Sep 282017
 

Consultation

The Treasury has today (28 September 2017) released a consultation paper on reforms to address illegal phoenix activity. The closing date for submissions by interested parties is 27 October 2017.

The paper is available for download from the Treasury website.

Below is the foreword to the paper, by the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services:

Phoenixing involves the stripping and transfer of assets from one company to another to avoid paying liabilities. It hurts all Australians, including employees, creditors, competing businesses and taxpayers, and has been a problem for successive governments over many decades.

Phoenixing has a significant financial impact – in 2012, the Fair Work Ombudsman and PwC estimated the cost of phoenixing to the Australian economy to be as high as $3.2 billion annually. It also undermines business’ and the public’s confidence in the corporate and insolvency sectors and the broader economy.

Companies fail for many different reasons, and it can be difficult to distinguish between those who are engaging in illegal phoenix activity and those who are simply involved in a failed company.  We are committed to helping honest and diligent entrepreneurs who drive Australia’s productivity, but we won’t tolerate those who misuse the corporate form, to defeat creditors and rip off all Australians. Continue reading »

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Date set for Supreme Court to hear opposition to CBS takeover of Ten

 Corporate Insolvency, External administration  Comments Off on Date set for Supreme Court to hear opposition to CBS takeover of Ten
Sep 282017
 

SOURCE:  The Australian, 28 September 2017, by Dana McCauley, Media Writer, Sydney. Picture: Renee Nowytarger.

Channel 10 emblem

Creditors of Ten and its shareholders and staff will have to wait until at least November to discover the network’s fate.

An application for Ten Network Holdings’ proposed takeover by American broadcaster CBS has been “tentatively” listed for a three-day hearing on October 31, when the Supreme Court of NSW will hear any final shareholder opposition to the deal.

Bruce Gordon, who is yet to signal whether he will oppose the application by Ten’s administrator KordaMentha to transfer the company’s shares to CBS, did not appear at a directions hearing yesterday, when Justice Ashley Black set a provisional timetable for the matter.

Mr Gordon is understood to be mulling the next step in his ­attempt to stop CBS taking over Ten after its creditors voted this month in favour of the deal.

In setting the hearing date, Justice Black noted that interested parties may need time to ­respond to an expert report due to be filed with the Australian ­Securities & Investments Commission by KordaMentha on October 10, giving any other interested parties three days to file notices of appearance. Continue reading »

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Directors get a safe harbour for insolvent trading

 ASIC, Corporate Insolvency, Insolvency Law, Regulation, White collar crime  Comments Off on Directors get a safe harbour for insolvent trading
Sep 202017
 

Ship entering harbour

 

From 18 September 2017 company directors will be able to seek shelter from liability for insolvent trading.

Previously, a director who caused a company to incur new debts (e.g., obtain goods and services on credit) at a time when the company was unable to pay its existing debts/liabilities, could – if the company was subsequently placed in liquidation –  be sued by the liquidator or by the creditor provider.

Now, the laws will “protect a director in relation to debts that a company incurs directly or indirectly  in connection with developing and taking a course of action that is reasonably likely to lead to a better outcome for the company than proceeding immediately to voluntary administration or winding up.” [Treasury Laws Amendment (2017 Enterprise Incentives No. 2) Bill 2017, Explanatory Memorandum, paragraph 1.32]

For the full history of this legislation – which encompasses “Safe Harbour for Insolvent Trading” laws and “ipso facto” clauses – and to see a discussion of the key issues (35 pages in all), click on this link: Parliamentary Library’s Bills Digest No. 33 of 11 September 2017.

TO BE CONTINUED …

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Sep 132017
 

Phoenix

Media release, the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, 12 September 2017:

The Turnbull Government is taking action to crack down on illegal phoenixing activity that costs the economy up to $3.2 billion per year to ensure those involved face tougher penalties, the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, announced today.

Phoenixing – the stripping and transfer of assets from one company to another by individuals or entities to avoid paying liabilities – has been a problem for successive governments over many decades. It hurts all Australians, including employees, creditors, competing businesses and taxpayers.

The Government’s comprehensive package of reforms will include the introduction of a Director Identification Number (DIN) and a range of other measures to both deter and penalise phoenix activity.

The DIN will identify directors with a unique number, but it will be much more than just a number. The DIN will interface with other government agencies and databases to allow regulators to map the relationships between individuals and entities and individuals and other people.

In addition to the DIN, the Government will consult on implementing a range of other measures to deter and disrupt the core behaviours of phoenix operators, including non-directors such as facilitators and advisers. These include: Continue reading »

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Sep 112017
 

Logo with border

With the commencement on 1 September 2017 of the delayed parts of the Insolvency Law Reform Act 2016 (the ILRA), the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has updated some of the Information Sheets which it makes available on its website to the general public.

ASIC says  that “Information sheets provide concise guidance on a specific process or compliance issue or an overview of detailed guidance.”

Over time ASIC has issued about 36 insolvency information sheets and flow charts (click here for my list).  Below is a list of 15 which have recently been reissued.

In the past, nearly all ASIC’s information sheets have been available to download as printable sheets in PDF file format.  However, this facility has not (yet) been provided with the updated/reissued sheets, which are only available as text on ASIC web pages. The links below are to the relevant website pages.

ASIC INSOLVENCY INFORMATION SHEETS – REISSUED 1 SEPTEMBER 2017
Form Number
Title of Sheet
Date Updated
Link to ASIC site
INFO 39 Insolvency information for directors, employees, creditors and shareholders

1/9/2017

INFO 39
INFO 41 Insolvency: A glossary of terms 1/9/2017 INFO 41
INFO 42 Insolvency: a guide for directors 1/9/2017 INFO 42
INFO 43 Insolvency: a guide for shareholders 1/9/2017 INFO 43
INFO 45 Liquidation: a guide for creditors 1/9/2017 INFO 45
INFO 46 Liquidation: a guide for employees 1/9/2017 INFO 46
INFO 53 Providing assistance to external administrators – Books, records and RATA 1/9/2017 INFO 53
INFO 54 Receivership: a guide for creditors 1/9/2017 INFO 54
INFO 55 Receivership: a guide for employees 1/9/2017 INFO 55
INFO 74 Voluntary administration: a guide for creditors 1/9/2017 INFO 74
INFO 75 Voluntary administration: a guide for employees 1/9/2017 INFO 75
INFO 84 Independence of external administrators: a guide for creditors 1/9/2017 INFO 84
INFO 85 Approving fees: a guide for creditors 1/9/2017 INFO 85
INFO 152 Public comment on ASIC’s regulatory activities 1/9/2017 INFO 152
INFO 212 Illegal phoenix activity 1/9/2017 INFO 212
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Sep 052017
 

ARITA logo

With the commencement on 1 September 2017 of the delayed parts of the Insolvency Law Reform Act 2016 (the ILRA), the Australian Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association (ARITA) has updated the Insolvency Explained section of its website which provides information to stakeholders in the insolvency process, and has developed a range of information sheets designed to assist creditors with understanding insolvency processes.

This is a guide to ARITA’s information, with links to the relevant website pages.

1. Insolvency explained   CLICK HERE

  • What is insolvency?  CLICK HERE

    • Overview of insolvency – corporate
  • What is bankruptcy?  CLICK HERE

    • Overview of insolvency – personal
  • How does insolvency work?  CLICK HERE

  • Insolvency and creditors   CLICK HERE

  • Insolvency and employees   CLICK HERE

  • Insolvency and shareholders   CLICK HERE

  • Insolvency and company directors   CLICK HERE

  • Insolvency information sheets   see section 2 below

  • Glossary of terms   CLICK HERE

2. ARITA insolvency information sheets

The ARITA insolvency information sheets listed below may be downloaded from the page headed “Insolvency information sheets”. They are all in PDF format. ….. CLICK HERE

 Company insolvency

  • Creditor rights (liquidation)
  • Creditors rights (voluntary administration)
  • Remuneration of an external administrator
  • Proposals without meetings
  • Committees of Inspection
  • Offences and recoverable transactions in a voluntary administration

Personal insolvency (including bankruptcy)

  • Creditor rights
  • Proposals without meetings
  • Committees of Inspection.

 


A short history of the ILRA

The ILRA reform provisions relating to the rules and conduct of external administrations, commenced on 1 September 2017.  This followed ILRA reform provisions relating to the registration and discipline of registered liquidators, and provisions relating to matters such as notification of contravention of a Deed of Company Arrangement and lodgement of a declaration of relevant relationships and declaration of indemnities in a voluntary administration, which commenced on 1 March 2017.

Parliament passed the Insolvency Law Reform Act 2016 (the ILRA) on 22 February 2016. The government registered the related Insolvency Practice Rules (Corporations) 2016 (the Rules) in December 2016. The ILRA and Rules change the law relating to the registration and discipline of liquidators and the conduct of external administrations.

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It’s not the Court’s function to apply or interpret ARITA’s code – Judge

 Corporate Insolvency, court decisions, Insolvency Law, Insolvency practices  Comments Off on It’s not the Court’s function to apply or interpret ARITA’s code – Judge
Aug 132017
 

In a recent judgment in the Federal Court the judge, the Honourable David John O’Callaghan, discusses the part that ARITA’s code of professional conduct plays in determining questions concerning the independence and impartiality of an external administrator’s conduct.

What His Honour said – extracts:

There is no doubt that the code is a useful document in assisting practitioners; …. it is “a useful guide to the common practice in such matters, and to the profession’s own view of proper professional standards”; …. it is “… permissible for the Court to take [it] into account, to that extent, in applying the law concerning independence and impartiality to the insolvency practitioner’s conduct in the case before it”; …. On the other hand, the code “has no legal status”; …. Any question relating to the appearance of impartiality must be determined according to law. It is not the Court’s function in a case such as this to either apply or interpret the code.

For more, see his complete comments below.


 

Judge OCallaghan

The Hon David John O’Callaghan

Judgment published 11 August 2017 … In Korda, in the matter of Ten Network Holdings Ltd (Administrators Appointed) (Receivers and Managers Appointed) [2017] FCA 914

….

The code of professional practice

92. I should also say something briefly about the Code of Professional Practice of The Australian Restructuring Insolvency and Turnaround Association (ARITA) (the code), because the administrators sought to rely on the code as providing an independent basis upon which they might be permitted to continue to act as administrators. In particular, submissions were made on behalf of the administrators about those parts of the code which define “exceptions” to the “rule” that, relevantly, practitioners must not take an appointment if they have had a professional relationship with the insolvent company during the previous two years: see section 6.8 of the third edition of the code.

93.  There is no doubt that the code is a useful document in assisting practitioners, including with respect to questions of whether, in accepting or retaining an appointment as an administrator, the practitioner is, and is seen to be, independent: see chapter 6 of the third edition of the code. The code is intended to provide guidance on standards of practice and professional conduct expected of ARITA members.

94.  In Bovis Lend Lease Pty Ltd v Wily [2003] NSWSC 467; 45 ACSR 612, Austin J described (at [163]) the Code of Professional Conduct published by the Insolvency Practitioners Association of Australia (as ARITA was previously known) as “a useful guide to the common practice in such matters, and to the profession’s own view of proper professional standards”. Accordingly, his Honour held that “[i]t is permissible for the Court to take [it] into account, to that extent, in applying the law concerning independence and impartiality to the insolvency practitioner’s conduct in the case before it”: see Bovis Lend Lease Pty Ltd v Wily [2003] NSWSC 467; 45 ACSR 612 at [163]; comparing National Roads and Motorists’ Association Ltd v Geeson [2001] NSWSC 832; 39 ACSR 401 at 403 and Permanent Trustee Australia Ltd v Boulton & Lynjoe Pty Ltd (1994) 33 NSWLR 735 at 738.

95.  On the other hand, the code “has no legal status”, as Sanderson M stated in Monarch Gold Mining Co Ltd; Ex parte Hughes [2008] WASC 201. Relevantly, Sanderson M observed in that case, “a failure to comply with the terms of the code would not render a practitioner liable for prosecution under the Corporations Act or any other statute … Nor does a failure to comply with the provisions of the code mean that there has been a failure to comply with what is required in the DIRRI”: see Re Monarch Gold Mining Co Ltd; Ex parte Hughes [2008] WASC 201 at [37].

96.  Any question relating to the appearance of impartiality must be determined according to law. It is not the Court’s function in a case such as this to either apply or interpret the code.


 

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Jun 292017
 

In reporting on the results of an investigation into the conduct of a Victorian registered liquidator operating as a sole practitioner, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has provided a list of procedures which the liquidator failed to carry out.  

The catalogue serves both as a guide to some of the duties that ASIC regards as important, and as a reminder to liquidators.

ASIC logo

Extract from ASIC Media Release 28 June 2017

ASIC’s concerns centred on alleged failures to:

  • conduct pre-appointment independence reviews;
  • send to third parties adequate ‘Day One’ correspondence;
  • properly investigate company affairs;
  • take steps to protect and secure assets in a timely manner;
  • adequately investigate potential illegal phoenix activities and taxation offences of directors and their advisors;
  • make sufficient requests of company officers for books and records;
  • seek prompt assistance from ASIC under the Liquidator Assistance program where the company director or accountant failed to provide adequate books and records;
  • undertake adequate review of voidable transactions, including unfair preferences and uncommercial transactions;
  • lodge complete reports with ASIC;
  • provide creditors with adequate reporting to enable informed assessment of remuneration requests and may have drawn remuneration he was not entitled to; and
  • comply with legal requirements to document work undertaken.

Not each and every one of ASIC’s concerns were found in all of the external administrations reviewed.

ASIC Commissioner John Price said, ‘ASIC continues its focus on registered liquidators who fail to carry out their legal obligations to carry out adequate investigations and report fully to creditors, including in circumstances suggesting pre-appointment illegal activity.

‘Creditors have every right to expect registered liquidators to act independently and competently – especially given their role as a fiduciary. The community needs to have trust and confidence in the administration of insolvent companies.

‘ASIC will continue to review and take action against liquidators whom ASIC believes fall short of meeting legal and professional standards.’

Continue reading »

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New insolvency practitioners association emerging

 Corporate Insolvency, Industry People, Personal Bankruptcy, Regulation  Comments Off on New insolvency practitioners association emerging
May 182017
 

professional-associationA new professional association for Australian insolvency practitioners  – named the Association of Independent Insolvency Practitioners (AIIP) – has been formed and is currently endeavouring to recruit as members those registered liquidators and trustees in bankruptcy who work as sole practitioners or in small firms.

In an email circular on 4 May 2017 (see below), Nicholas Crouch, a Sydney liquidator and registered trustee in bankruptcy, acting for the AIIP, stated that “80 of the 350 small firm liquidators and trustees in Australia have joined AIIP”. The annual membership fee has been set at just $20.

Also, the AIIP plans to create – for use in company liquidations, voluntary administrations and receiverships and in personal bankruptcy – sets of  precedent or pro forma letters, forms, checklists, etc.,  that fulfil the requirements of the new insolvency legislation. It estimates that the price per practitioner will be about $2,000.  This is far less than amounts charged by existing suppliers (CORE IPS and CCH).

It is not clear whether the AIIP sees itself as an alternative or an adjunct to the Australian Restructuring Insolvency and Turnaround Association (ARITA), which is the peak body representing insolvency practitioners.  ARITA describes itself as “Australia’s leading organisation for restructuring, insolvency and turnaround professionals.”  Recently ARITA has greatly enhanced its power and prestige as a result of insolvency legislation classing it as an “industry body” and giving it an important role in the official registration  of  liquidators and bankruptcy trustees.

But it seems a significant number of insolvency practitioners are not happy with the direction that ARITA has taken. Dissatisfaction with the association  relates to  a perception that it is dominated by large insolvency firms  (supposedly leading to a focus on issues that are of interest to them),  its decision to admit lawyers, bankers and academics as members, and its high membership fee.

Text of AIIP email to liquidators and trustees in bankruptcy

Dear Fellow Liquidator/Trustee in Bankruptcy

A new liquidator’s club has been established. The objective of the Association of Independent Insolvency Practitioners (“AIIP”) is to encourage small insolvency firms to collaborate and develop best practice procedures and precedents for its members.

To date, 80 of the 350 small firm liquidators and trustees in Australia have joined AIIP.

AIIP is a not for profit association.

Membership of AIIP is limited to registered liquidators and bankruptcy trustees.

I invite you to join AIIP by contacting Stephen Hathway or Ginette Muller as follows:
[deleted]

The annual membership is $20 and an application form is attached.

Discussion groups have been established in Sydney & Brisbane and AIIP hopes to roll out new discussion groups in each capital city as soon as practicable.

New Precedents For Your Firm

AIIP has a committee that is developing a set of liquidation, VA, receivership & bankruptcy precedents that will be compliant with the new laws.

AFSA & ASIC have agreed to consider, but not endorse, the AIIP precedents when they are finalised.

AIIP members will be able to purchase and immediately use the new precedents or use the AIIP precedents as a guide when amending their own existing precedents.

The projected cost of the precedents is uncertain, but my preliminary estimate is about $2k per member.

I am hopeful the costs can be reduced through increasing the AIIP’s membership. I encourage you to invite other small firm insolvency practitioners to join AIIP.

If you wish to offer assistance to this project please advise me.

ASIC & AFSA Review Of AIIP Precedents

On 25 November 2016, Senator Williams assisted the AIIP by asking the ASIC Chairman and 3 ASIC Commissioners who were present at the Federal Government’s Joint Parliamentary Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, if ASIC would assist AIIP with our precedents project.

Senator WILLIAMS:  I have a couple of questions, Mr Price, on insolvency. With the new insolvency laws, every insolvency firm must update its precedents and templates. This is a massive and costly task. I know of a group of 40 independents, a small firm of liquidators. Small firms are creating one set of documents that they will all use as templates. It is an industry first. This will save ASIC work. Is ASIC prepared to work with this group to develop these templates?

ASIC Commissioner Price responded as follows:

Mr Price:  Certainly. We would be happy to discuss with groups that are thinking about that.
….
AIIP is very grateful for the assistance of Senator Williams, ASIC & AFSA.

AIIP recognises this is a historic opportunity for all small firm Insolvency practitioners to work with the regulators to produce best practice documents which will assist both the regulators and the small firm insolvency practitioners by raising the standard of practice and reducing the cost of compliance.

ARITA has declined to work with AIIP on this project.

CCH is in preliminary discussions with AIIP and they may offer their assistance with the precedent project.

Expressions of Interest

Kindly advise me by return email if you are interested in purchasing the AIIP precedents ….

 


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Those regulated by ASIC are to pay ASIC for the privilege

 ASIC, Corporate Insolvency, External administration, Insolvency Law, Regulation  Comments Off on Those regulated by ASIC are to pay ASIC for the privilege
May 102017
 

An idea put forward by the Australian Government about a year ago has almost become a reality with the introduction into Parliament on 30 March 2017 of the ASIC Supervisory Cost Recovery Levy Act 2017 to establish an industry funding model for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and with the release on 4 May 2017 of draft regulations for consultation.

The idea –  to enable the recovery of the regulatory costs of ASIC by imposing a levy on persons regulated by ASIC – was described in Parliament by the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer (Mr Sukkar) as follows:

Industry funding of ASIC will mean that … those entities that create the need for that regulation will be the ones who pay for it—as opposed to Australian taxpayers—who too often bear the cost of financial sector misconduct.  Further, because each regulated subsector will only ever pay an amount equal to its costs of supervision, industry funding will promote equity between different regulated entities. This is because certain industry subsectors will no longer cross-subsidise the costs of the regulation of other sectors.

The laws are due to take effect on 1 July 2017.  General news article: “Companies face levy in ASIC funding overhaul”.

ASIC Supervisory Cost Recovery Levy Regulations 2017

The closing date for submissions regarding the proposed Regulations is 26 May 2017.

In releasing its consultation paper for the Regulations the Treasury department said:

The Government is seeking stakeholder views on the draft regulations necessary to support the industry funding model, which will recover (the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s)  regulatory costs though annual levies and fees-for-service. The proposed regulations are to establish the mechanisms that will be used to calculate the levies payable by each class of regulated entity, each financial year.

There are 6 industry sectors covered by the Regulations. Each sector has several industry subsectors.  In all there are 48 industry subsectors. Each subsector  describes the “leviable entity” that is included in the industry subsector.

Registered liquidators levy

Registered liquidators are in the industry sector named Corporate, and are leviable entities in a subsector named, not surprisingly, registered liquidators.

The levy to be imposed on each registered liquidator in a financial year is the sum of:

(a)  the minimum levy component (which is proposed to be $2,500); and

(b)  the graduated levy component.  The graduated levy component is a variable amount depending on each entity’s share of the total number of notifiable events for the subsector.  The Regulations define what constitutes a notifiable event (see below).  ASIC will prescribe its regulatory costs and the total number of these notifiable events for the subsector as part of its annual legislative instrument. Continue reading »

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