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JEB Fasteners v Marks Bloom – 1983

April 02, 2024
Micheal James

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Introduction to JEB Fasteners v Marks Bloom – 1983

The 1983 case of JEB Fasteners v Marks Bloom (MBC) is a leading English judgment concerning the duty of care owed by auditors to third parties. It established a crucial precedent for determining the extent of an auditor’s liability when their financial statements are relied upon by parties beyond the company they directly audit. This case study delves into the details of the case, its legal significance, and its lasting impact.

Facts

JEB Fasteners Ltd., a company seeking expansion, acquired another business. Prior to the acquisition, JEB conducted due diligence, which included reviewing the financial statements of the target company. These statements had been audited by Marks Bloom & Co. (MBC). Following the acquisition, JEB discovered significant discrepancies in the company’s financial health compared to what the audited statements portrayed. Feeling misled, JEB sued MBC, alleging negligence in their audit.

Legal Issue(s)

The central legal question in JEB Fasteners v Marks Bloom hinged on the concept of duty of care. In negligence law, a duty of care exists when one party owes a legal responsibility to avoid causing harm to another. The crux of the issue was whether MBC, the auditors, owed a duty of care to JEB, a third party who relied on the audited accounts during the acquisition process.

Relevant Law

The concept of duty of care is fundamental to negligence claims. It establishes a legal obligation for one party to act with reasonable care to avoid causing foreseeable harm to another. Traditionally, an auditor’s duty of care extended solely to the company they audited, ensuring the accuracy of financial statements for internal use.

Reasoning and Holding

JEB presented a compelling argument, claiming that MBC owed them a duty of care. They argued that the audited statements, intended to reflect the company’s true financial position, were crucial to their decision to acquire the business.

MBC, on the other hand, likely countered that their responsibility was solely towards the company they audited, not third parties like JEB who might access the financial statements for various reasons.

The court’s decision in JEB Fasteners v Marks Bloom offered a nuanced perspective:

  • Duty of Care Acknowledged: The court acknowledged that, in certain circumstances, auditors could owe a duty of care to third parties who rely on their audited statements in good faith. This expanded the traditional scope of an auditor’s responsibility.
  • Reliance and Due Diligence: However, the court also emphasized the importance of reliance and due diligence on the part of the third party. In this case, the court found that JEB had conducted their own investigation and formed their own opinions on the financial health of the target company. This limited MBC’s liability.

Significance

The JEB Fasteners v Marks Bloom decision holds significant weight for two key reasons:

  • Clarified Scope of Duty: The case clarified the scope of duty of care owed by auditors to third parties. It established that while auditors might have a broader responsibility under certain circumstances, it’s not absolute.
  • Importance of Reliance and Due Diligence: The case highlighted the importance of a third party’s reliance on the audited statements and the extent of their own due diligence. If a third party conducts a thorough investigation and reaches independent conclusions, the auditor’s liability might be mitigated.

Conclusion

The JEB Fasteners v Marks Bloom case serves as a crucial precedent for understanding the relationship between auditors, their clients, and third parties who rely on audited financial statements. It established a balancing act – auditors can potentially owe a duty of care to third parties, but the extent of that duty is influenced by the reliance and due diligence exercised by the third party.

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