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吉林省律师协会对外投资与贸易法律专业委员会资讯速递(三)

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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.


缔约中的表见代理权

王 蕾

对外商投资企业来说(以下简称“企业”),若希望在交易过程中最大限度地保证合同的有效履行,至少要做到以下方面:

1、签订书面合同;

2、签订书面中文合同;

3、合同中明确约定争议的解决方式,尤为重要的是选择对己方有利的管辖法院;

4、在合同中详细约定合同相对方为遵守合同而必须履行的义务;

5、合同相对方违约而必须支付的违约金;

6、确保合同相对方的代理人有权在合同上签字、盖章,等等。

事实上,企业在签约中需要做的不仅仅是这些。上述第一项至第五项问题,通过完善合同即可解决,而第六项问题则需要特别注意。本文将针对上述第六项问题,结合合同法中规定的表见代理权,来分析缔约中代理人的权限问题。

根据法律规定,生效的书面合同必须具备以下条件:

1、企业的法定代表人或负责人在合同上签字

中国法律规定企业的法定代表人或负责人对公司的行为有表见代理权。这就意味着即便该法定代表人或负责人没有事实上的授权去约束企业,譬如,可能是由于董事会或股东会从未授权该法定代表人或负责人与他人缔约,除非合同相对方明知道该法定代表人或负责人没有企业授权,否则该法定代表人或负责人的签字将对企业产生法律效力。

现实中,一些公司(合同相对方)试图通过主张他们从未在合同上签字或他们签约的时候并没有适当的授权来摆脱合同义务。为避免这类情形,企业应考虑通过以下方式来降低风险:

(1) ? 通过合同缔约方的营业执照来确定谁是公司的法定代表人;

(2) ? 要求合同相对方提供其明确同意缔约并授权法定代表人或负责人签约的董事会或股东会决议。

2、正确加盖合同印章

合同须加盖正确的企业印章。只要印章是正确、真实的,谁负责盖章无关紧要。也就是说,必须用刻有企业名称的合同章,或者按通常做法,用企业公章给合同盖章。通常每个企业只有一枚公司印章,没有副本。

上述条件在一般的缔约过程中都会满足。然而,一旦发生签约人没有代理权、超越代理权或者代理权终止后以公司名义订立合同,该行为是否发生法律效力呢?例如,某公司的行政助理经常从办公伙伴订购一些小金额的办公用品,可能每次订购一百元到五百元之间。公司通常会给办公伙伴结账。如果某天公司想拒绝付款四百元,理由是行政助理没有代理权,公司从未给办公伙伴下过订单,那么办公伙伴可以寻求法律救济而且一定会得到付款。理由是公司已经让外界明确地相信行政助理有权代表公司下单。从这个案例可以看出,表见代理是一个相当宽泛的概念。简单说,如果一个雇员看起来让人有理由相信他有权代表公司签订合同,则该公司应当受合同约束。

根据《合同法》第四十九条,行为人没有代理权、超越代理权或者代理权终止后以被代理人名义订立合同,相对人有理由相信行为人有代理权的,该代理行为有效。

根据《合同法》第五十条,法人或者其他组织的法定代表人、负责人超越权限订立的合同,除相对人知道或者应当知道其超越权限的以外,该代表行为有效。

在此种情况下,代理人尽管没有代理权或超越代理权,其行为仍可约束本人和第三方。这就是所谓的“表见代理”。根据这一规定,本人的行为导致第三方合理认为代理人有权代表本人行事时,本人不能以代理人无权代理对抗第三方,并受代理人行为的约束。

表见代理是诚实信用这一民法基本原则的适用。它在本人不是个人而是组织时更为重要。第三方在与公司、合伙企业或其他商业组织进行交易时,很难确定代表该组织行事的人是否有实际代理权,因此尽可能倾向于依赖他们的表见代理权。出于这一目的,第三方只须证明他合理地认为代表该组织的人已有代理权,并且这一信赖是那些实际有权代表该组织的人,例如董事会成员、执行主管、合伙人等的行为造成的。第三方信赖是否合理取决于具体情形,例如,表见代理人在公司制度等级中的位置,所涉交易的类型,过去组织代表的默许,等等。

案例分析:

1、 ?甲是乙公司的项目经理,经常代表乙公司对建筑工程施工项目进行工程预算及决算。在乙公司与丙公司的工程项目决算中,甲以乙公司名义进行决算并在决算书上签字,但并未向丙公司提供乙公司对其授权委托书。后因乙公司拖欠丙公司项目工程款纠纷,丙公司将乙公司诉至法院。庭审中,乙公司主张其并未对甲项目经理有任何书面授权进行项目决算,因此对决算后的工程款不予认可。丙公司主张,对于甲项目经理在施工现场进行决算的行为,乙公司从未做过否认的意思表示,因此甲有权代表乙公司行事。经审理后法院认为,甲作为乙的项目经理,尽管没有书面授权委托书,但甲的行为及乙公司的默示行为足以使丙公司完全有正当理由相信甲有权代表乙公司进行决算。依照《民法通则》第六十六条及《合同法》第四十九条规定,甲的行为构成表见代理。甲的决算及签字行为应为有效,乙公司应按甲的决算书依法给付丙公司工程款项。

2、 ?甲是乙公司的财务主管。在董事会的默许下,虽然甲没有实际代理权,但其经常代表乙公司与丙证券公司进行证券交易。当一项新交易表明对乙公司有损害时,乙公司董事会以甲无权代理而向丙证券公司提出异议。则丙证券公司可主张乙公司受甲有表见代理权代表乙公司进行证券交易的约束,从而对抗这一异议。


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

吉林集成律师事务所律师合伙人律师

电话: +86 135 7877 1686


传真: +86 431 8860 3908 ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

电邮: jichengwl@126.com

教育及培训

王蕾律师毕业于吉林大学法学院,获法律硕士学位,有证券从业资格;后在北京万法通法律英语培训机构、长春英孚教育英语培训机构接受系统、专业的法律英语及商务英语培训。

执业领域

公司类法律事务、涉外法律事务、金融业务、知识产权业务、刑事案件代理业务。

工作经历

王蕾律师曾代理金融资产管理公司诉讼案件、境外投资公司在中国的诉讼案件并为其定期出具英文报告及法律意见、涉外劳动诉讼案件、知识产权诉讼案件等。她为数家企业提供法律服务,负责合同的起草与审查、劳动合同管理及相关纠纷的诉讼工作。王蕾律师曾参与《英文合同阅读指南》(中国法制出版社2008年版)的全面校对工作,对涉外法律事务有着深入研究。她曾与上海某翻译社合作,为其翻译部分诉讼案件的相关证据材料。王蕾律师曾就职于一家外资企业从事法律事务及翻译工作,负责公司合同、项目方案的翻译工作,以及与外国客户的沟通及接待工作。

工作语言

王蕾律师的工作语言是中文和英文。