Reformulation of accounts and nullity of the sale of shares

nulidad compraventa acciones

 

The mistake about the value of society and its benefits, revealed with the reformulation of accounts, allows you to cancel the sale of shares

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The nullity in the sale of shares error on the consent, it does not only occur in the environment of listed companies, as has happened in the cases of Bankia or Banco Popular.

In this post we review a lawsuit in which a sale of shares in an energy company was annulled. The sale is made between two shareholders at a price calculated on the company's accounts, which were later reformulated, considerably lowering the value of it. The Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court in ruling on 1 July 2020, (Resolución 395/2020),  declaró la nullity of the sale of shares between GASELEC DIVERSIFICATION, S.L. (onwards, GASELEC) and COVAERSA. He appreciated a vice error in hiring, which fell on the value of the shares, recognizing that said error was excusable in this case, because it could not be required, to the buying party, greater diligence.

Fact background,,es,Juan Alberto and Paulina filed suit against FTA,,es,Asset Securitization Fund,,es,requesting the declaration of nullity for abusive of the floor and ceiling clauses contained in the novation contract of the mortgage loan of,,es,with the corresponding refund of amounts unduly collected,,es,The Securitization Fund Management Company,,es,Beech,,es,acting on behalf of FTA, he responded to said claim alleging that he lacked passive legitimacy since the entity had no legal personality and that it constituted only a private and open fund and that therefore the passive legitimization corresponded to BBVA as successor of Catalunya Banc that was the Company fund constituent,,es

GASELEC and COVAERSA ​​were partners of NEXUS ENERGÍA, S.A., (onwards, NEXUS), with a participation in the capital stock of less than 10%.

The 29 November 2011, NEXUS agreed to a capital increase. Society, according to the last audit performed, had a value of 27.000.000 € and benefits of 12 million. The new shares it offered were priced at 30 € each.

GASELEC wanted to acquire shares and, how COVAERSA ​​needed liquidity, offered him a package of 33.000 shares with a discount of one euro on the price of the extension.

GASELEC and COVAERSA ​​signed a contract for the sale of 33.000 shares the 23 December 2011 At a price of 29 euros.

The 23 April 2012, the NEXUS auditor communicated to the Board of Directors, that the benefits had not been 12 million, but 3,5, and that the value of society was reduced to about 22 million. NEXUS recalculated the share value, passing from 30 a 12 €. NEXUS returned the difference to the shareholders, 18 € per share.

GASELEC filed a lawsuit, requesting that the sale of shares be declared void and the return of the amount paid as the purchase price due to an error in the consent.

Primera instancia

The Court of First Instance No. 2 of Elche issued sentence on 7 October 2016, refusing the application.

The Court considered that there was no error in the consent regarding the value of the shares, because the price is something relative that was agreed between both parties. It also considered that the error was not excusable because both parties were shareholders of NEXUS, so they knew the true value of the shares.

Provincial Court

GASELEC filed an appeal.

The 9th Section of the Provincial Court of Alicante issued a ruling on 21 November 2017, esteeming. Declared the nullity of the sale of shares and sentenced the selling party, to return the purchase price to GASELEC, as well as legal interests. It ordered GASELEC to return to COVAERSA ​​the shares with the profits obtained from the purchase.

The Section appreciated a defective contracting error, which fell on the value of the shares and was transferred to the fixing of the sale price.

“(…) knows the valuation of Nexus shares based on its audits in April 2011 and deed of the sale the following December and the following April the erroneous valuation of the same is evidenced. Thus, all the requirements of the error as a vice of consent concur ".

Supreme Court

COVAERSA ​​filed a cassation appeal, based on three reasons:

  • first plea: violation of art. 1274 Civil law and jurisprudence on the cause of a contract for the sale of shares.
  • second reason: infraction arts. 1261.1, 1265, 1266 and 1300 CCivil.
  • third plea: infringement due to non-application of the third paragraph of art. 1266 CCivil.

All the motives were rejected by the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court.

Cause of a share purchase agreement (art. 1274 CCivil)

The Chamber pointed out that the error in the consent was based on the error in the value of the shares that were the object of sale, caused by the accounting and audit information on which the subscription price of the new shares was set. Apreció el error vicio, pero no la infracción del art. 1274 CCivil.

Invalidity of consent given by mistake

The Lounge, in this case, trajo a colación la jurisprudencia sobre el error vicio del consentimiento que podía llevar a la nulidad del contrato (art. 1266 CCivil).

El error recayó sobre el valor de la sociedad y de las acciones, siendo un elemento essential del negocio jurídico.

El valor de las acciones objeto de la compraventa fue dado por la propia empresa, NEXUS, tras aprobar la ampliación de su capital social. Este valor fue el que se tomó en cuenta entre compradora y vendedora para fijar el precio. However, tras su revisión, el valor de la acción descendió a 12 €, al constatar que la información contable sobre el valor de la sociedad y los beneficios obtenidos no fue correcta.

For the Board, “de no haber existido ese error, el comprador no hubiera consentido la compra de las acciones en aquellas condiciones en que se formalizó.”

In this particular case, el error fue excusable, pues vino propiciado por un error previo sobre las cualidades del objeto o los parámetros que determinaron el valor de las acciones. “(…) el error en la valoración de la acción, que determinó el precio de la compraventa, vino propiciado por un previo error sobre el valor de la sociedad a la vista de sus cuentas y de los beneficios obtenidos.”

“(…) el error era excusable y no resulta razonable exigir mayor diligencia al comprador para cerciorarse del valor de las acciones que compraba. (…)  la compraventa de acciones se pactó en el momento de la ampliación de capital social y en atención al precio fijado por la propia sociedad, sobre la base de la información objetiva empleada para la aprobación de la ampliación de capital y que comprador y vendedor conocían por ser ambos socios de Nexus.”

General principle of conservation of contracts (art. 1266.3º CCivil)

No nos encontrábamos en un error en la operación de cálculo, sino en las premisas que se tuvieron en cuenta para determinar el valor de la acción, a la hora de convenir el precio en la compraventa. Resultaba de aplicación, para la Sala, “el régimen del error vicio, namely, la nulidad del contrato y la recíproca restitución de prestaciones” (Arts. 1303 ff. CCivil).

Conclusion

A pesar de que los errores sobre la valoración del bien objeto de una compraventa raramente son excusablesen ocasiones pueden serlo, si vienen propiciados por un error previo sobre las cualidades del objeto o los parámetros que determinan su valor. En el caso de una reformulación de cuentas, se genera un error esencial y excusable que vicia el consentimiento y conduce a la nulidad de la compraventa de acciones.

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