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Investment losses

1. It is arguably mistaken to anticipate professional negligence actions arising from the “Credit Crunch”. The professionals will be stockbrokers, bankers or money advisors of one sort or another in the financial services industry.

2. All of these professionals are connected to their clients by contract. The contracts cite “terms and conditions”, frequently alluding to the fact that they, no more than any professional do not guarantee a particular result.

3. What they are obliged to provide, however, is a competent careful discharge of their obligations. This covers the “duty of care” in tort law, but also any contractual or other obligations they carry.

4. In the field of Finance those obligations are considerable. They appear as contractual duties, fiduciary duties, duties of confidentiality, statutory and regulatory duties.

5. A fiduciary duty involves avoiding a conflict of interest, for instance. This is an absolute duty; it does not imply a need for care. Either there is a conflict or there is no conflict.

6. The claim of the professional that he “made a house call” will not be accepted where there was a conflict of interest between the “house” and the client.

7. The fiduciary’s duty is often expressed an obligation or duty of loyalty, but in practice inhibits behaviour which would be acceptable in other circumstances. A fiduciary is not free to follow his own interests; the interests of the client/beneficiary comes first. A fiduciary is not free to make a profit from his role; any such profit belongs to his client.

8. Many of the duties of a fiduciary are now imposed on professionals in the financial services industry as regulatory norms. Even if they are not available to be cited as the basis of a breach of duty, these regulatory norms are readily available to determine the implied contractual duties of the professional.

9. The Credit Crunch generated unprecedented circumstances for many large firms in the industry. Those are the circumstances where things are done which should not be done. In many instances, to recover losses, it is simply a matter of collecting the paper trail and instructing solicitors.