Corporate capacity, special purpose vehicles, and traditional securitisation in South African company Law
Etienne, Aubrey Olivier
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The ideals of shareholder and creditor protection are affected by legislation pertaining to the validity of a company’s transactions. Until legislative reforms introduced in the twentieth century, a company’s capacity and the ultra vires doctrine traditionally limited the company’s ability to contract. Therefore, the legal framework regulating corporate capacity influences a company’s interactions with outsiders. The goal of the law in this regard should be to facilitate commerce while providing adequate protection to all affected stakeholders. South Africa’s Companies Act 71 of 2008 (the Act) contains several novel provisions regarding a company’s capacity, the desirability of which is questionable. Special purpose vehicles (SPVs) are used for various purposes in commerce, from asset holding in the financial services sector to concluding complex financial functions in corporate finance. For instance, traditional securitisation is a financial engineering technique that makes use of corporate SPVs. Traditional securitisation is a valuable risk management, earnings management, and corporate financing tool. Incorporators of securitisation SPVs often include capacity restrictions in the constitutions of such entities as a means of reducing the likelihood that the SPV will be subject to liquidation proceedings.This thesis analyses the capacity provisions in the Act to determine whether they provide a commercially desirable framework to facilitate the activities of SPVs used in traditional securitisation schemes. The thesis argues that the capacity provisions in the Act in their current form are undesirable because they place third parties at too great a risk in exchange for inconsistent and unreliable shareholder protection. Executory ultra vires contracts concluded by limited capacity companies are at the same time valid and capable of being restrained by a single shareholder, director or prescribed officer of the company. It is argued that the Act’s approach to corporate capacity is detrimental to commercial certainty and creditor protection, and that capacity restrictions under the current framework do not provide any more shareholder protection than ordinary authority limitations would. Consequently, it is argued that the capacity provisions in the Act do not make a positive contribution to the “insolvency-remoteness” of SPVs used in traditional securitisation schemes. It is recommended that the capacity provisions in the Act should be substantially amended, or deleted.
- Doctor Legum - LLD