業務園地

吉林省律師協會對外投資與貿易法律專業委員會資訊速遞(三)

信息來源: | 責任編輯: 發布時間:2014-02-27

Theapparent authority during concluding contracts

Lei Wang

For foreign-investedenterprise (hereinafter referred to “enterprise”), if the enterprise want togreatly increase the chances of being able to enforce the contract with thecounter-party, it should do at least the followings,

1.     Having a written contract;

2.     Having that written contract be in Chinese;

3.     Having that written contract set out clearly how disputesare to be resolved and, even more importantly, pick the forum in its favor for those disputes;

4.     Having that written contract set out in details what the counter-party must doto be in compliance with the contract;

5.     Setting out the liquidated damages the counter-party must payif it fails to comply with the contract;

6.     Making sure the agent of counter-party has authority tosign and seal the contract, etc..

Actually, enterpriseshould do a lot more than these. The first issue to the fifth issue mentionedabove can be solved by perfecting the contract. While the sixth issue is theone we should pay more attention to. This essay is going to focus on the sixthissue mentioned above, combining with the apparent authority stipulated in theContract Law, to analyze the authority of agent during concluding a contract.

According to the Lawsand Regulations, for written contracts to be effective, one of the followingmust be true:

1.     The enterprise's legal representative or theperson-in-charge signs it.

Chinese law providesthat an enterprise's legal representative or the person-in-charge has apparentauthority to bind the company. This means that even if that representativeor the person-in-charge lacks the actual authority to bind the enterprise, e.g.maybe because the board of directors or the shareholders never gave therepresentative or the person-in-charge the authority to contract with others,the legal representative's or the person-in-charge’s signature will bind theenterprise, unless the counter-party know that the legal representative or theperson-in-charge lacks the authority to bind the enterprise.

In realities, some companies(counter-parties) try to get out of contracts by claiming they never signedthem or that they were signed without the proper authority. To avoid thesesituations, enterprises should consider doing the followings to minimize therisk,

(1)  Confirming from the counter-party's business license whoexactly is the company's legal representative;

(2)  Asking the counter-party to offer a resolution from thecompany's board of directors or of shareholders explicitly approving thecontract and authorizing the legal representative or the person-in-charge tosign it.

2. The contract isappropriately sealed.

An appropriate seal isapplied to the contract. It does not matter who applies the seal, so long as itis the right and true seal. This means it must be sealed either with a contractseal that sets forth the name of the enterprise or, as is more commonly done,with the Enterprise Seal. Usually each enterprise has only one company seal, nocopies.

The conditionsmentioned above are easily to be satisfied during concluding contracts.However, is the agent’s behavior valid or not in case the agent lacking agencyauthority, acting beyond his agency authority, or whose agency authority wasextinguished concludes a contract on behalf of the company? For example, in acompany, the administrative assistants are always ordering officesupplies from Office Mate in fairly small increments -- maybe CNY 100 to 500 ata time. And the company always pays these Office Mate bills. If the company wasto refuse to pay a CNY 400 bill someday by claiming that the administrativeassistants had no agency authority to order and the company had never orderedanything from Office Mate, Office Mate could seek a legal remedy and they wouldsurely get the payment. The reason is that the company has clearly let theoutside world believe that the administrative assistants have authority to makesuch orders on the company's behalf. From this case, apparent authority is a pretty broad concept.Grossly simplified, it means that if an employee reasonably looks as though heor she has authority to enter into a specific contract on behalf of thecompany, the company will be bound to that contract.

For the purpose ofArticle 49 of the Contract Law, where the person lacking agency authority,acting beyond his agency authority, or whose agency authority was extinguishedconcluded a contract on behalf of the principal, if it was reasonable for theother party to believe that the person performing the act had agency authority,such act of agency is valid.

For the purpose ofArticle 50 of the Contract Law, where the legal representative or theperson-in-charge of a legal person or an organization concludes a contractacting beyond his power, unless the other party knew or should have known thathe was acting beyond his power, such act of representation is valid.

Under this situation, though an agentacting without authority or exceeding its authority, may bind the principal andthe third party to each other. That’s so-called “apparent authority”. Accordingto this provision, a principal, whose conduct leads a third party reasonably tobelieve that the agent has authority to act on its behalf, is prevented frominvoking against the third party the lack of authority of the agent and istherefore bound by the agent’s act.

Apparent authority is an application of thegeneral principle of good faith in Civil Law. It is more important in case theprincipal is not an individual but an organization. When a third party has adeal with a corporation, partnership enterprise or other business association,the party may find it difficult to determine whether the persons who act forthe organization have actual authority to do so. As a result, it may prefer torely on their apparent authority. For this purpose the third party only has todemonstrate that it was reasonable for it to believe that the person purportingto represent the organization was authorized to do so, and that this belief wascaused by the conduct of those actually authorized to represent theorganization, e.g., Board of Directors, executive officers, partners, etc..Whether or not the third party’s belief was reasonable depends on thecircumstances of the case, e.g., the position occupied by the apparent agent inthe company’s hierarchy, the type of transaction involved, the acquiescence ofthe organization’s representatives in the past, etc..

Casestudy:

1.     A is aProject Manager of company B, repeatedly calculated the construction budget andfinal cost relating to the building construction project on behalf of B. Acalculated the final cost and signed on the final report on behalf of B duringthe final cost procedure between B and company C. However, A did not offer theletter of authorization issued by B to C. After that C filed an action to B dueto the construction project debt dispute between them. On court hearing, Bclaimed that the company had never authorized A in any written form to do finalcost so that the company had no responsibility to accept the final projectcost. C claimed that B had never deny A’s behavior of calculating final cost onconstruction site. Therefore, A had authority to act on behalf of B. After thetrail the court considered that as the project manager of B, though lackingwritten authority to do so, A’s behavior and the acquiescence of B completelylead C reasonably to believe that A had authority to act on behalf of B.Pursuant to Article 66 of the General Rule Of Civil Law and Article 49 of theContract Law, A’s behavior is apparent authority. A’s final cost and signatureare valid, according to which B is liable to pay C the construction projectdebt.

2.     A is aChief Financial Officer of company B. With the acquiescence of the Board ofDirectors, though he lacks actual authority, he usually entered into securitiestransactions with security company C on behalf of B. On the occasion of a newtransaction which proves to be disadvantageous to B, B’s Board of Directorsraises against C the objection of A’s lack of authority. C may defeat thisobjection by claiming that B is bound by A’s apparent authority to enter intothe securities transaction on B’s behalf.


締約中的表見代理權

王 蕾

對外商投資企業來說(以下簡稱“企業”),若希望在交易過程中最大限度地保證合同的有效履行,至少要做到以下方面:

1、簽訂書面合同;

2、簽訂書面中文合同;

3、合同中明確約定爭議的解決方式,尤為重要的是選擇對己方有利的管轄法院;

4、在合同中詳細約定合同相對方為遵守合同而必須履行的義務;

5、合同相對方違約而必須支付的違約金;

6、確保合同相對方的代理人有權在合同上簽字、蓋章,等等。

事實上,企業在簽約中需要做的不僅僅是這些。上述第一項至第五項問題,通過完善合同即可解決,而第六項問題則需要特別注意。本文將針對上述第六項問題,結合合同法中規定的表見代理權,來分析締約中代理人的權限問題。

根據法律規定,生效的書面合同必須具備以下條件:

1、企業的法定代表人或負責人在合同上簽字

中國法律規定企業的法定代表人或負責人對公司的行為有表見代理權。這就意味著即便該法定代表人或負責人沒有事實上的授權去約束企業,譬如,可能是由于董事會或股東會從未授權該法定代表人或負責人與他人締約,除非合同相對方明知道該法定代表人或負責人沒有企業授權,否則該法定代表人或負責人的簽字將對企業產生法律效力。

現實中,一些公司(合同相對方)試圖通過主張他們從未在合同上簽字或他們簽約的時候并沒有適當的授權來擺脫合同義務。為避免這類情形,企業應考慮通過以下方式來降低風險:

(1)   通過合同締約方的營業執照來確定誰是公司的法定代表人;

(2)   要求合同相對方提供其明確同意締約并授權法定代表人或負責人簽約的董事會或股東會決議。

2、正確加蓋合同印章

合同須加蓋正確的企業印章。只要印章是正確、真實的,誰負責蓋章無關緊要。也就是說,必須用刻有企業名稱的合同章,或者按通常做法,用企業公章給合同蓋章。通常每個企業只有一枚公司印章,沒有副本。

上述條件在一般的締約過程中都會滿足。然而,一旦發生簽約人沒有代理權、超越代理權或者代理權終止后以公司名義訂立合同,該行為是否發生法律效力呢?例如,某公司的行政助理經常從辦公伙伴訂購一些小金額的辦公用品,可能每次訂購一百元到五百元之間。公司通常會給辦公伙伴結賬。如果某天公司想拒絕付款四百元,理由是行政助理沒有代理權,公司從未給辦公伙伴下過訂單,那么辦公伙伴可以尋求法律救濟而且一定會得到付款。理由是公司已經讓外界明確地相信行政助理有權代表公司下單。從這個案例可以看出,表見代理是一個相當寬泛的概念。簡單說,如果一個雇員看起來讓人有理由相信他有權代表公司簽訂合同,則該公司應當受合同約束。

根據《合同法》第四十九條,行為人沒有代理權、超越代理權或者代理權終止后以被代理人名義訂立合同,相對人有理由相信行為人有代理權的,該代理行為有效。

根據《合同法》第五十條,法人或者其他組織的法定代表人、負責人超越權限訂立的合同,除相對人知道或者應當知道其超越權限的以外,該代表行為有效。

在此種情況下,代理人盡管沒有代理權或超越代理權,其行為仍可約束本人和第三方。這就是所謂的“表見代理”。根據這一規定,本人的行為導致第三方合理認為代理人有權代表本人行事時,本人不能以代理人無權代理對抗第三方,并受代理人行為的約束。

表見代理是誠實信用這一民法基本原則的適用。它在本人不是個人而是組織時更為重要。第三方在與公司、合伙企業或其他商業組織進行交易時,很難確定代表該組織行事的人是否有實際代理權,因此盡可能傾向于依賴他們的表見代理權。出于這一目的,第三方只須證明他合理地認為代表該組織的人已有代理權,并且這一信賴是那些實際有權代表該組織的人,例如董事會成員、執行主管、合伙人等的行為造成的。第三方信賴是否合理取決于具體情形,例如,表見代理人在公司制度等級中的位置,所涉交易的類型,過去組織代表的默許,等等。

案例分析:

1、  甲是乙公司的項目經理,經常代表乙公司對建筑工程施工項目進行工程預算及決算。在乙公司與丙公司的工程項目決算中,甲以乙公司名義進行決算并在決算書上簽字,但并未向丙公司提供乙公司對其授權委托書。后因乙公司拖欠丙公司項目工程款糾紛,丙公司將乙公司訴至法院。庭審中,乙公司主張其并未對甲項目經理有任何書面授權進行項目決算,因此對決算后的工程款不予認可。丙公司主張,對于甲項目經理在施工現場進行決算的行為,乙公司從未做過否認的意思表示,因此甲有權代表乙公司行事。經審理后法院認為,甲作為乙的項目經理,盡管沒有書面授權委托書,但甲的行為及乙公司的默示行為足以使丙公司完全有正當理由相信甲有權代表乙公司進行決算。依照《民法通則》第六十六條及《合同法》第四十九條規定,甲的行為構成表見代理。甲的決算及簽字行為應為有效,乙公司應按甲的決算書依法給付丙公司工程款項。

2、  甲是乙公司的財務主管。在董事會的默許下,雖然甲沒有實際代理權,但其經常代表乙公司與丙證券公司進行證券交易。當一項新交易表明對乙公司有損害時,乙公司董事會以甲無權代理而向丙證券公司提出異議。則丙證券公司可主張乙公司受甲有表見代理權代表乙公司進行證券交易的約束,從而對抗這一異議。


Lei Wang

Partner of Jilin Jicheng Law Firm


Phone:  +86 135 7877 1686
Fax:    +86 431 8860 3908                                          

E-mail:  jichengwl@126.com

Education and Training

Ms. Wang holds aJurist Master degree from Jilin University and the Qualification of SecurityPracticer. She had Legal English and Business English training systematicallyand professionally in Beijing Lawspirit Legal English School and ChangchunEnglish First Education Institution.

Practice Areas

Ms. Wang focuseson legal affairs relevant to corporations, foreign clients, financialinstitutions intellectual property rights and criminal cases.

WorkingExperiences

Ms. Wang hasserved for financial asset management companies and foreign investmentcompanies, her work includes without limitation for their litigations, duediligence, labor disputes and intellectual property rights litigations. She hasacted for several  enterprises, and hasexperience in contract review and drafting, labor contract management, andproviding relevant disputes resolutions (litigation/arbitration). Ms. Wang hadbeen a proofreader for Understanding English Contract (Published by China LegalPublishing House in 2008 ), and she has intensive study regarding foreign legalaffairs. She had cooperated with a translation company based in Shanghai ontranslating key evidences documents for a foreign-related litigation. Ms. Wangworked at a Sino-foreign joint venture enterprise as consultant and translator.Her primary responsibilities include translation for contracts and projects,and communication with foreign clients.

Working Languages

Ms. Wang is proficient in Mandarin and English.


王蕾

吉林集成律師事務所律師合伙人律師

電話: +86 135 7877 1686


傳真: +86 431 8860 3908                    

電郵: jichengwl@126.com

教育及培訓

王蕾律師畢業于吉林大學法學院,獲法律碩士學位,有證券從業資格;后在北京萬法通法律英語培訓機構、長春英孚教育英語培訓機構接受系統、專業的法律英語及商務英語培訓。

執業領域

公司類法律事務、涉外法律事務、金融業務、知識產權業務、刑事案件代理業務。

工作經歷

王蕾律師曾代理金融資產管理公司訴訟案件、境外投資公司在中國的訴訟案件并為其定期出具英文報告及法律意見、涉外勞動訴訟案件、知識產權訴訟案件等。她為數家企業提供法律服務,負責合同的起草與審查、勞動合同管理及相關糾紛的訴訟工作。王蕾律師曾參與《英文合同閱讀指南》(中國法制出版社2008年版)的全面校對工作,對涉外法律事務有著深入研究。她曾與上海某翻譯社合作,為其翻譯部分訴訟案件的相關證據材料。王蕾律師曾就職于一家外資企業從事法律事務及翻譯工作,負責公司合同、項目方案的翻譯工作,以及與外國客戶的溝通及接待工作。

工作語言

王蕾律師的工作語言是中文和英文。


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