The Court of Appeal has overturned a ruling that one of the UK’s largest foundations should make a £280m payment to another charity after the high-profile divorce of its founders.
The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation was founded by the hedge fund manager Sir Christopher Hohn and his then wife Jamie Cooper, but has been the subject of long-running court action since their divorce in 2014.
A High Court ruling last year directed Marko Lehtimäki, the third member of the CIFF company along with Hohn and Cooper, and the only one without an obvious conflict of interest, to make a payment of £280m to Cooper’s new charity Big Win Philanthropy.
But a Court of Appeal judgment, handed down on Friday, reversed that direction and said Lehtimäki should make a decision in the best interests of the CIFF.
Chris Willis Pickup, charities and social ventures partner at the law firm Taylor Vinters, said the judgment was an important one for charity law.
"Although the Court of Appeal has allowed the appeal, it agreed with the High Court that this charitable company’s members have duties to act in the best interests of their charity," he said.
"This is a major step for charity law, and matches the law for members of charitable incorporated organisations."
But he said the court had sidestepped the question of whether members of large membership charities, such as the National Trust, would need to make decisions in the best interests of their charity.
The CIFF declined to comment. Nobody from BWP responded to a request for comment from Third Sector on Monday morning.