Directors: Who are they?

2006-10-30 14:36:22    博士教育网  
  • ● 吕俊昭 By Loo Choon Chiaw The recent formation of the Singapore Institute of Directors underlined the im-portant roles played by company di-rectors. It has further brought into focus the topic of Corporate Governance in general . The writer proposes to examine the legal issues of directors in a series of articles in this column commencing from this article. Unless otherwise specified, all references to statutory provisions are references to the Companies Act (Cap. 50) (hereafter referred to as ''the Act''). The readers may be surprised to note that despite its importance, the term ''di-rector'' is not statutorily defined. Section 4 of the Act (hereafter referred to as ''Section 4'') merely states that a ''director'' includes any person occupying the position of director of a company by whatever name called (hereafter referred to as ''de factodirector'') and includes a person (other than a professionaladviser) in accordance with whose directions or instructionsthe directors of a company are accustomed to act (hereafter referred to as ''shadow director'') and an alternate or substitute director. Thus, pursuant to Section 4 and in thecase of a de facto director and a shadow director res-pectively, a person may be a director though not designated as such. In con-trast, persons may be described as directors, for instance, Finance Director, Marketing Director or Human Resource Director, without their occupyingthe po-sition of directors within the meaning of Section 4. The terms ''de facto director'' and ''shadow director'' are not statutory terms. The extension of the term ''director'' to cover both a ''de facto director'' and a ''shadow director'' aims to prevent those controlling the company from evading their statutory liabilities and obligations as directors by simply not accepting appointmentas directors. In practice, it is not always easy to establish a person as a shadow director of a company, which involves the proof that the relevant board of directors has been failing to exercise any discretion or judgment, contending instead to act upon the directions and instructions of the alleged shadow di-rector as a matter of practice over a period of time. In the present context, whilst both ''de facto directors''and ''shadow directors'' are persons who have not been formally appointed to the relevant board of di-rectors, theyare conceptually different and distinct. A de facto director is a per-son who assumes the functions of a di-rector. He is held out by the relevant company as its director, and personally claims and purports to act as such,although never formally appointed. In contrast, a shadow director does not claim or purport to act as a director. Indeed, he claims not to be a director. To borrow the language used in an English case, ''He lurks in the shadows,sheltering behind others who, he claims, as the only directors of the company to the exclusion of himself.'' The Articles of Association of a com-pany usually provide for the appointment of alternate or substitute directors. When duly appointed, an alternate or substitute director will, in the absence of the di-rector who appointed him, be entitled to perform all the functions of the latter. Functionally, directors may be cate-gorised either as an executive director or a non-executive director. Basically, exe-cutive directors are those directors con-cerned with theactual management of the company. Ordinarily, the Articles of Association of the company will confer upon them wide management powers. It is usual for executive directors to enter into service contracts with the company. Non-executive directors are commonly found in large companies, in particular, listed companies. Non-executive di-rectors invariably restrict themselves to purely advisoryand supervisory roles. An ''independent director'' is a director who should be in a position to exercise in-dependent judgment in carrying out the functions of the Audit Committee of a listed company. We shall review in grea-ter detail the legal position of non-executive directors and independent di-rectors, and the important functions which they discharge, when the issues relating to an Audit Committee are examined.(The writer is the Senior Partner of Loo & Partners. He qualified as a Barrister-at-Law at Lincoln's Inn, London, and obtained his Master of Laws from London University. Mr Loo is also a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, London.)   
       最近企业董事学会的成立,强调了公司董事扮演的重要角色,由此更使到公司的管控课题成为关注的焦点。笔者将通过本栏的一系列文章,从法律的角度探讨董事的课题。本文是系列的开头。  行文中除非另有说明,不然所谓的法定条文,指的都是公司法令(第50章),或简称“法令”。  读者或许会感到惊讶,董事是重要人物,但“董事”一词却没有法定的定义。法令第4节(下称“第4节”)只说“董事”包括任何拥有公司董事职权的人,不管职衔是什么(下称“实质董事”);也包括任何人(专业顾问除外),只要他发出的指导、指示,董事们习惯上都会听命并加以执行(下称“影子董事”);以及交替或后补董事。  因此根据第4节,就实质董事和影子董事来说,一个人可能没有董事的职衔但仍是董事。反之,一个公司的职员可能有董事的职衔,但实际上却没有董事的职权。例如财务董事、行销董事或人力资源董事等,这些人就不算是董事。  所谓“实质董事”和“影子董事”,都不是法定名词。“董事”一词包括实质董事和影子董事,用意是避免一些掌握公司控制权的人,轻易地拒绝受委,以推卸他们身为董事的法定责任和义务。  就实际情况来说,要确定一个人是不是影子董事并不容易,这牵涉到是否能够证明:有关的董事会长久以来推卸董事应尽的责任,而仅遵照被断言为影子董事的人的指导、指示办事。  虽然实质和影子董事都没有正式受委进入董事会,但概念上两者还是有区别的。实质董事虽然没有正式受委,却承担董事的职责,公司对外人宣称他为董事,而他自己也以董事自居。  相比之下,影子董事不但不表明自己是董事,他甚至否认自己是董事。  一家公司的章程,通常有规定要委任交替或后补董事。适当地受委后,交替或后补董事在委任他的董事不在时,有权执行后者的所有职责。  董事在职能上,还可以划分成执行和非执行两类。基本上,执行董事是那些确实涉及公司管理的董事。一般而言,公司章程授予他们广泛的管理权力。通常执行董事会和公司签署服务合约。  总体上看,规模较大的公司,特别是上市公司,才会委任非执行董事。往往,他们的角色仅局限于咨询和监督的范围。  “独立董事”是一个能够在执行审计委员会的功能时,做出独立判断的上市公司董事。以后讨论到和审计委员会有关的课题时,我们将对非执行董事和独立董事的法律职责,做更深入的探讨。(本文作者是英国大律师,英国皇家仲裁学院院士,现为Loo & Partners法律事务所的主任律师。)

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