北京仲裁委员会

破产背景下股与债的界分/Distinction between equity and debt under bankruptcy

发布时间: 2019-7-16   供稿人:许德风


本文原载于《商法》2019年6月|第10辑第6期,北京仲裁委员会授权转发。


股与债的界分是破产法实践中最重要的问题之一。股与债的基本区别在于,股权有权获得无限收益且不受合同衡平原则的限制,而债权则主要限于本金和利息,某些时候还会受到利息管制等规则的制约。在商业实践中,股与债被混合使用于各类交易中的情况非常普遍。股和债本质上是公司融资交易中的两类合同安排, 在这两种有名合同作为构成要素之下的组合、搭配就易于产生各种无名合同。在破产法之外,若不违反管制规范,这些无名合同应被认定为有效并赋予执行力,这是一个简单的道理。

然而,在一些情况下,裁判者会被各种管制的规则所干扰,如“利息管制”“通谋虚伪表示”“流质流押禁止”或“公司资本管制”等等,进而基于这些管制规则认定当事人杂糅股债的约定无效,或者硬性地将原本属于当事人之间意思自治的法律关系归为股或者债的法律关系。若裁判者对相关交易缺乏整体认识,或者过分扩张管制规则的影响力,则易于在此类案件分配各方权利义务时有失偏颇。正所谓正确的选择只有一个,错误的花样各各不同。在这个意义上,管制规则本身还是需要被认真对待,并结合管制的目的一一加以分析。

破产法的基本原理,是股权在破产程序中后于债权(普通债权)实现,这意味着股与债的定性,对当事人的权利会产生实质性的影响。总体而言,尽管当事人可能通过“股权投资+ 卖出期权”或者“债权投资+ 买入期权” 等股债杂糅的交易安排,在确保投资安全的情况下努力增加投资回报,但就破产法而言, 需从当事人交易的初始定性出发来确定此种交易安排究竟是股或是债。如当事人在进行债权投资的同时,购买了权证,有权在未来以特定价格购入债务人的股票,若债务人在投资人行使权证之前破产,则投资人的权利便仍是债权。

当然,在很大程度上,破产是更看重交易实质的法律制度,破产撤销权、取回权等都是典型的表现。在公司融资中,如果股东试图以债的形式替代其出资义务,法律会将其“打回原形”,作为股来对待(是为股东债权衡平居次制度);而若投资人表面上(从第三人即债务人的股东处)受让了债务人的股权, 但其资金却直接支付给债务人,在债务人破产时,便不能简单认为投资人属于股东,进而应后位于其他债权人受偿。事实上,受让股份与出借资金完全可以理解为两个不同的法律关系。

破产是区分股和债对应实体权利的试金石。除了要考虑当事人之间的约定外,还要考察其他债权人的信赖。原则上,除非设定担保,法律不宜过多关注债权人对债务人一般财产状况的信赖。一方面,债务人财产处于持续的变动之中,这是债权人通常应当预见的事项;另一方面,有调节能力的债权人有权要求债务人提供担保,在未要求担保时,应当预见到可能的不利后果。

作者:北京仲裁委员会/北京国际仲裁中心仲裁员、北京大学法学院教授许德风。北仲仲裁秘书刘念琼、杨雨菲对文章亦有贡献

Distinction between equity and debt under bankruptcy

The distinction between equity and debt is one of the most important issues in bankruptcy practice.

The basic difference between equity and debt is that the equity holder is entitled to an unlimited amount of return without being subject to the equitable principle, while the creditor is subject to usury control and corresponding regulatory rules. However, in economic reality, it is very common that debt and equity are combined in various transactions, which makes the boundary between equity and debt less distinctive.

Equity and debt are essentially two typical arrangements of contracts in corporate finance transactions. Between these two typical contracts, there are a large number of “untypical” contracts, i.e., contracts not named by the law. A clear principle is that if not violating regulatory rules, these “unnamed” contracts should be considered valid and enforceable.

However, sometimes judges/arbitrators may be influenced by various regula- tory rules, such as the usury control rule and capital maintenance rule, and hence consider the contractual agreement in- valid or wrongly interpret the contents of the contract that is voluntarily accepted by the parties.

A more balanced and reasonable adjudication requires the judges/arbitrators to properly understand the business essence of transactions and the scope of the related regulatory rules. The correct choice is only one, while incorrect patterns take various forms. To avoid misjudgment, regulatory rules need to be taken seriously into account and analyzed in combination with the purpose of the mandatory regulation.

According to the basic principle of bankruptcy law, equity holders are subordinated to general creditors in bankruptcy proceedings, which means the classification of the parties’ rights will affect their rights substantially. Although the combi- nation of equity and debt – such as “equity + put option” or “debt + call option” – can be used to maximize investment re- turns while limiting investment risks, in bankruptcy law the classification of such contractual arrangements should be based on the essence of transactions.

If the investor conducts debt investment while being entitled to purchase the debtor’s shares at a specific price in the future (through warrant, for example), the investor should still be treated as a creditor if the debtor enters bankruptcy before the purchase.

Bankruptcy law weighs more on substance than form in which preference, fraudulent conveyance and determination of bankruptcy estate are all good examples. If a shareholder attempts to circumvent capital contribution obligation with debt financing, the debt between that shareholder and the company would still be treated as equity (equitable subordination rule). If the investor acquires the shares from a third party (the shareholder of the debtor), but directly pays the funds to the debtor, then this investor cannot be simply considered as a shareholder that subordinated to the general creditors in the bankruptcy proceedings. In fact, the transfer of shares and the loan to the debtor can be understood as two different legal relationships.

Bankruptcy proceedings can be viewed as a touchstone to distinguish the substantial rights of equity and debt. Apart from the agreement between the contractual parties, legitimate reliance of the third parties should also be considered. In principle, a third-party creditor’s reliance on the debtor’s general conditions of assets should not be weighted more unless a security interest is provided.

On the one hand, the debtor’s asset changes continuously, which should be foreseen by the creditor; on the other hand, the creditor who has the ability of adjustment can require the debtor to provide guarantee or security interests, and if not, the negative consequences should be foreseen and borne by the third-party creditor.

Xu Defeng is an arbitrator with Beijing Arbitration Commission/Beijing International Arbitration Centre (BAC/BIAC). BAC/BIAC case managers Liu Nianqiong and Yang Yufei also contributed to the article.本文原载于《商法》2018年11月|第9辑第10期,北京仲裁委员会授权转发。 本文原载于《商法》2018年11月|第9辑第10期,北京仲裁委员会授权转发。 本文原载于《商法》2018年11月|第9辑第10期,北京仲裁委员会授权转发。 本文原载于《商法》2018年11月|第9辑第10期,北京仲裁委员会授权转发。 本文原载于《商法》2018年11月|第9辑第10期,北京仲裁委员会授权转发。 本文原载于《商法》2018年11月|第9辑第10期,北京仲裁委员会授权转发。 Distinction between equity and debt under bankruptcy  Distinction between equity and debt under bankruptcy

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