstract
The starting point for this thesis has been that all shares in a limited liability company are transferred to a buyer. The presentation analyses how the risk of errors in the target company is divided between the buyer and the seller, based on the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act. From being a controversial issue, there is today no doubt that the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act lay the foundation for the assessment of the seller's responsibility for errors. The error assessment according to the Sale of Goods Act can be said to be binary in the sense that either the seller is responsible for an error, or it is not. In the 17th section of the Sale of Goods Act, an error is referred to as a nonconformity with the purchaser's legitimate... (More)
The starting point for this thesis has been that all shares in a limited liability company are transferred to a buyer. The presentation analyses how the risk of errors in the target company is divided between the buyer and the seller, based on the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act. From being a controversial issue, there is today no doubt that the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act lay the foundation for the assessment of the seller's responsibility for errors. The error assessment according to the Sale of Goods Act can be said to be binary in the sense that either the seller is responsible for an error, or it is not. In the 17th section of the Sale of Goods Act, an error is referred to as a nonconformity with the purchaser's legitimate expectations of the purchase item. However, what constitutes a legitimate expectation of a limited company is not expressed in the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act. From the legal literature, it follows that the assessment is primarily to be made taking into account what kind of expectations a reasonable person of the same kind in a corresponding situation would have. As a purchase item, a limited liability company is complex and of unique character causing difficulties when determining which of the purchaser's expectations to be considered legitimate. Nonetheless, a number of characteristics have been declared in the legal literature to be of such fundamental nature that a purchaser normally can have legitimate expectations of these. However, if the transfer agreement contains an “as fi” clause or similar general reservation, the purchaser's room for legitimate expectations is limited. The seller's responsibility for errors is then only realised if the purchase item is in a considerable inferior condition in relation to what the purchaser with due regard to the price of the purchase item and the circumstances in general reasonably could have foreseen.

As a consequence of the distribution of risk, a seller can be said to have certain obligations that he or she must meet to avoid becoming responsible for an error. Among other things, it is in the seller's own interest to inform a purchaser if there are any nonconformities seen to the buyer's legitimate expectations. If the purchase item has been sold “as if” or with a similar general reservation, there is also an explicit duty of disclosure for the seller. The duty of disclosure means that the seller must inform the purchaser of significant circumstances regarding the qualities and use of the purchase item that the seller can presumably have known, and which the purchaser with good reason could expect to have been informed about. In cases where the purchase item is sold without any disclaimer, there is no provision in the Sale of Goods Act that explicitly imposes a general duty of disclosure on the seller. Whether such a duty can be considered to follow indirectly from the Sale of Goods Act or from non-statutory rules is argued.

In the legal literature, some authors are of the opinion that there is no independent duty of disclosure, but what the seller has known, or should have known, can be assigned importance in the assessment of the seller's responsibility for errors according to section 17, third paragraph of the Sale of Goods Act. Even if its wording does not support such an interpretation, others, however, argue that a general duty of disclosure follows directly from the provision. In this thesis, the conclusion has been drawn that it is possible to speak of some form of general duty to disclosure, even though the legal position may be considered somewhat ambiguous.

In addition to a duty of disclosure, the distribution of risk also entails that the seller is responsible for the accuracy of the information in the transfer agreement and all other information provided by the seller in connection to the acquisition. The seller's liability for provided information has proved to be far-reaching in the sense that it also includes information provided by others, as long as the information is deemed to have been submitted for the seller's account. By leaving an amendment to the purchaser in time and in a clear manner, or by clarifying to the purchaser that the seller cannot take any responsibility for the accuracy of the given information, the seller can usually avoid responsibility for any errors since the information cannot be considered to have had an impact on the purchase. In order for an error to exist according to the Sale of Goods Act, there has to be a causal link between the erroneous and the purchaser's decision to carry out the purchase, or the conditions for the purchase.

From both the 17th section third paragraph of the Sale of Goods Act and the 20th section of the Sale of Goods Act it follows that a purchaser's knowledge of a nonconformity excludes liability for the seller. The purchaser’s examination of the target company can therefore have a major impact on the distribution of risk between the parties. There is no statutory obligation for the buyer to examine the target company before the acquisition. Nevertheless, one usually refers to a duty of examination arising from a statute in Section 20, second paragraph, of the Sale of Goods Act. If a purchaser has examined the purchase item before the purchase or, without acceptable reason, failed to comply with the seller's request to examine it, the purchaser may not, according to the provision, claim as error what he or she should have noticed at an examination. In those cases where the purchaser's obligation to examine is realised, the purchaser's responsibility is thus expanded from only covering circumstances that the purchaser can be assumed to have known, to also include circumstances that the purchaser should have noticed during the examination. The final scope of the purchaser's duty to examine, however, depends on the circumstances of each individual case.

The duty of examination does not constitute the only factor that can affect the distribution of risk between parties. The optional nature of the Sale of Goods Act means that the parties are free to agree on the applicability of the Sale of Goods Act with the exception of Section 36 of the Swedish Contract Act. The parties therefore have the opportunity to introduce different limitations of liability in the transfer agreement, which is often done in the form of guarantees and disclaimer clauses. If the seller guarantees a certain condition, the starting point is that the seller is responsible for any unconformity. However, in cases where the seller's guarantees are set in relation to the purchaser's duty to examine, the assessment is somewhat complicated. The significance of the seller's guarantees, given on the responsibility of errors, then depends, amongst other factors, on the degree of precision that can be ascribed to the seller's request for examination or guarantee commitment. In the legal literature, it has also been discussed whether a catalogue of guarantees by itself can be ascribed the effect of a disclaimer in all other respects. However, the opinions seem to differ, hence the legal position may be considered ambiguous.

Regarding disclaimer clauses and their impact on the distribution of risk between the parties, a distinction between concrete and more generally held disclaimers should be awarded. A precise disclaimer regarding a specific circumstance or certain information should be accepted without major problems. However, case law has shown a more restrictive approach to disclaimer clauses of more general nature, which is also reflected in Section 19 of the Sale of Goods Act. The authors of the legal literature, however, argue that the parties are free to, by the exercise of the freedom of contract, negotiate an exception of Section 19 of the Sale of Goods Act, provided that the waiver can reasonably be accepted taking into account the consequences that an application of the clause entails. However, the thesis has shown that a generally held disclaimer does not have any effect on a specific piece of information given by the seller. In order for a generally held disclaimer to be interpreted restrictively, it therefore seems to no longer be required that the seller act in untruthful manners or that the disclaimer is considered unfair. The conclusive factor for the effect of a disclaimer clause on the distribution of risk between the parties thus seems to be its formulation, as long as the disclaimer clause is not deemed unfair. (Less)
Abstract (Swedish)
Utgångspunkten för uppsatsen har varit att samtliga aktier i ett aktiebolag överlåts till en köpare. I framställningen analyseras hur risken för fel i målbolaget fördelas mellan köpare och säljare med utgångspunkt i köplagens bestämmelser. Från att ha varit en kontroversiell fråga råder det idag inga tveksamheter om att det är köplagens bestämmelser, som lägger grunden för bedömningen av säljarens felansvar. Felbedömningen enligt köplagen kan sägas vara binär i den meningen att antingen ansvarar säljaren för ett fel, eller så gör den inte det. Med fel avses i 17 § köplagen en avvikelse från köparens befogade förväntningar på köpeobjektet. Vad som utgör en befogad förväntning på ett aktiebolag går inte att utläsa av köplagens bestämmelser.... (More)
Utgångspunkten för uppsatsen har varit att samtliga aktier i ett aktiebolag överlåts till en köpare. I framställningen analyseras hur risken för fel i målbolaget fördelas mellan köpare och säljare med utgångspunkt i köplagens bestämmelser. Från att ha varit en kontroversiell fråga råder det idag inga tveksamheter om att det är köplagens bestämmelser, som lägger grunden för bedömningen av säljarens felansvar. Felbedömningen enligt köplagen kan sägas vara binär i den meningen att antingen ansvarar säljaren för ett fel, eller så gör den inte det. Med fel avses i 17 § köplagen en avvikelse från köparens befogade förväntningar på köpeobjektet. Vad som utgör en befogad förväntning på ett aktiebolag går inte att utläsa av köplagens bestämmelser. Av den rättsvetenskapliga litteraturen framgår det att bedömningen i första hand får göras med beaktandet av en jämförelsenorm, där köparens förväntningar anses ha fog för sig om de skulle delas av en förnuftig person av samma slag som köparen i en motsvarande situation. Som köpeobjekt är ett aktiebolag komplext och av unik karaktär, varför det uppstår svårigheter med att fastställa vilka av köparens förväntningar som kan anses ha fog för sig. I den rättsvetenskapliga litteraturen har likväl ett antal egenskaper förklarats vara av så grundläggande karaktär, att en köpare normalt kan ha befogade förväntningar på dessa. I de fall överlåtelseavtalet innehåller en avtalsklausul om ”befintligt skick” eller liknande allmänt förbehåll begränsas dock köparens utrymme för befogade förväntningar. Säljarens felansvar aktualiseras då först om köpeobjektet är i väsentligt sämre skick än vad köparen med hänsyn till köpeobjektets pris och omständigheterna i övrigt, med fog har kunnat förutsätta.

Som en konsekvens av hur riskfördelningen är konstruerad kan en säljare sägas ha vissa åligganden som denne måste uppfylla, för att inte riskera ett eventuellt felansvar. Det ligger bland annat i en säljares eget intresse att upplysa köparen om det förekommer avvikelser från dennes befogade förväntningar. Har köpeobjektet sålts i ”befintligt skick” eller med liknande allmänt förbehåll, föreligger det dessutom en uttrycklig upplysningsplikt för säljaren. Upplysningsplikten innebär att säljaren måste upplysa köparen om väsentliga förhållanden, avseende köpeobjektets egenskaper eller användning, som säljaren måste antas ha känt till och som köparen med fog kunnat räkna med att bli upplyst om. I de fall köpeobjektet sålts utan förbehåll om begränsat ansvar, saknas bestämmelse i köplagen som uttryckligen ålägger en säljare en generell upplysningsplikt. Huruvida en sådan upplysningsplikt kan anses följa indirekt av köplagens systematik eller av icke lagfästa regler, är omdiskuterat. En del av författarna inom den rättsvetenskapliga litteraturen hävdar att det inte föreligger någon generell upplysningsplikt, men att säljarens vetskap eller till och med vad säljaren borde ha känt till om ett visst förhållande, kan tillmätas betydelse vid felbedömningen enligt 17 § tredje stycket köplagen. Andra menar att det går att utläsa en generell upplysningsplikt direkt ur bestämmelsen, även om dess ordalydelse inte ger stöd för en sådan tolkning. I framställningen har slutsatsen dragits att det går att tala om någon form av generell upplysningsplikt, trots att rättsläget får betecknas som något oklart.

Utöver en upplysningsplikt medför också riskfördelningen att säljaren ansvarar för att de uppgifter som följer av överlåtelseavtalet och som lämnats till köparen i samband med förvärvet, är korrekta. Säljarens uppgiftansvar har visat sig vara långtgående i den meningen att det också omfattar uppgifter som lämnats av annan, under förutsättning att uppgifterna bedöms vara lämnade för säljarens räkning. Genom att rätta en felaktig uppgift i tid och på ett tydligt sätt, eller genom att klargöra för köparen att säljaren inte kan ta ansvar för uppgiftens riktighet, kan emellertid säljaren normalt undgå sitt felansvar eftersom uppgiften inte kan anses ha inverkat på köpet. För att ett fel ska föreligga enligt köplagen krävs det nämligen att det föreligger ett orsakssamband mellan den felgrundande omständigheten och köparens beslut att genomföra köpet, eller villkoren för köpet.

Av både 17 § tredje stycket och 20 § köplagen följer att en köpares vetskap om ett avvikande förhållande utesluter felansvar för säljaren. Köparens undersökning av målbolaget kan därför få stor inverkan på riskfördelningen mellan parterna. Det finns ingen lagstadgad skyldighet för köparen att undersöka målbolaget innan förvärvet. Likväl brukar man tala om en undersökningsplikt som härrör från ett stadgande i 20 § andra stycket köplagen. Om en köpare före köpet har undersökt köpeobjektet, eller utan godtagbar anledning underlåtit att följa säljarens uppmaning att undersöka det, får köparen enligt bestämmelsen inte såsom fel åberopa vad denne borde ha märkt vid undersökningen. I de fall köparens undersökningsplikt aktualiseras utökas således köparens risksfär från att enbart omfatta förhållanden som denne kan antas ha känt till, till att också omfatta förhållanden som köparen borde ha märkt vid undersökningen. Omfattningen av köparens undersökningsplikt beror slutligen på omständigheterna i det enskilda fallet.

Undersökningsplikten utgör inte den enda faktorn som kan påverka riskfördelningen mellan parterna. Köplagens dispositiva karaktär innebär att parterna är fria att avtala bort köplagens tillämplighet, med undantag för 36 § lag (1915:218) om avtal och andra rättshandlingar på förmögenhetsrättens område. På så sätt ges parterna möjlighet att införa olika ansvarsbegränsningar i överlåtelseavtalet, vilket ofta görs i form av garantiutfästelser och friskrivningsklausuler. Garanterar säljaren ett visst förhållande är utgångspunkten att säljaren svarar för en eventuell avvikelse. Bedömningen kompliceras dock något i de fall säljarens garantiutfästelser ställs mot köparens undersökningsplikt. Avgörande för vilken betydelse säljarens garantiutfästelser får för felansvaret och dess omfattning, blir då bland annat vilken grad av precision som kan tillskrivas säljarens uppmaning till undersökning respektive garantiutfästelse. I den rättsvetenskapliga litteraturen har det också diskuterats huruvida en garantikatalog i sig kan tillskrivas effekten av en friskrivning i övriga avseenden. Meningarna tycks dock gå isär, varför rättsläget får anses som oklart.

Vad gäller friskrivningsklausuler och dess påverkan på riskfördelningen mellan parterna bör en indelning i konkreta respektive mer allmänt hållna friskrivningar göras. En preciserad friskrivning avseende ett specifikt förhållande eller en konkret uppgift, borde utan större problem godtas. Rättspraxis har däremot uppvisat en mer restriktiv inställning till friskrivningsklausuler av mer allmän karaktär, vilket även återspeglas i 19 § köplagen. Författarna inom den rättsvetenskapliga litteraturen menar dock att det står parterna fritt att avtala bort 19 § köplagen genom utnyttjandet av avtalsfriheten. Detta under förutsättning att avståndstagandet skäligen kan godtas med hänsyn till de konsekvenser som en tillämpning av klausulen medför. Framställningen har emellertid visat att en allmänt hållen friskrivningsklausulen inte har någon verkan mot en konkret lämnad uppgift. För att en allmänt hållen friskrivningsklausul ska tolkas inskränkande verkar det således inte längre krävas att säljarens agerande placeras in under avtalslagens ogiltighetsregler, eller att friskrivningsklausulen bedöms som oskälig. Avgörande för vilken inverkan en friskrivningsklausul kan få på riskfördelningen mellan parterna tycks således vara dess formulering, så länge friskrivningsklausulen inte bedöms som oskälig. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Tellenmark, Vanessa LU
supervisor
organization
alternative title
Company acquisition – An analysis of the accountability of defects in relation to the Sale of Goods Act
course
JURM02 20182
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
Företagsförvärv, Köplagen, Riskfördelning, Riskanalys
language
Swedish
id
8966043
date added to LUP
2019-01-31 13:10:25
date last changed
2019-01-31 13:10:25
@misc{8966043,
  abstract     = {The starting point for this thesis has been that all shares in a limited liability company are transferred to a buyer. The presentation analyses how the risk of errors in the target company is divided between the buyer and the seller, based on the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act. From being a controversial issue, there is today no doubt that the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act lay the foundation for the assessment of the seller's responsibility for errors. The error assessment according to the Sale of Goods Act can be said to be binary in the sense that either the seller is responsible for an error, or it is not. In the 17th section of the Sale of Goods Act, an error is referred to as a nonconformity with the purchaser's legitimate expectations of the purchase item. However, what constitutes a legitimate expectation of a limited company is not expressed in the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act. From the legal literature, it follows that the assessment is primarily to be made taking into account what kind of expectations a reasonable person of the same kind in a corresponding situation would have. As a purchase item, a limited liability company is complex and of unique character causing difficulties when determining which of the purchaser's expectations to be considered legitimate. Nonetheless, a number of characteristics have been declared in the legal literature to be of such fundamental nature that a purchaser normally can have legitimate expectations of these. However, if the transfer agreement contains an “as fi” clause or similar general reservation, the purchaser's room for legitimate expectations is limited. The seller's responsibility for errors is then only realised if the purchase item is in a considerable inferior condition in relation to what the purchaser with due regard to the price of the purchase item and the circumstances in general reasonably could have foreseen.

As a consequence of the distribution of risk, a seller can be said to have certain obligations that he or she must meet to avoid becoming responsible for an error. Among other things, it is in the seller's own interest to inform a purchaser if there are any nonconformities seen to the buyer's legitimate expectations. If the purchase item has been sold “as if” or with a similar general reservation, there is also an explicit duty of disclosure for the seller. The duty of disclosure means that the seller must inform the purchaser of significant circumstances regarding the qualities and use of the purchase item that the seller can presumably have known, and which the purchaser with good reason could expect to have been informed about. In cases where the purchase item is sold without any disclaimer, there is no provision in the Sale of Goods Act that explicitly imposes a general duty of disclosure on the seller. Whether such a duty can be considered to follow indirectly from the Sale of Goods Act or from non-statutory rules is argued. 

In the legal literature, some authors are of the opinion that there is no independent duty of disclosure, but what the seller has known, or should have known, can be assigned importance in the assessment of the seller's responsibility for errors according to section 17, third paragraph of the Sale of Goods Act. Even if its wording does not support such an interpretation, others, however, argue that a general duty of disclosure follows directly from the provision. In this thesis, the conclusion has been drawn that it is possible to speak of some form of general duty to disclosure, even though the legal position may be considered somewhat ambiguous.

In addition to a duty of disclosure, the distribution of risk also entails that the seller is responsible for the accuracy of the information in the transfer agreement and all other information provided by the seller in connection to the acquisition. The seller's liability for provided information has proved to be far-reaching in the sense that it also includes information provided by others, as long as the information is deemed to have been submitted for the seller's account. By leaving an amendment to the purchaser in time and in a clear manner, or by clarifying to the purchaser that the seller cannot take any responsibility for the accuracy of the given information, the seller can usually avoid responsibility for any errors since the information cannot be considered to have had an impact on the purchase. In order for an error to exist according to the Sale of Goods Act, there has to be a causal link between the erroneous and the purchaser's decision to carry out the purchase, or the conditions for the purchase.

From both the 17th section third paragraph of the Sale of Goods Act and the 20th section of the Sale of Goods Act it follows that a purchaser's knowledge of a nonconformity excludes liability for the seller. The purchaser’s examination of the target company can therefore have a major impact on the distribution of risk between the parties. There is no statutory obligation for the buyer to examine the target company before the acquisition. Nevertheless, one usually refers to a duty of examination arising from a statute in Section 20, second paragraph, of the Sale of Goods Act. If a purchaser has examined the purchase item before the purchase or, without acceptable reason, failed to comply with the seller's request to examine it, the purchaser may not, according to the provision, claim as error what he or she should have noticed at an examination. In those cases where the purchaser's obligation to examine is realised, the purchaser's responsibility is thus expanded from only covering circumstances that the purchaser can be assumed to have known, to also include circumstances that the purchaser should have noticed during the examination. The final scope of the purchaser's duty to examine, however, depends on the circumstances of each individual case.

The duty of examination does not constitute the only factor that can affect the distribution of risk between parties. The optional nature of the Sale of Goods Act means that the parties are free to agree on the applicability of the Sale of Goods Act with the exception of Section 36 of the Swedish Contract Act. The parties therefore have the opportunity to introduce different limitations of liability in the transfer agreement, which is often done in the form of guarantees and disclaimer clauses. If the seller guarantees a certain condition, the starting point is that the seller is responsible for any unconformity. However, in cases where the seller's guarantees are set in relation to the purchaser's duty to examine, the assessment is somewhat complicated. The significance of the seller's guarantees, given on the responsibility of errors, then depends, amongst other factors, on the degree of precision that can be ascribed to the seller's request for examination or guarantee commitment. In the legal literature, it has also been discussed whether a catalogue of guarantees by itself can be ascribed the effect of a disclaimer in all other respects. However, the opinions seem to differ, hence the legal position may be considered ambiguous. 

Regarding disclaimer clauses and their impact on the distribution of risk between the parties, a distinction between concrete and more generally held disclaimers should be awarded. A precise disclaimer regarding a specific circumstance or certain information should be accepted without major problems. However, case law has shown a more restrictive approach to disclaimer clauses of more general nature, which is also reflected in Section 19 of the Sale of Goods Act. The authors of the legal literature, however, argue that the parties are free to, by the exercise of the freedom of contract, negotiate an exception of Section 19 of the Sale of Goods Act, provided that the waiver can reasonably be accepted taking into account the consequences that an application of the clause entails. However, the thesis has shown that a generally held disclaimer does not have any effect on a specific piece of information given by the seller. In order for a generally held disclaimer to be interpreted restrictively, it therefore seems to no longer be required that the seller act in untruthful manners or that the disclaimer is considered unfair. The conclusive factor for the effect of a disclaimer clause on the distribution of risk between the parties thus seems to be its formulation, as long as the disclaimer clause is not deemed unfair.},
  author       = {Tellenmark, Vanessa},
  keyword      = {Företagsförvärv,Köplagen,Riskfördelning,Riskanalys},
  language     = {swe},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Företagsförvärv – En analys av det köprättsliga felansvaret},
  year         = {2018},
}