Knowing your statutory rights as a shareholder is very useful.
Statutory rights are those that are enshrined by law (predominantly the Companies Act 2006). They cannot be reduced to the detriment of any shareholder.
However, they can be enhanced through use of a shareholders’ agreement or in the articles of association of the company. For example, the members can agree that resolutions approving short term loans to directors can be passed on a simple majority of members holding at least 30% of the voting rights. The issues on which voting will change are known as reserved matters.
You may be writing a shareholders agreement and want to decide how to rebalance powers more favourably in one shareholder's interests.
Or may want to change the direction the business is going in, or prevent something happening.
You can use the list below to consider what rights shareholders have under law before any adjustment by the articles of association or a shareholder agreement, and therefore which individuals - alone or together - can influence company decision making.
Powers to block
We haven't included the powers that shareholders have to block decisions, since these are technically not rights. Logically, if members holding more than 75% of the voting rights can vote and pass a particular motion, members holding more than 25% of the voting rights can block the passing of a motion.
Requirement to arrange to vote
It is worth noting that rights only apply if the shareholder is present at the meeting, or is voting by proxy (allowing someone else to vote on his or her behalf). If a disinterested minority shareholder (for example, perhaps a corporate trustee of a family will trust) neither turns up nor arranges to vote in any way, those possible votes are taken out of the calculation.
The following are the statutory rights of shareholders who together hold more than a certain proportion of the shares that hold voting rights and who are present personally or by proxy at the meeting.
Rights of all shareholders, regardless of percentage of shares held
to inspect the register of members and the index of members' names without charge
to be given a copy of the register of shareholders within 10 days of a request (possibly subject to a charge)
to inspect the register of directors’ service contracts without charge
to receive a copy of the annual accounts
to inspect the minutes of any general meeting
to ask the court to call a general meeting
to receive notice of general meetings
to vote at a meeting of members
not to be unfairly prejudiced
to be given a share certificate
to have the shareholder’s name entered on the Register of Members
to have the company wound up, provided that it is just and equitable to do so
Rights of shareholders holding more than 5% of shares
to call a general meeting
to refuse to consent to a meeting being held at short notice
to circulate a written statement on any matter to the other members
Rights of shareholders holding more than 10% of shares
to have the Company's Annual Accounts audited
Rights of shareholders holding more than 50% of shares
to pass an ordinary resolution
An ordinary resolution is any that can be passed by a simple majority of the shareholders (more than half of the votes cast by the shareholders entitled to vote and present personally or by proxy at the meeting).
Where the Companies Act 2006 or the company’s articles of association do not specify whether a resolution required is an ordinary one or not, agreement by a simple majority satisfies the requirement of Act for a resolution or a decision in a general meeting of members.
Examples of decisions that are usually made by ordinary resolution include:
increasing (but not reducing) the authorised share capital
providing or renewing the directors' authority to allot relevant securities
approving transactions between the company and "connected" persons
removing of a director (providing special notice of the resolution has been given)
Ordinary resolutions with special notice
Certain ordinary resolutions require that special notice of the intention to propose one must be given to the company in advance of a meeting.
Resolutions requiring special notice include those proposing:
the removal of a director
the appointment of an auditor other than a retiring auditor
the removal of an auditor before the expiration of his or her term of office
Rights of shareholders holding more than 75% of shares
to pass a special resolution
A special resolution is one passed by at least 75% of the shareholders present in person or by proxy and entitled to vote at a general meeting.
Notice of not less than 21 days’ notice must be given to the members, specifying the intention to propose the resolution as a special resolution.
It follows that shareholders holding more than 25% of the shares may block the others from passing a special resolution.
The following are examples of matters for which a special resolution is required by the Companies Act 2006.
amendment of the articles of association
changing the company’s name
changing the country of registration of the company from Wales to England and Wales
reduction of the share capital of the company, for example, in connection with the re-domination of shares
disapplication of pre-emption rights by the directors of the company where there is only one class of shares; where the directors act in general authority; or by the directors to a specified allotment of equity securities or application with modification of an allotment
re-registration of a company as a new type, for example, an unlimited company as a private limited company or a private limited company as a public limited company
authorising certain off-market purchases by the company of its own shares, and varying, revoking and renewing that authority
varying class rights
using capital to pay for the redemption and purchase of the company’s own shares
winding up the company, whether voluntarily, or by a court
These rights cannot be reduced or changed by any agreement between the shareholders.
Registers to be maintained at a company's registered office
Certain registers of information are required to be held at the company’s registered office, so that they can be inspected by the shareholders or by stakeholders as required.
Nowadays, all of this information is available online via the Companies House website.
The registers required to be held are:
Register of directors and secretaries
Register of members
Register of directors' interests in shares
Register of charges, together with copies of all instruments containing registration with the Registrar