INTERESTING CASE: Does a business development manager employee owe a fiduciary duty to his employer when he gives a customer a very large credit limit increase (without authorisation)?
Not on these facts, according to the Queensland Court of Appeal. Case is: Metal Manufactures Limited v Johnston & Anor  QCA 42
Very fact heavy, but bear with me:
- major wholesaler of electrical products (call them ‘M‘)
- store manager that is employed, and later sued, by M (call them ‘F‘).
- GMJ, who is the customer, and J, who is the director of GMJ
- F grants GMJ a $250,000 limit on its trade credit limit to M, at the insistence of J
- GMJ enters liquidation, owing M about $250k
- M sues F and J for breach of fiduciary duties and breach of s182(1) of the Corporations Act
Court ruled that J could not be liable, if F wasn’t liable.
The following points went in F’s favour: F was not a senior employee and had a modest wage … F had no special position of trust or confidence from M … F did not obtain, nor sought to obtain, a bribe or benefit for himself … F believed (naively) GMJ would pay the debt … no pleadings by M that F’s motive was increasing sales for his store, or to increase his bonus.
The following points went against F: F deliberately increased the limit … F withheld information from M and its auditors … F was naïve but not dishonest in the sense of impropriety.
Ultimately, F and J were not held liable.
I can’t think of another case like this in the credit management world, but would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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