Dec 192017
 

PhoenixThe Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has reported on two successful convictions against directors for breaching their duties, in that they engaged in illegal phoenix activities.

The reports are in two media releases, both published on 19 December 2017. Copies of the media releases appear below. But unfortunately, the media releases do not report on what, if anything, happened in relation to the assets of the stripped companies. If the only consequences of the phoenix activities were fines and, in one case, disqualification, there has been little in the way of deterrence.

As can be seen, one director was convicted and fined $5,000, and automatically disqualified from managing corporations for five years.  His company (Brimarco) had all its funds – $34,800  – taken and transfered to a related company, leaving behind debts of $2 million. The release does not say whether the $34,800, or anything at all, was recovered.

The other director was discharged without conviction upon entering into recognisance in the sum of $2,000 on condition that she would be of good behaviour for two years. She sold the assets of her company (Greenlay Enterprises) to a related entity for $20,000, which appears to have been less than their market value. To make matters worse, the related entity did not actually pay the $20,000.  The release does not say whether the assets, or an amount equal to their worth, or anything at all, was recovered.

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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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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May 082017
 

Before it is due to come into effect on 1 September 2017, section 60-20 of the Insolvency Practice Schedule (Corporations) (Australia) is to be amended.

Under the heading “Refining the Insolvency Law Reform Act 2016”, the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services has released draft legislation of amendments to the Corporations Act 2001 and Bankruptcy Act 1966.

The professional association representing insolvency practitioners has welcomed the amendments. The Australian Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association (ARITA) says (on its website 5/5/2017):

The section would (have) require(d) external administrators and trustees to obtain consent from creditors prior to related entities obtaining any profit or advantage from any administration or estate – effectively requiring Insolvency Practitioners to seek creditor approval for their own firms to work on an appointment. We are delighted that Treasury have announced draft legislation specifically to resolve this issue. It is now clear that once remuneration is approved, further approval to share that remuneration with related parties (e.g. an Insolvency Practitioner’s firm or partners) is not required …. ARITA has been working very hard behind the scenes on this under strict confidentiality. The draft legislation is on The Treasury’s website for consultation. This is a significant win for the profession, achieved by ARITA.


Illustration of Change to Corporate Insolvency Law

I have set out below an illustration of the changes that are being made to section 60-20 of the Insolvency Practice Schedule (Corporations). Although “interested parties” have been invited to make a submission regarding the draft legislation by 17 May 2017, it is doubtful whether there will be any change to the draft. Continue reading »

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Index to Schedule 2—Insolvency Practice Schedule (Corporations)

 Corporate Insolvency, External administrators, Insolvency Law, Regulation  Comments Off on Index to Schedule 2—Insolvency Practice Schedule (Corporations)
Apr 282017
 

Issues impacted upon by this new legislation

Schedule 2 is now part of the Corporations Act 2001. The Act is available for viewing/download from www.legislation.gov.au. Schedule 2 is in Volume 6, and follows section 1637 of the Act. To see Schedule 2 only, go to this page at austlii.ed.au

Continue reading »

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Feb 252017
 

Melb Uni
Researchers at Melbourne University have issued their third and final report on investigations into insolvency fraud committed through the use of phoenix companies.

The 162 page report, issued on 24 February 2017, is titled Phoenix Activity: Recommendations On Detection, Disruption And Enforcement.

In the Executive Summary the authors state:

Harmful phoenix activity, left unchecked, has the capacity to undermine Australia’s revenue base and the competitive ‘level playing field’. It is wrong that legitimate business operators, paying taxes, wages and other debts, might be driven out of business by those engaging in harmful phoenix activity. Minimising business distrust caused by harmful phoenix activity can lower the cost of finance and make it more widely available. If less tax revenue is fraudulently avoided, the economy and society as a whole benefit. If fewer employee entitlements are lost as a result of harmful phoenix activity, there is likely to be less reliance on the Fair Entitlements Guarantee, freeing up government resources for other purposes.

What was described in earlier reports as “fraudulent phoenix activity” is described in the final report as “harmful phoenix activity”.

CLICK HERE to read and/or download a copy of the report.

The authors are Professor Helen Anderson, Professor Ian Ramsay, Professor Michelle Welsh and research fellow Mr Jasper Hedges.

Their Phoenix Project (“Phoenix Activity: Regulating Fraudulent Use of the Corporate Form”) “seeks to enhance Australia’s economic stability by determining the best methods of addressing fraudulent use of the corporate form without unduly inhibiting its proper use”. The project was launched in 3 years ago.

Analysis and highlights of the report will be posted here in due course.


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