Understanding the Creditor Duty: Key Insights from Foo Kian Beng v OP3 International Pte Ltd

Understanding the Creditor Duty: Key Insights from Foo Kian Beng v OP3 International Pte Ltd


In the landmark judgment of Foo Kian Beng v OP3 International Pte Ltd [2024] SGCA 10, the Court of Appeal of Singapore delved into the nuanced fiduciary duties of company directors, particularly focusing on the “Creditor Duty.” This article explores the critical aspects of this judgment and its implications for directors, companies, and creditors.

Background of the Case

The appellant, Foo Kian Beng, was the sole director and shareholder of OP3 International Pte Ltd (“OP3”), a company involved in interior design and construction services. The case revolved around payments made by Mr. Foo to himself in the form of dividends and loan repayments while the company was facing significant financial distress due to ongoing litigation.

The Central Issue: The Creditor Duty

The Court of Appeal’s judgment provides clarity on when the Creditor Duty is triggered. This duty requires directors to consider the interests of creditors as part of their overarching fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the company. The core issue in this appeal was determining the precise point at which the interests of creditors must take precedence over those of shareholders.

Key Legal Principles

  1. Fiduciary Duty to the Company:
    • Directors owe a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the company, which, under certain circumstances, includes considering the interests of creditors.
  2. Trigger for Creditor Duty:
    • The Creditor Duty is engaged when a company is in a “financially parlous” state or is on the “verge of insolvency.” This is a state where the company’s solvency is in serious doubt, but not necessarily formally insolvent.
  3. Objective Assessment:
    • The court emphasized that the evaluation of whether the Creditor Duty is triggered involves an objective assessment of the company’s financial health, considering the foreseeable liabilities and the company’s ability to meet them.
  4. Subjective Business Judgment:
    • While directors’ decisions are assessed objectively, the court recognizes the importance of their subjective commercial judgment, provided it is exercised honestly and in good faith.

Case Findings

The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s findings that Mr. Foo breached his Creditor Duty by authorizing payments to himself at a time when OP3 was in financial distress. Key points from the judgment include:

  1. Contingent Liabilities:
    • OP3’s potential liability from ongoing litigation was significant and should have been accounted for, impacting the company’s solvency status.
  2. Improper Payments:
    • Payments made by Mr. Foo to himself were deemed improper as they prioritized his interests over those of the company’s creditors.
  3. Director’s Accountability:
    • The judgment reiterates that directors must prioritize the interests of creditors when the company is nearing insolvency, to prevent actions that would unfairly prejudice the creditors.

Implications for Directors and Companies

This judgment has profound implications for directors, especially in scenarios where the financial health of the company is deteriorating:

  1. Enhanced Scrutiny:
    • Directors must exercise increased diligence and transparency in financial decision-making during periods of financial distress.
  2. Balancing Interests:
    • The need to balance the interests of shareholders and creditors becomes paramount, requiring directors to navigate complex fiduciary responsibilities carefully.
  3. Legal and Financial Advice:
    • Seeking timely legal and financial advice is crucial for directors to ensure compliance with their fiduciary duties and to avoid personal liability.


The Foo Kian Beng v OP3 International Pte Ltd judgment serves as a critical reminder of the fiduciary responsibilities of directors, particularly regarding the Creditor Duty. Directors must remain vigilant and prioritize creditor interests appropriately when the company’s financial stability is at risk. This case underscores the importance of acting in good faith and with due consideration of all stakeholders’ interests to uphold corporate governance standards.

For more detailed legal advice and insights on directors’ duties and fiduciary responsibilities, please contact IRB Law LLP.

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