北京仲裁委员会

北仲股权转让争议问题概览
Outline of opinions on equity transfer disputes

发布时间: Wed Dec 13 17:56:46 CST 2017   供稿人:沈韵秋

近来,北京仲裁委员会 / 北京国际仲裁中心(北仲)推出了《股权转让案例精读》一书,对大量股权转让争议案例中的法律问题进行了梳理,真实反映了众多仲裁庭对于某一些具体争议问题中的主流判断。笔者就该书涉及的三个常见问题摘要并分析如下,以期让更多读者和仲裁业界人士进一步了解北仲在股权转让领域类的仲裁实践。

合同效力

关于股权转让合同的效力,可能存在合同未成立、未生效、效力待定、可撤销可变更、无效、已失效等各种情形。案例中亦有当事人提出上述不同主张。在以下一些问题中,多数仲裁庭的认定方式较为一致:

对于乘人之危、显失公平可能导致股权转让合同可撤销的情形,仲裁庭认定的主要依据是股权转让价格,仲裁庭认为在封闭公司中的股权定价应尊重当事人意思自治,辅之以净资产值作为参照依据。

对于通过股权转让实现公司资产间接转让(如土地使用权)可能导致合同无效的问题,若干仲裁庭均倾向于认定合同有效,主要理由是基于对公司主体地位的认可及对股东与公司财产的区分,认为股东未因股权转让获得土地使用权。而对于“以合法形式掩盖非法目的”的无效理由,仲裁庭继而分析并认定《城市房地产管理法》中与此相关的规定亦属管理性强制性规定,而不能产生合同无效的效果。

在涉及中外合作经营企业这一特殊主体时,股权转让合同效力的认定上有特别的规定。例如,在股东同意权问题上,法释 [2010] 第9号明确规定中外合作经营企业中的股权转让需经合作方同意并报审查批准机关批准,否则为可撤销的合同,相比于在有限责任公司中,合同无效或可撤销仍有待商榷。对于行使该撤销权的期限,上述司法解释未作明确规定,仲裁庭则认为该撤销权应受除斥期间的限制,且应与侵犯优先购买权的撤销权期间一致,因股东无法仅以其同意权受到侵害为由但不行使优先购买权而撤销相关的股权转让合同。

对于因合同事项未经上级部门批准可能导致合同未生效的问题,仲裁庭认为保险法规定的保险公司有关事项变更需要经过保监会批准,是管理性强制性规定,因为该审批规定是约束主体的经营管理行为,不应导致合同无效。而且,仲裁庭认为国有资产监督管理机关是否审批,仅针对国有资产占用单位,不约束非国有单位,亦不影响股权转让合同的效力。

对于国有产权未进场交易的问题,仲裁庭均认为合同无效,因未进场交易的国有产权转让行为无效,符合效力性强制性规定的特点,因而违反该项规定会导致合同无效,且为绝对无效,即任何第三人可主张合同无效。商事仲裁中,本着促进交易的精神,通常以合同有效为原则,以合同无效为例外,仲裁庭对合同无效的认定通常较为审慎,样本案例中也仅有两份认定合同无效的裁决。

合同履行

在合同履行环节产生的争议中,可能涉及以下几个问题:

1.对于优先购买权,多数仲裁庭分析认为优先购买权在性质上是形成权,其与“缔约请求权”的区别在于,权利人可依单方意思形成与出卖人间的买卖合同关系,而无需后者的意思表示。而股东行使优先购买权并就股权转让达成合意后,股权是否即发生变动,还需依据仲裁庭在股权变动时点上的认定。

2.对于股权变动的时点,裁判中通常有不同的认识与结果,学界对此亦较多讨论。一项较为有说服力的观点,也是一些仲裁庭的认识是,股权转让合同与公司组织规则有区分,股权的变动应依股东个人的决定,公司层面的程序性要求不应作为决定股权变动效力的理由,也即股权的转让不涉及公司组织规则的限制,股权转让仅为权利的转让,可适用债权让与之一般规则。

3.在股东资格的认定上,学理上有形式认定与实质认定标准,早期裁判中适用形式认定与实质认定结合的标准,自公司法司法解释三承认了股份代偿的安排以来,裁判中一般以形式标准判断股东资格,而实际出资人始终享有股权,其亦可根据其与名义股东的基础协议主张取得股东资格。

4.对于股权转让的信息披露问题,其原则是卖方对重大瑕疵应主动披露,应配合尽职调查。对于出让方的信息披露义务与买受方的尽职调查义务的平衡,若干仲裁庭的裁决均显示,对公司信息有更便捷渠道的一方负有更多的披露或调查义务。同时,买方已知可能存在不利情形而未尽调查义务通常也会丧失异议权。

合同解除

在股权转让合同解除问题上,主要涉及的争议是解除后的溯及力问题,部分仲裁庭的观点是解除股权转让合同后不具有溯及力,因为合同涉及公司经营管理,具有持续性。更多仲裁庭的观点是应当具有溯及力,特别是当事人在协议中已约定了解除恢复原状的,应当支持,这也是基于股权转让合同与公司组织规则有所区分的观点。

以上内容均详见于由商务印书馆出版的《股权转让案例精读》,北仲将继续对既往仲裁案例进行分析,分领域对相关实体问题进行梳理和分析,敬请关注。


The Case Studies on the Transfer of Equity, newly published by the Beijing Arbitration Commission/Beijing International Arbitration Centre(BAC/BIAC), is a collection that focuses on issues arising from transfers of equity, and expects to demonstrate how certain arbitral tribunals in this organization have considered those issues and made their decisions. There are three main issues presented in the book to help readers and practitioners better understand how this legal arena is actually contested in the arbitral practice of the BAC/BIAC.

VALIDITY OF THE CONTRACT

There are many circumstances that may render the validity of an equity transfer contract questionable, including whether or not the contract has been concluded or executed, and if there are pending issues that can lead to a null orvoid contract.

Where a party is in an unfair orunfavourable position, the party may be qualified to withdraw the contract. In cases involving the transfer of equity,this situation is often approached by tribunals in the BAC/BIAC through an investigation into the price of transferring the shares. These tribunals in general show a high degree of respect towards the autonomy of the disputants, and therefore tend to ground their decisions upon the evaluation of the company’s net asset.

Where the transfer of equity may lead to an indirect transfer of corporation assets, such as the rights of land use, the contract may be considered to be null and void. In considering that acorporation is an independent entity, and the assets of shareholders are thus distinguishable from the corporation’s, tribunals tend to maintain the validity of the contract and conclude that the shareholder cannot be granted the right to land-using through the arrangement of transferring shares.

Another reason held by some disputants for invalidating a contract is based on a normative proposition that a legitimate act must not disguise a hidden illegitimate purpose. Some tribunals, however, contend that violating a compulsory law for administrative purposes of supervision does not necessarily result in a void contract.

In Chinese-foreign contractual joint ventures, there are legal provisions specified to regulate the validity of a contract. For instance, in dealing with the issue of the shareholder’s consent in relation to transferring shares with the other shareholders,Judicial Interpretation No. 9 [2010] provides that the transfer should be based upon consent from the other party and be subject to administrative examination and approval,otherwise the contract can be repealed.

In cases involving limited liability corporations, absence of other shareholders’ consent may lead to repeal or void the contract. Exercising such a revocation right, however, is not stipulated in the interpretation. Tribunals decide whether such a right must be regulated by a scheduled period, and this period must be the same as the exercising period of the revocation right of violating preemptive rights, because the shareholder cannot claim an injury in his consent rights while rejecting to exercise the preemptive right at thesame time.

Lack of approval from a superior department may also lead to a void contract.In a specific case regarding an insurance company, relevant laws and regulations provide that the modification of a contract should be subject to approval from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, and the tribunal reasons that such aprovision regulates management behaviour, which conforms to the supervised compulsory provision. Further,in general some tribunals hold the opinion that the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission’s approval only applies to the state-owned corporations, not to the non-state-owned corporations,which also cannot affect the validity of contract.

State-owned property rights should be transferred with approval from an authorized property transaction institution. Without the approval, the tribunals would decide that the contract is null and void. Tribunals reason that failing to follow the requirement would void the transfer behaviour, which is consistent with the definition of the mandatory compulsory provision. Violating such provisions could also void a contract by anyone, not only the counterparty. However,in most of the situations in commercial arbitration, in order to promote the transaction, tribunals usually consider the contract to be valid, and will only void a contract as an exception. In the book, there are only two awards that have decided a contract to be null and void.

PERFORMANCE OF THE CONTRACT

Disputes arising from performing the contract may involve the following issues:

1. Preemptive rights are a kind of formative right, which is distinguished from claim of contracting in the effect of concluding a contract on one party’s intention, even in the absence of the other party’s intention.After the contract is concluded,the specific time of equity transfer needs tribunals’ concrete examination.

2. For the specific time of equity transfer, there are different opinions in judicial judgements as well as in academic research. One persuasive opinion, also the opinion of some tribunals, is that the equity transfer contract should be distinguished from corporation’s institutional rules, thus the transfer of equity must be the shareholders’ decision,which must not be regulated by procedural requirements in the corporations’ rules. The equity transfer is deemed as the transfer of rights, which could apply the rules of transferring creditor’s rights in analogy.

3. For the decision of shareholders’ qualification, there are formal criteria and material criteria in academic research.Early judicial judgments applied both formal and material criteria before Judicial Interpretation No.2 [2014] recognized the arrangement of holding agent shares, when judicial judgments started to recognize the qualification with formal criteria, while the actual investor, also known as the anonymous shareholder, always had access to the share right and could claim for qualification of the shareholder based on their agreement with the nominal shareholder.

4. For the disclosure in the process of equity transfer, the basic rule is that the seller must bear the obligation of disclosing major defects, as well as to co-ordinate buyer’s due diligence. As for the balance of the seller’s obligation to disclose and the buyer’s obligation of due diligence, several tribunals agree that the party with easier access to the corporation information should bear more obligation.For buyers who are already aware of possible unfavourable situations, and have not accorded with due diligence, tribunals usually reach decisions against them.

RESCISSION OF THE CONTRACT

Most disputes regarding rescission of the contract have the retroactive effect of the rescission. Some tribunals decide that the rescission has no retroactive effect, while the equity transfer contract is related to the corporation’s management, which is continuous. More tribunals agree that there should be retroactive effect, especially when parties have agreed in the contract to the effect of restitution, which is also based on the understanding that a contract between shareholders is different from a corporation’s institutional rules.

Please refer to the Case Studies of Equity Transfer published by the Commercial Press for further information, and stay tuned for upcoming case studies in different catalogues based on BAC/BIAC’s extensive caseload.


作者:北京仲裁委员会 / 北京国际仲裁中心仲裁秘书沈韵秋。北仲实习生 Huang Kai-shen对英文内容亦有贡献

Shen Yunqiu is a case manager of Beijing Arbitration Commission/Beijing International Arbitration Centre (BAC/BIAC). The centre’s intern, Huang Kai-shen, also contributed to this article

因本合同引起的或与本合同有关的任何争议,均提请北京仲裁委员会/北京国际仲裁中心按照其仲裁规则进行仲裁。仲裁裁决是终局的,对双方均有约束力。
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