In a decision on 25 August 2021, the Czech Supreme Court addressed a cooperative’s freedom to decide on the settlement due to a member whose membership ends during the cooperative’s lifetime (no. 27 Cdo 3823/2020). These comments refer to cases where the settlement should be calculated based on corporate or cooperative accounting records.

According to the Supreme Court, the need for a fair settlement applies as a general principle whenever a settlement is determined from accounting records (see, e.g., Decision no. 29 Cdo 3610/2013). This is true regardless of whether the calculation method is based on an entity’s memorandum of association or statutes or determined by legislation. Section 233 of the Commercial Code must be understood in light of this rule, which also overrides any derogating provisions in the cooperative’s statutes.

Even if the statutes provide for their own settlement method, the settlement between a cooperative and its members must be fair insofar as the payout to an entity whose membership ends during the cooperative's lifetime should reflect the value of the assets corresponding to its share. Section 233(5) of the Commercial Code emphasises the cooperative's freedom to decide on the settlement calculation method and offers the legislation only as a secondary solution if the members do not specify other rules in the statutes.  However, this freedom is not absolutely unlimited. The fair (equitable) settlement principle should serve as a general corrective even when the statutes provide for an alternative system. Based on this fairness requirement, if there is a significant discrepancy between an equitable payment based on the financial statements and the real (market) value of the cooperative’s net assets, then this should be considered when calculating the settlement. The calculation should, thus, fairly reflect the value of the cooperative's assets based on the market situation at the time when the settlement is decided.

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