作者|舒方正 华南师范大学LL.B
一审|赵文磊 波士顿大学 LLM
二审|岳文豪 上海交通大学法学硕士
编辑|许素敏 广州美术学院本科
         余卓妍 西安交通大学本科
责编 | 扎恩哈尔·阿黑哈提 新疆农业大学本科
美国公司法信义义务的起点:南太平洋公司诉博格特案如何确立控股股东信义义务规则?
新《公司法》第180条明确了公司董事、监事及高级管理人员信义义务之“忠实义务”和“勤勉义务”的内涵,同时规定了公司的控股股东、实际控制人不担任公司董事但实际执行公司事务的,适用前两款规定,对公司应当负有信义义务。该立法变化与近年来备受学界重视的控股股东法律约束议题息息相关。建议移植美国“控股股东信义义务”(controlling shareholder’s fiduciary duty)的主张近年日益高涨,有必要对美国法下信义义务的来源、内涵与发展进行研究,防止“望文生义”的情况发生。
信义义务这一法律概念,深深扎根于普通法的独特历史脉络之中。它如同参天大树,以信托为“母体”,经过无数次的归纳推理和法律实践的磨砺,不断向外扩展与泛化,形成了一种法律义务的广泛体系。而“控股股东信义义务”正是这一泛化现象中重要的缩影,它凸显了信义义务在现代公司治理结构中的重要作用。这种源于信托的义务体现为控股股东在行使权利时,必须考虑到公司和其他股东的利益,不得滥用其控制地位,损害公司的独立性和其他股东的权益。这一义务的存在,旨在维护公司治理的公平性和透明度,防止控股股东利用自身优势地位进行不公平的交易或决策。
而信义义务的产生和发展,离不开信义关系这一基石。信义关系,这个在英美法中常被形容为“最难以捉摸的概念之一”,是理解信义义务的关键所在。根据《布莱克法律词典》,信义关系可被定义为“A relationship in which one person is under a duty to act for the benefit of another on matters within the scope of the relationship.”即“一方主体有义务在关系范围内的事务上为另一个主体的利益行事的法律关系”。《信托法重述(第二版)》也指出“与他人有信义关系的人有义务在关系范围内的事务上为他人的利益行事。”可见,信义关系概念重在强调两方主体中的一方负有为另一方利益行事的义务,同时这一义务限于双方特定关系的范围之内。正如著名法学家梅特兰(F.W. Maitland)所言,信义关系包括了信托关系(trust relationship)在内的所有类似于信托的关系。这种关系基于一种信任与依赖,一方(信义人)依赖于另一方(受托人)的忠诚与专业,进行某种形式的财产管理或决策。一方主体对另一方主体负有信义义务的法律关系在普通法系被称为信义关系(fiduciary relationship)。信义关系虽然源起自信托,但是早已独立存在,并演变为信托关系的上位概念。
在1919年美国联邦最高法院审理的Southern Pacific Co. v. Bogert一案中,美国大法官Brandeis认为,控股股东基于其控制公司实际经营的地位与中小股东之间形成了信托关系:“控股股东拥有公司控制权;只要他行使了这个控制权,就产生了其与少数股东之间的信义关系,就像公司本身或者其他管理人员和董事一样”。该规则在1939年被美国联邦最高法院再次重申,法院指出,“董事是受托人(fiduciary),居于主导地位的股东或者控股股东或者集团股东也是”。本案是联邦最高法院首次就控股股东信义义务表态,因而被视为相关规则最具权威性的演化源头。由此,控股股东应当对公司及中小股东履行信义义务的裁判规则开始确立。本文以新公司法第180条为契机,介绍美国控股股东信义义务的经典案例,旨在抛砖引玉,助力制度的脉络梳理与比较研究。
案情概述
1888年以及在此之前的几年里,南太平洋公司一直控制着休斯顿与德克萨斯中央铁路公司,通过其一家子公司选举董事和高级职员,该公司拥有休斯顿公司的大部分股票。1888年,根据重组协议,休斯顿公司财产的抵押权被取消,这些财产被休斯顿与德克萨斯中央铁道公司收购;旧公司的未偿还债券被交换为新公司的债券;新公司的所有股票被交付给南太平洋公司;其铁路线被纳入南太平洋公司横贯大陆的系统,而旧休斯顿公司的少数股东则一无所获。1913年,上诉人代表他们自己和其他少数股东向纽约最高法院提起诉讼,要求宣布南太平洋公司(大股东)为他们在新休斯顿公司股票的受托人,并要求南太平洋公司做出解释。
(图片源于网络)
关于控股股东信义义务的裁判要旨
The fact that the majority shareholder, as part of an unfair scheme of reorganization brought about through its control, guarantees the bonds of a new company, successor to the corporate property, and agrees to take the shares of the new company not taken by the minority, does not give it the status of a banker or underwriter in relation to the minority shareholders, and thus relieve it of its fiduciary duty to them in respect of the new shares so acquired, when its design was to secure the property for its own purposes and nothing has been paid under the guaranty. 
作为不公平重组计划的一部分,大股东利用其控制力,对新公司——即原公司财产的继承者——的债券进行担保,并同意收购少数股东未认购的新公司股份。然而,这一事实并不使大股东在少数股东面前获得银行家或承销商的地位,因此不能免除其在收购新股份方面对少数股东的信义义务。特别是当大股东的目的是为自己谋取利益,且并未按照保证支付任何款项时,其更应履行对少数股东的受托责任。
The Southern Pacific challenges the claim for relief on the ground that it took the new Houston Company stock not as majority stockholder, but as underwriter or banker under the reorganization agreement. The essential facts are these: while dominating the old company through control of a majority of its stock, the Southern Pacific entered into its reorganization under an agreement by which the minority stockholders of the old company could obtain stock in the new only upon payment in cash of a prohibitive assessment of $71.40 per share (said to be required to satisfy the floating debt and reorganization expenses and charges), while the Southern Pacific was enabled to acquire all the stock in the new company upon paying an assessment of $26 per share (said to be the amount required to satisfy reorganization expenses and charges).
南太平洋公司对救济请求提出质疑,理由是它不是作为大股东,而是作为重组协议下的承销商或银行家购买了新休斯顿公司的股票。基本事实是这样的:南太平洋公司通过控制旧公司的大部分股票来支配旧公司,同时根据一项协议进行重组。根据该协议,旧公司的少数股东只有在以现金支付每股71.40美元的高额估价(据说是用于支付浮动债务和重组费用及收费)后才能获得新公司的股票,而南太平洋公司则能够在支付每股26美元的摊款(据说是用于支付重组费用及收费)后获得新公司的全部股票。
(图片源于网络)
The Southern Pacific asserts that, unlike the minority stockholders, it assumed an underwriter's obligation to take the new company's stock not subscribed for by the minority, and also guaranteed part of the principal and all the interest on the new company's bonds, which were given in exchange for those of the old company. But the purpose of the Southern Pacific in assuming these obligations was in no sense to perform the function of banker. It was to secure the incorporation of the Houston Railroad into its own transcontinental system. And it was never called upon to pay anything under its guaranty.
南太平洋公司声称,与少数股东不同的是,它承担了承销商的义务,承购少数股东未认购的新公司股票,还为新公司债券的部分本金和全部利息提供担保,而新公司债券是用来交换旧公司债券的。但是,南太平洋公司承担这些义务的目的绝不是履行银行家的职能。它的目的是确保休斯顿铁路并入自己的横贯大陆系统。南太平洋公司从未被要求根据其担保支付任何款项。
The duty of the majority shareholder to make pro rata distribution of the fruits of its control on equal terms among the minority is fiduciary, and not dependent on fraud or mismanagement. Equally unfounded is the contention that the Southern Pacific cannot be held liable because it was not guilty of fraud or mismanagement. The essential of the liability to account sought to be enforced in this suit lies not in fraud or mismanagement, but in the fact that, having become a fiduciary through taking control of the old Houston Company, the Southern Pacific has secured fruits which it has not shared with the minority. The wrong lay not in acquiring the stock, but in refusing to make a pro rata distribution on equal terms among the old Houston Company shareholders.
大股东按比例将其控制权的成果平等分配给少数股东的责任是受托责任,并不基于欺诈或管理不善。同样毫无根据的论点是,南太平洋公司不能承担责任,因为它没有欺诈或管理不善。在这起诉讼中,要求南太平洋公司承担责任的根本原因不在于欺诈或管理不善,而在于南太平洋公司通过控制旧休斯顿公司成为受托人后,获得了它没有与少数股东分享的成果。错误不在于收购股票,而在于拒绝在旧休斯顿公司股东之间按比例平等分配。
The doctrine under which majority shareholders exercising control are deemed trustees for the minority applies where the control is exercised by a corporation through a subsidiary over a third corporation of which the subsidiary is the majority shareholder.
行使控制权的大股东被视为少数股东的受托人的理论适用于公司通过子公司对第三家公司行使控制权的情况,而子公司是该第三家公司的大股东。
The Southern Pacific contends that the doctrine under which majority stockholders exercising control are deemed trustees for the minority should not be applied here, because it did not itself own directly any stock in the old Houston Company, its control being exerted through a subsidiary, Morgan's Louisiana & Texas Railroad & Steamship Company, which was the majority stockholder in the old Houston Company.
南方太平洋公司辩称,大股东行使控制权被视为少数股东的受托人的原则不应在此处适用,因为南方太平洋公司本身并未直接持有旧休斯敦公司的任何股份,其控制权是通过子公司摩根路易斯安那与德克萨斯铁路与轮船公司行使的,该子公司是旧休斯敦公司的大股东。
But the doctrine by which the holders of a majority of the stock of a corporation who dominate its affairs are held to act as trustee for the minority does not rest upon such technical distinctions. It is the fact of control of the common property held and exercised, not the particular means by which or manner in which the control is exercised, that creates the fiduciary obligation.
然而,那些掌控公司事务的大股东被视为少数股东的受托人的原则,并非基于此类技术性的区别。创造受托义务的是对共同财产的控制权和行使权这一事实,而不是行使控制权的特定方式或手段。
(图片源于网络)
In considering the many objections urged against the decree, it is important to bear constantly in mind the exact nature of the equity invoked by the bill and recognized by the lower courts. The minority stockholders do not complain of a wrong done the corporation or of any wrong done by it to them. They complain of the wrong done them directly by the Southern Pacific, and by it alone. The wrong consists in its failure to share with them, the minority, the proceeds of the common property of which it, through majority stockholdings, had rightfully taken control. In other words, the minority assert the right to a pro rata share of the common property, and equity enforces the right by declaring the trust on which the Southern Pacific holds it and ordering distribution or compensation. The rule of corporation law and of equity invoked is well settled and has been often applied. The majority has the right to control; but when it does so, it occupies a fiduciary relation toward the minority, as much so as the corporation itself or its officers and directors. If, through that control, a sale of the corporate property is made and the property acquired by the majority, the minority may not be excluded from a fair participation in the fruits of the sale.
在考虑对裁决提出的诸多反对意见时,必须始终牢记该法案所主张的、并被下级法院所认可的衡平法的确切性质。少数股东并非投诉(休斯顿)公司受到的不公待遇,也非投诉(休斯顿)公司对他们造成的不公待遇。他们投诉的是南方太平洋公司直接且仅对他们造成的不公待遇。这种不公待遇在于南方太平洋公司未能与他们这些少数股东分享共同财产的收益,而南方太平洋公司正是通过持有多数股份合法地取得了对这些共同财产的控制权。换言之,少数股东主张按比例分配共同财产的权利,而衡平法则通过宣布南方太平洋公司受托持有这些财产,并命令进行分配或赔偿来维护这一权利。这一公司法和衡平法规则已经确立,且经常得到应用。多数股东有权进行控制;但当他们这样做时,他们与少数股东之间就形成了受托关系,这种受托关系与公司本身或其职员和董事之间的受托关系一样重要。如果通过控制权进行了公司财产的出售,且财产被多数股东收购,那么少数股东不得被排除在公平参与销售成果之外。
本判决还涉及其他实体与程序问题的讨论,感兴趣的读者可以登录相关网站(https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/250/483/)进行阅读。最终,美国最高法院判令将案件发回地区法院,以便根据本意见进一步调查并审理;本案的费用由双方平分。
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