22-05-2019

3. Discussion and analysis of jurisdictions studied. 3.7.5 Duties of directors

In the United Kingdom, the CA 2006 codified directors' fiduciary duties - such as avoiding conflicts of interest and not accepting benefits from third parties. In contrast, shareholders in Hong Kong companies have the benefit of the same duties albeit under the common law rather than statute. While a basic argument for codification is that it is intended to facilitate certainty and accessibility to the law, this is not clearly the case where duties are expressed at a general level. The question of the codification of directors duties is of limited interest given that both boards of the SEHK are significantly dominated by non-Hong Kong incorporated issuers and Hong Kong's CO provisions in this regard only apply to Hong Kong incorporated companies.

However, the provisions of the CO are not entirely irrelevant because the SEHK's listing rules require directors of all listed issuers, wherever incorporated, to fulfill fiduciary standards and duties of care to a standard at least commensurate with the standard of Hong Kong law. As noted in Appendix I.4.1, the listing rules do not have statutory effect and so a breach of these standards merely gives rise to the SEHK's disciplinary sanctions (although behaviour comprised in the breach may entail other considerations arising under the SFO or the law of the place of the issuer's incorporation).

In the United States, fiduciary law is actively developed and applied in the State courts. The relevance of this to the present study is discussed next in Section 3.7.6 «Role of fiduciary law».

In Mainland China, directors' fiduciary duties and duty of care are stated in the Company Law, elaborated by the CG Code.

In Singapore, fiduciary duty and duty of care remains in case law (see Appendix V.7.2).

Discussion

The question of reforming the companies' legislation on fiduciary duties has already been the subject of careful, and recent, scrutiny. While there are arguments both for and against it, for the purposes of the present study, this is not a priority issue to pursue further at the present point in time. This is not to rule out the desirability of reviewing the matter in the future, particularly in light of the experience in the UK, for example, upon the development of a sufficient body of case law, and also in view of any case law that may emerge in Hong Kong should the suggestions made in Section 3.7.6 «Role of fiduciary law» lead to developments.