What a director of a company in Spain must do to resign? Is it enough to send a communication to the company stating his resignation? Or does he have to call a Shareholder’s Meeting to appoint a substitute? Or does he even have to do something else?
A recent Supreme Court ruling dated July 12, 2022 (STS 561/2022) has resolved an interesting case related to the resignation of a sole director of an LLC, confirming that resigning is not as simple as it may seem.
The SC, indeed, established that a sole director, to resign, must not only prove that he validly called a Shareholders’ Meeting for the appointment of a substitute, but he must also prove that he did everything necessary during the interim period (i.e.: the time between the resignation and the holding of the Meeting) to meet the needs of management and representation of the company and to avoid damages. Even, and this is the case discussed in the STS, requiring the presence of a notary at the Meeting, if so required by shareholders representing at least 5% of the share capital.
The case recently ruled by the SC involved a company with two shareholders: the majority partner with 75% of the capital, and the minority partner (and sole administrator) with 25%. The sole administrator resigned and called a Shareholder’s Meeting to appoint a substitute. The majority shareholder required the presence of a Notary at the Meeting; but the resigning director refused, stating that – following his resignation – he had no obligation regarding the Meeting.
On the day of the Meeting, the majority shareholder was present, but neither the resigning administrator nor the Notary were, therefore the Shareholder’s Meeting was not held.
The administrator filed the deed of resignation with the Commercial Registry and the majority shareholder – at the same time – filed a document denouncing that the resigning administrator had not requested the presence of a Notary at the Meeting, despite having been requested to do so.
Thereafter, several resolutions with very different contents were issued. The Commercial Registrar suspended the registration of the resignation, but the “Dirección General del Notariado y de los Registros” (General Directorate of Notaries and Registries) decided that the resignation should be registered. The Commercial Court of Barcelona confirmed this last decision, and so did the Provincial Court. But the Supreme Court finally gave reason to the Mercantile Registrar.
The rulings in favor of the registration of the resignation argued, firstly, that the outgoing administrator exhausted his responsibilities by convening the Shareholder’s Meeting; and secondly, that the Registrar must examine only if a document may be entered in the register, without considering the “extra-registry reality”, such as the document presented by the majority shareholder complaining about the administrator’s actions.
The Supreme Court disagreed, stating that the absence of a Notary, validly requested by the majority shareholder, rendered ineffective all the resolutions of the Shareholder’s Meeting. Based on this, the Supreme Court considered it “logical” that in such a case the administrator should not only call the Shareholder’s Meeting but also require the presence of a Notary, in order to grant the validity of the resolutions of the Shareholder’s Meeting. With respect to the second controversial issue, the Supreme Court ruled that the Registrar, although exceptionally, can take into account certain circumstances or facts of which he has “registry evidence”, even if they do not appear by virtue of documents presented for their inscription, as long as they are related to the “inscribable” document.
In short, this interesting case shows that resigning as an administrator is not an easy activity. In general, although there is no specific provision on the subject in the Spanish system, the resigning administrator must not only call a Shareholder’s Meeting, but also remain administrator on an interim basis and attend to his obligations until the Shareholder’s Meeting is held; then, if the Shareholder’s Meeting is not held due to the non-attendance of the shareholders or if the shareholders do not appoint a substitute administrator, nothing more is required from the resigning administrator.