Shareholder disputes don't have to end in exhaustive legal battles.

Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process. It can be a more amicable and less costly solution than litigation.

Read on to understand the benefits, the process and practical tips for entering into mediation.


The ways in which mediation can help resolve a shareholder dispute involving the majority shareholder and other shareholders:

  • Mediation is an effective form of alternative dispute resolution that can help resolve most shareholder disputes quickly and without the need for expensive legal fees.

  • It involves a neutral third party facilitating the resolution of a dispute between shareholders and the signature of a settlement agreement by them, ending the dispute.

  • Mediation can be particularly beneficial in cases of unfair prejudice, where minority shareholder disputes often arise.

  • In such circumstances, if a shareholder believes they have been treated unjustly, mediation allows for open dialogue and negotiation, reducing the need for disruptive court battles.

  • It can be used to address issues related to the company's affairs, such as disagreements over decision-making processes, the distribution of company assets or the handling of the company's finances.

  • In cases of an unfair prejudice petition or derivative claim, mediation can offer a more peaceful resolution, preserving the shareholders' relationship and the company's reputation.

  • Through mediation, an aggrieved shareholder can seek fair value for their shares without resorting to more drastic measures such as winding up the company on just and equitable grounds.

  • Mediation can also help address disputes over the valuation or distribution of shares.

  • When disputes arise, it's crucial to seek expert legal advice. A specialist shareholder dispute solicitor can provide valuable guidance throughout the mediation process.

  • A strong shareholders’ agreement can minimise the likelihood of disputes. If disputes do occur, however, mediation can be an effective way to resolve them, protecting the best interests of all parties involved.

The impact of shareholder disputes

It's easy for shareholders to create an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty, which can filter down through the company, affecting morale and productivity. Disputes often stem from disagreements over the direction of the company, dividend policies or accusations of misconduct.

Regardless of the cause, the effects can be far-reaching.

The immediate fallout is often a disruption in the smooth running of the business. Disputes can divert time, resources and attention away from core operations, negatively impacting performance and profitability. The rifts created can lead to a breakdown in communication and collaboration, which are essential elements of a successful business.

Moreover, shareholder disputes can tarnish a company's image. At a time when reputation is key, the public airing of internal disagreements can harm relationships with clients, suppliers and potential investors. It can also lead to decreased market confidence, affecting share prices and investor relations.

Legal battles ensuing from unresolved disputes can result in substantial financial costs. Litigation is not only expensive, but it's also time-consuming. The legal process can drag on for years, causing further strain and disruption.

Furthermore, these disputes can lead to significant personal stress for those involved. They can strain or sever long-standing relationships, leading to a toxic work environment. This can result in high employee turnover, further destabilising the company.

Mediation offers a more amicable, confidential and less costly way of resolving these disputes before they snowball into major issues. The next section will delve into how mediation works and its benefits.

How mediation can resolve shareholder disputes

Mediation provides an alternative route to resolving shareholder disputes, as opposed to the path of litigation. The process is facilitated by a neutral third party, the mediator, who helps guide the disputing parties towards a mutually agreeable resolution.

The mediator doesn't impose a solution but instead fosters open communication and negotiation between the disputing parties. This approach allows the parties to retain control over the outcome, enabling them to craft a solution that specifically addresses their unique concerns and interests.

One of the key benefits of mediation is its flexibility.

Unlike the rigid structure of court proceedings, mediation offers a more adaptable framework. It allows for creative problem-solving and can take into account non-legal factors such as business considerations and personal relationships, which courts may not always consider.

Mediation is also confidential. This means that the details of the dispute and the discussions during mediation are not made public, unlike court proceedings. This confidentiality can help preserve relationships, protect reputations and maintain client confidence.

Mediation can save costs and time.

Legal battles can be lengthy and expensive, whereas mediation is generally quicker and less costly. Additionally, it reduces the risk of damaging relationships further, as the process is more collaborative and less adversarial than court proceedings.

The agreements reached in mediation are binding. Once all parties have agreed on a resolution and signed a settlement agreement, it becomes a legally enforceable contract. This provides certainty and closure to the disputing parties.

Preparing for mediation

  1. Understand the Mediation Process: familiarise yourself with how mediation works. It's not part of court proceedings, so it's important to adjust your mindset accordingly. The focus is on collaboration and negotiation, not winning or losing.

  2. Identify Your Interests: before entering mediation, clearly define what you want to achieve from the process. This isn't just about the specific issues in dispute but also about underlying interests and goals.

  3. Choose the Right Mediator: the mediator's role is crucial. They should be experienced in commercial disputes and have a good understanding of business operations and corporate law. Their neutrality is also key.

  4. Prepare Your Case: while mediation isn't a trial, you still need to present a clear and compelling case. Gather all relevant documents and facts to support your position.

  5. Be Ready to Negotiate: mediation is a negotiation process. Be prepared to listen, understand the other party's perspective, and be willing to compromise.

  6. Legal Representation: although not always necessary, having legal representation can be beneficial. A lawyer can provide valuable advice and guidance throughout the process.

By following these steps, you can better prepare for mediation and increase the chances of reaching a satisfactory resolution to your shareholder dispute. Remember, the goal is to resolve the conflict in a way that preserves the business relationship and allows the company to move forward.

Understanding common causes of shareholder disputes

Shareholder disputes can arise from a myriad of circumstances. Understanding the common causes can help in addressing issues before they escalate.

1. Differing Views on Company Direction: one of the most common causes of shareholder disputes is disagreement over the strategic direction of the company. When shareholders have divergent views about the business' future, it can lead to conflict.

2. Financial Mismanagement: accusations of financial mismanagement or impropriety can also spark disputes. This could involve allegations of misusing company funds, fraudulent activities or not adhering to fiduciary duties.

3. Unequal Profit Distribution: disagreements over dividend payouts and profit distribution can often lead to disputes. This usually occurs when shareholders feel they're not receiving their fair share of the profits.

4. Minority Shareholder Oppression: in some instances, minority shareholders may feel marginalised or oppressed by majority shareholders. They may feel their rights are being ignored or their interests overlooked.

5. Breach of Shareholders’ Agreement: a breach of the shareholders’ agreement or the company’s memorandum of association or articles of association can also result in disputes. This could involve not adhering to the stipulations about management roles, voting rights or other agreed terms.

6. Personal Conflicts: sometimes, personal disagreements or rivalries can spill over into the professional sphere, leading to shareholder disputes.

For more information see how do you remove a bad shareholder?

Alternatives to Mediation in Resolving Shareholder Disputes

While mediation is a widely accepted method for resolving shareholder disputes, it's not the only option. Other alternatives include arbitration and litigation, each with their own pros and cons.

Arbitration is a private process where disputing parties agree that one or several individuals can make a decision about the dispute after receiving evidence and hearing arguments. It's often faster than litigation. The arbitrator (or panel of arbitrators) will make a binding and final decision.

Litigation involves taking the dispute to court where a judge makes a decision. This method can be time-consuming, expensive and is public, which might not suit all disputes, especially those requiring discretion. Having said that, it offers a legally binding resolution to a dispute and is necessary for certain complex or high-stakes situations.

While arbitration and litigation offer viable paths to resolve shareholder disputes, mediation often provides a more flexible, harmonious and cost-effective solution. Choosing the right method depends on the specifics of the dispute and the desired outcome.

Find our more about the legal process for resolving shareholder disputes.

Back to all guides


Get in Touch

We are here to help you move forward and do the hard work for you. Please get in touch with us today.