Supreme Court landmark charity case reaffirms that members of charitable companies have fiduciary duties and can be controlled by the courts and unlocks $440m for UK charity

This morning, the Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal brought by philanthropist Jamie Cooper, against a 2018 decision of the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court’s ruling confirms that members of charitable companies have fiduciary duties and can be controlled by the courts, and will lead to the unlocking of $440m for UK charity, Big Win Philanthropy.

Jamie Cooper founding Chair and President of Big Win Philanthropy says:

“I am extremely gratified by the Supreme Court’s decision. This will enable Big Win Philanthropy to significantly expand its support to African leaders pursuing ambitious initiatives to improve the lives of children and young people. I am very grateful to my legal team who worked so hard to achieve this result.”

Bates Wells acted for Jamie Cooper in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. Partner Leticia Jennings, who led on the litigation for Bates Wells commented:

“This is the most important charity law case in many years. It has clarified many issues relating to members of charitable companies and their duties, as well as resolving frictions found in company law when it comes to charitable companies. This was the right decision in law and the right decision for charity. The conclusion of this case results in a total of $440m available for Big Win Philanthropy’s important work. Jamie’s drive to ensure that Big Win Philanthropy’s distinct and highly regarded approach to philanthropy is properly pursued has been incredible.”

“The issue here is actually surprisingly simple”, comments Bates Wells’ Head of Charity and Social Enterprise, Philip Kirkpatrick.  “The Supreme Court has confirmed that the courts can control the members of charitable companies just as it can control their trustees. Charitable companies are different from other companies and their members do not have a special status standing outside the charity but are part of its administrative machinery.”

For further analysis of this case, check out the latest UK Fundraising coverage here.


This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of July 29, 2020.