How Contractual Terms Determine Fiduciary Duties: A Two-Stage Process

David Gibbs-Kneller, Derek Whayman

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The determination of the scope of the fiduciary duty of loyalty, when created by contract, is not a unitary process. It is raised following a multi-factorial enquiry, which considers the nature of the engagement, in a first stage. Here, no single factor is conclusive. It is then, in a separate, second stage, reduced by qualifying contractual terms, which are applied almost strictly logically. This second stage uses the contractual doctrines of interpretation and implication. However, since it is a form of the fiduciary doctrine of authorisation, those contractual doctrines are modified according to fiduciary principles. We argue this follows from the underlying nature of the fiduciary obligation as a way of resolving its internal tensions. While this division has not yet been fully recognised in the cases, the courts have been inching towards it. However, not fully recognising this inevitable division and eliding the two stages has led to defective reasoning and outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-262
Number of pages22
JournalNorthern Ireland Legal Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2019


  • Fiduciary
  • Contract
  • Authorisation
  • Equity
  • construction
  • implication

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