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5 September 2013 0 Comments
Posted in Employment, Opinion

Specific disclosure of CEO’s emails ordered

Author headshot image Posted by , Partner

In Fairstar Heavy Transport NV v Adkins and Anor, the Court of Appeal has granted the application of a company to inspect and copy the business related emails sent and received by its former CEO while he was acting on their behalf, which were stored on his personal computer. The CEO was not an employee but had been contracted as CEO via a separate company, which was controlled by him. When the company was subject to a hostile takeover, it sought access to the CEO’s emails on his personal computer. All his work related emails were automatically forwarded to his personal computer and deleted from the company server.

The High Court Judge refused the application to inspect the content of the emails on the basis that the company had no enforceable proprietary claim to them. The Court held that the e-mails were information and not property of the company.

This decision was overturned in the Court of Appeal, which held that the company’s right to inspect and copy the content of the emails relating to its business affairs arose from the agency relationship between the company and the CEO on the basis that their former relationship had been that of agent and principal and, as a general rule, a principal is entitled to require the agent to produce documents relating to the affairs of the principal. In this context documents included information which was recorded, held or stored on a computer. Just because the relationship between them had terminated, this did not terminate the duty binding on the CEO to allow the company to inspect emails relating to its business matters.

This legal update is provided for general information purposes only and should not be applied to specific circumstances without prior consultation with us.

For further details on any of the issues covered in this update please contact Gemma Ospedale, Partner in Employment on 020 7583 2222


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