Notes: The unlamented demise of the common-law derivative action: A note remembering Michael Larkin

Author: Tshepo H Mongalo

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Associate Professor, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 138 Issue 3, p. 508-521


This contribution presents an exposition of how the common-law rules relevant to the common-law derivative action would have clashed with the current statutory derivative action remedy had the common law not been repealed by s 165(1) of the Companies Act 71 of 2008. The analysis of the possible impact of the common law is a relevant and timely one — irrespective of the fact that a statutory derivative action and remedy has been introduced in s 165(2) of the Companies Act — as it provides lessons to policy-makers on how to deal effectively with common-law rules whose time has passed and must be eradicated, particularly in corporate law. This is so since the Supreme Court of Appeal judgment in Hlumisa Investment Holdings (RF) Ltd & another v Kirkinis & others 2020 (5) SA 419 (SCA) has recently endorsed previous Constitutional Court judgments which confirmed the continued validity of the common-law principle of statutory interpretation that a statute should not be taken to alter the common law unless it is clear that that is what was intended. The contribution arrives at the conclusion that the limiting effect of English judgments, particularly Edwards v Halliwell [1950] 2 All ER 1064 and Prudential Assurance v Newman Industries (CA) [1982] Ch D 204 would have still been applicable in South Africa, even though they allow for a conservative exception to the rule in Foss v Harbottle in providing for derivative action claims at common law.