SALOMON V. SALOMON & CO LTD
Salomon transferred his business of boot making, initially run as a sole proprietorship, to a company (Salomon Ltd.), incorporated with members comprising of himself and his family. The price for such transfer was paid to Salomon by way of shares, and debentures having a floating charge (security against debt) on the assets of the company. Later, when the company’s business failed and it went into liquidation, Salomon’s right of recovery (secured through floating charge) against the debentures stood aprior to the claims of unsecured creditors, who would, thus, have recovered nothing from the liquidation proceeds.
To avoid such alleged unjust exclusion, the liquidator, on behalf of the unsecured creditors, alleged that the company was sham, was essentially an agent of Salomon, and therefore, Salomon being the principal, was personally liable for its debt. In other words, the liquidator sought to overlook the separate personality of Salomon Ltd., distinct from its member Salomon, so as to make Salomon personally liable for the company’s debt as if he continued to conduct the business as a sole trader. The House of Lords held that, as the company was duly incorporated, it is an independent person with its rights and liabilities appropriate to itself, and that “the motives of those who took part in the promotion of the company are absolutely irrelevant in discussing what those rights and liabilities are”. Thus, the legal fiction of “corporate veil” between the company and its owners/controllers4 was firmly created by the Salomon case.
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