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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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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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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Penalties for White Collar Crime: Senate Report of March 2017

 ASIC, Offences, Regulation, White collar crime  Comments Off on Penalties for White Collar Crime: Senate Report of March 2017
May 292017
 

crime-cloud

Inquiries by Parliamentary committees can be a waste of everyone’s time. The Senate’s Inquiry into criminal, civil and administrative penalties for white collar crimes is a good example.

It began in November 2015 and ended in March 2017 (after pausing for 5 months because of the  election). It received 139 submissions, 2 lots of “additional information”, and had a public hearing at which 23 witnesses appeared. It’s report, which carries the grandiose title “Lifting the fear and suppressing the greed” (23 March 2017), runs to 108 pages. The committee said:

“A clear message to the committee from inquiry participants was that white-
collar crime and misconduct can cause serious harms, both at the individual level and
in the community as a whole.”

But despite this statement and the enormous amount of work that went into making submissions, conducting the inquiry and writing the report, media coverage has been almost non-existent. Perhaps news editors thought the subject matter was fairly dry, and/or that the report’s  recommendations were not particularly noteworthy or inspiring or controversial.  Such a conclusion would be understandable. To which I would add, that the report is unlikely to have much of an impact on how we deal with white collar crime.

 THE COMMITTEE’S RECOMMENDATIONS
Recommendation 1 That the government consider reforms to provide greater clarity regarding the evidentiary standards and rules of procedure that apply in civil penalty proceedings involving white-collar offences. paragraph 3.52
Recommendation 2 That the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) consider ways in which the accessibility and usability of the banned and disqualified register might be enhanced, in order to create greater transparency regarding banning and disqualification orders. paragraph 5.24
Recommendation 3 That the government consider making infringement notices available to the ASIC to respond to breaches of the financial services and managed investments provisions of the Corporations Act. paragraph 5.34
Recommendation 4 That the government amend the Corporations Act 2001 to increase the current level of civil penalties, both for individuals and bodies corporate, and that in doing so it should have regard to non-criminal penalty settings for similar offences in other jurisdictions. paragraph 6.55
Recommendation 5 That the government provide for civil penalties in respect of white-collar offences to be set as a multiple of the benefit gained or loss avoided. paragraph 6.56
Recommendation 6 That the government introduce disgorgement powers for the ASIC in relation to non-criminal matters. paragraph 6.57

The committee’s full report is available for viewing and download at the committee’s Parliament of Australia website.

Incidentally, insolvency practitioners will be disappointed that there are so few references in the report to insolvency and liquidation, although potentially recommendation 4 could have an impact in corporate insolvency.

The next part of this blog post contains extracts which reveal “The Committee’s Views”  and the “Table of Contents of Report”.

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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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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New Corporate Insolvency Laws commencing 1 March 2017

 ASIC, Corporate Insolvency, Insolvency practices, Regulation, Standards  Comments Off on New Corporate Insolvency Laws commencing 1 March 2017
Mar 072017
 

Commencing on 1 March 2017 are some of the changes to Australia’s corporate insolvency legislation that were approved when the Insolvency Law Reform Act was passed in 2016. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), the regulator of the Corporations Act, has issued a table listing and summarizing what it says are the key changes. Set out below is a copy of that table. (The original is available to view at ASIC).

For a convenient list of NEW ASIC FORMS and AMENDED ASIC FORMS go to this EMAIL extract from ASIC to registered liquidators on 6 March 2017. NOTE: Some of the new and amended forms have not yet been released by ASIC (7/3/2017).

………………………………….

Corporate Insolvency Law Reform – key changes effective from 1 March 2017

Subjects

  1. Registration Process
  2. Industry wide conditions
  3. Applying to vary or remove a condition or to lift or shorten a suspension
  4. Renewal of registration
  5. The Liquidator Register
  6. Insurance
  7. Annual liquidator return
  8. Notice of significant, and other, events
  9. ASIC power to direct registered liquidator to lodge documents or give information or correct inaccuracies
  10. ASIC power to cancel or suspend a person’s registration
  11. Disciplinary action by a committee
  12. Notice by industry body of possible grounds for disciplinary action
  13. Court oversight of registered liquidators
  14. Registration and disciplinary committees
  15. Administrator’s notice to owner or lessor of property
  16. Notice – material contravention of deed of company arrangement
  17. Company’s former name
  18. Relation back day
  19. Lodging declarations of relevant relationships and indemnities
  20. Lodgement requirements relating to pooled groups


Continue reading »

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