Publication date: 29 September 2020
When can directors be held personally liable? What can directors do to prevent being held personally liable?
Legal entities, such as BVs (private limited company), NVs (public limited company), associations or foundations, can only be represented by one or more natural persons, the directors or other authorized persons.
Directors conclude contracts on behalf of the legal person. If the company fails to comply with agreements arising from the contracts or causes damage, the company can be addressed, not the directors. However, in certain cases directors can be held personally liable by third parties (externally) or by the company itself (internally). When will this happen?
When a director does not perform his tasks properly, the company can hold him liable for the damage it was caused. This is referred to as internal directors’ liability.
Directors can be held internally liable of the damage caused because the director:
In the event of external directors’ liability, directors are held liable for damage caused to third parties, such as suppliers of the company, suffering from directors’ actions.
For instance, a director can be held liable by third parties when damage was caused because the director:
The damage can only be recovered successfully from the director when a serious personal blame can be made towards him. Thus, a minor mistake does not lead to directors’ liability.
In principle, directors’ liability is collective. Thus, all board members are liable. An individual board member can avoid liability in the following cases:
A directors’ liability insurance (D&O insurance) covers a significant part of the directors’ liability, namely what is caused by serious culpable conduct. However, damage caused intentionally is not covered by the insurance.
Our lawyers have been advising both, companies and directors on external and internal directors’ liability for many years. We assist them by organising workshops but also by holding liable directors, and representing directors that are held liable.
Would you like to learn more about or make use of our legal assistance? Please contact:
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