Bribery test case decision

Posted: 11th August 2014

RCJThe Supreme Court has ruled that agents who received payment from both sides in negotiations for the purchase of a luxury hotel must account in full for their Euros 10 million ill-gotten gain.

Cedar Capital Partners had been instructed to act for the buyers in negotiating the purchase of the Monte Carlo Grand Hotel, which ultimately proceeded at a price of more than 200 million Euros. However, the agents had also entered into an exclusive agreement with the sellers who paid them a ‘bribe or secret commission’ of10 million Euros on completion of the deal.

A judge subsequently found that Cedar had breached the fiduciary duty that they owed to the buyers in failing to obtain their fully informed consent to the payment of the fee. However, the judge ruled that the buyers had only an equitable, rather than a proprietary, interest in the 10 million Euros . That was a matter of importance as a proprietary interest would have given the buyers priority over unsecured creditors in the event that the agents became insolvent.

The Court of Appeal subsequently allowed the buyers' appeal and upheld their proprietary interest in the fee. In dismissing the agents’ challenge to that decision, the Supreme Court found that, by reason of their breach of fiduciary duty, they had received the fee on behalf of the buyers and held it on trust for them.