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.

Feb 022016
 

On 3 December 2015 the Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2015 was introduced into Australia’s House of Representatives. The Bill is a newer version of the 2014 draft Bill (Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2014), which was released in November 2014.

Ministerial Summary of the Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2015

The Bill was introduced to Parliament with this speech by Mr Alex Hawke, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer. The following is a copy of his speech. I have added headings to improve readability.
Continue reading »

Mar 052015
 

A set of “policy positions” on insolvency law and practice has just been issued by Australia’s insolvency practitioners association – the Australian Restructuring Insolvency and Turnaround Association (ARITA).

The policies are titled:

  • Policy 15-01: ARITA Law Reform Objectives (Corporate)
  • Policy 15-02: Aims of insolvency law
  • Policy 15-03: Current Australian corporate restructuring, insolvency and turnaround regime and the need for change
  • Policy 15-04: Creation of a Restructuring Moratorium (Safe Harbour)
  • Policy 15-05: Stronger regulation of directors and creation of a director identification number
  • Policy 15-06: Advocate for Informal Restructuring
  • Policy 15-07: Reworked Schemes/Voluntary Administration regimes to aid in the rehabilitation of large enterprises in financial distress
  • Policy 15-08: Extension of moratorium to ipso facto clauses
  • Policy 15-09: Streamlined Liquidation for Micro Companies
  • Policy 15-10: Micro Restructuring
  • Policy 15-11: Pre-positioned sales

ARITA’s 17-page paper – named Policy Positions of the Australian Restructuring Insolvency and Turnaround Association – is the final version of its discussion paper, A Platform for Recovery 2014.  It is attached to its submission on 2 March 2015 to the Productivity Commission’s public inquiry into ” barriers to setting up, transferring and closing a business”.

It seems ARITA’s policy positions paper is not yet (mid-day 5/3/15) published as a separate document on ARITA’s website.  However, I have created a copy, which is available on my website now.

ARITA’S full 59-page submission to the Productivity Commission is available on its site, as is its useful summary of the key points made in the submission. ARITA says that the policies in the Policy Positions paper form the key basis of ARITA’s submission to the Productivity Commission.

 


Other link: To the website of the Productivity Commission’s  Business Set-up, Transfer and Closure inquiry.


Dec 102014
 

In time for the Christmas holidays the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) has released (8 December 2014) a 400-page report titled Commission to Study the Reform of Chapter 11, 2012-2014, Final Report and Recommendations.

The ABI [**] is a bit like the Australian Reconstructing Insolvency & Turnaround Association (ARITA), only much larger. On its website it’s described as follows:

“The American Bankruptcy Institute is the largest multi-disciplinary, non-partisan organization dedicated to research and education on matters related to insolvency. ABI was founded in 1982 to provide Congress and the public with unbiased analysis of bankruptcy issues. The ABI Canal Center Plaza membership includes more than 13,000 attorneys, auctioneers, bankers, judges, lenders, professors, turnaround specialists, accountants and other bankruptcy professionals providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and information. In fulfillment of its mission to provide information to its members, journalists, Congress and the public, ABI is engaged in numerous educational and research activities, as well as the production of a number of publications both for the insolvency practitioner and the public.”

This is an extract from the Introduction to the ABI’s report:

“A robust, effective, and efficient bankruptcy system rebuilds companies, preserves jobs, and facilitates economic growth with dynamic financial markets and lower costs of capital. For more than 35 years, the U.S. Bankruptcy Code has served these purposes, and its innovative debtor in possession chapter 11 process, which allows a company to manage and direct its reorganization efforts, is emulated around the globe. As with any law or regulation, however, periodic review of U.S. bankruptcy laws is necessary to ensure their continued efficacy and relevance …. Markets and financial products, as well as industry itself, often evolve far more quickly than the regulations intended to govern them. It may be that significant economic crises tend to occur cyclically and encourage reevaluation of the federal bankruptcy laws. Regardless, the general consensus among restructuring professionals is that the time has come once again to evaluate U.S. business reorganization laws.”

Despite the ABI’s report being mainly about Chapter 11 – i.e., the US law which permits a corporation or other entity to propose a plan of reorganization (debtor in possession) to keep its business alive and pay creditors over time – it seems to me that Australian insolvency law enthusiasts will find its discussion and analysis invaluable. Seriously.

A pdf copy of may be downloaded from the ABI site.

[**] As we all know, in America the term “bankruptcy” refers to corporate insolvency as well as personal insolvency.

Dec 062014
 

When the Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2014 is passed, creditors in an external administration of a company (except under receivership or provisional liquidation) will be granted the power to have the external administrator’s fees reviewed by another external administrator. In the draft legislation, the person appointed by creditors is called a reviewer, a reviewing liquidator and, occasionally, a cost assessor.
reviewer
The following table sets out the proposed legislation by using extracts from the Bill and related official material.
 

SUBJECT: CREDITORS’ REVIEW OF REMUNERATION OF EXTERNAL ADMINISTRATORS

 

SELECTED EXTRACTS FROM THE DRAFT BILL, PROPOSED RULES, ETC.

SOURCE OF TEXT

5-20 Meaning of external administrator of a company

A person is an external administrator of a company if the person is:
(a) the administrator of the company; or
(b) the administrator under a deed of company arrangement that has been entered into in relation to the company; or
(c) the liquidator of the company; or
(d) the provisional liquidator of the company.Note: A person is not an external administrator of a company for the purposes of this Schedule merely because the person has been appointed as a receiver, receiver and manager, or controller in relation to property of the company.

Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2014 Exposure Draft, Insolvency Practice Schedule (Corporations), section 5-20,
page 157
90-22 Application of this Subdivision

This Subdivision applies in relation to a company that is under external administration, other than a company in relation to which a provisional liquidator has been appointed.

Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2014 Exposure Draft, Insolvency Practice Schedule (Corporations), Subdivision C
section 90-22, page 263
Appointment to carry out review
(1) A registered liquidator may be appointed to carry out a review into either or both of the following matters:
(a) remuneration of the external administrator of the company;
(b) a cost or expense incurred by the external administrator of the company.
Appointment by resolution
(2) The appointment may be made by resolution of:
(a) the creditors; or
(b) if the company is being wound up under a members’ voluntary winding up—the company;
(3) If the appointment is made by resolution, the resolution must specify:
(a) the remuneration, costs or expenses which the liquidator is appointed to review; and
(b) the way in which the cost of carrying out the review is to be determined.

Appointment by one or more creditors or members
(4) The appointment may be made by:
(a) one or more of the creditors; or
(b) if the company is being wound up under a members’ voluntary winding up—one or more of the members.
(5) However, an appointment may only be made under subsection (4) if the external administrator of the company agrees to the appointment.
(6) The agreement must:
(a) be in accordance with the Insolvency Practice Rules; and
(b) specify:
(i) the remuneration, costs or expenses which the liquidator is appointed to review; and
(ii) the way in which the cost of carrying out the review is to be determined.
Appointments by creditors etc.—limit
(7) Despite subsection (1), a registered liquidator appointed under this section has no power to review the remuneration to which the external administrator of a company is entitled under subsection 60-5(2) (remuneration if no remuneration determinations made).

Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2014 Exposure Draft, Insolvency Practice Schedule (Corporations),
Subdivision C, section 90-24, pages 264 and 265
…. Creditors, ASIC and the Court will also have the power to appoint a cost assessor to assess and report on the reasonableness of the remuneration and costs incurred during a portion or all of an administration. Explanatory Material, page 163, para 7.22
Review of the external administration of a company

The creditors may resolve by majority of creditors in both value and number, or the external administrator may agree, to appoint a reviewer to review and report on the reasonableness of the remuneration and costs incurred in an external administration ….
The purpose of the report is to provide information for interested parties to exercise their rights in relation to the administration, such as to remove the liquidator or challenge the liquidator’s remuneration.
The review is not determinative of the issues considered.
The costs of the review will form part of the expenses of the administration, unless so agreed with the liquidator.
The Court may make any orders it deems fit in relation to the review.
The reviewer must be a registered liquidator.
The Insolvency Practice Rules may prescribe, amongst other things, the duties of a reviewer.

Explanatory Material, Comparison of key features of new law and current law, page 168
90-29 Rules about reviews

(1) The Insolvency Practice Rules may provide for and in relation to reviews under this Subdivision.
(2) Without limiting subsection (1), the Insolvency Practice Rules may provide for and in relation to any or all of the following matters:
(a) the giving of notice to the external administrator of a company before appointing, or making an application for the appointment of, a reviewing liquidator under this Subdivision;
(b) the meaning, for the purposes of section 90-26, of properly incurred in relation to costs or expenses incurred by an external administrator of a company;
(c) the appointment of reviewing liquidators, including requirements as to who may be appointed and the provision of declarations of relevant relationships;
(d) the powers and duties of reviewing liquidators in carrying out a review;
(e) the form and content of reports by reviewing liquidators;
(f) the preparation and provision of reports by reviewing liquidators.

Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2014 Exposure Draft, Insolvency Practice Schedule (Corporations), section 90-29,
page 268
Subdivision D of Division 90 provides ….for the creditors to resolve to appoint, or otherwise agree with the liquidator, to appoint a reviewer to report on external administrator remuneration or costs only. Section 90-27 provides for the Insolvency Practice Rules to contain rules about such reviews. Insolvency Practice Rules Proposal Paper, page 25, para 143
Only a registered external administrator would be able to be appointed as a reviewer. Insolvency Practice Rules Proposal Paper, page 26, para 147
In conducting a review of remuneration and/or costs, the reviewer will be empowered to do any of following:
• conduct the review;
• direct the external administrator to provide an itemised invoice in a form, and within the time, specified in the direction for work undertaken by the liquidator;
• direct a third party to give an itemised bill of costs in a form, and within the time, specified in the direction in relation to work undertaken by the third party;
• interview any party to the review and allow that party to be questioned by any other party to the review;
• direct a person to give a written statement, in a specified form and signed by the person, about a matter relevant to the review;
• direct the external administrator to produce all or part of the liquidator’s files or documents in relation to the administration of the estate.
Insolvency Practice Rules Proposal Paper, page 26, para 150
It is proposed that the new rules would also stipulate that:
• if the reviewer gives a person a direction, and the person does not comply with the direction, the reviewer may conduct the assessment on the basis of the information available to the reviewer; and
• the reviewer will have a duty to act independently, in the interests of creditors and to avoid actual and apparent conflicts of interest.
Insolvency Practice Rules Proposal Paper, page 26, para 151
The report to be prepared by the reviewing practitioner would be required to be provided in the form, and with the content, as agreed between the reviewer and the appointing body. Insolvency Practice Rules Proposal Paper, page 27, para 152
Once the report is completed, it would be required to be provided to the external administrator responsible for the administration, the committee of inspection (if applicable) and ASIC. Insolvency Practice Rules Proposal Paper, page 27, para 153
ASIC may give a registered liquidator notice in writing asking the liquidator to give ASIC a written explanation why the liquidator should continue to be registered, if ASIC believes that …. (g) the liquidator has been appointed to act as a reviewing liquidator … and has failed to properly exercise the powers or perform the duties of a reviewing liquidator Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2014 Exposure Draft,
Insolvency Practice Schedule (Corporations), section 40-40,
page 180

Corporate insolvency laws: the shape of things to come

 ASIC, Corporate Insolvency, Insolvency Law, Law reform proposals, Regulation, Standards  Comments Off on Corporate insolvency laws: the shape of things to come
Nov 282014
 

The exposure draft of Australia’s Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2014  has, in its 240 pages dealing with corporate insolvency,  so many proposed changes in the form of amended, repealed, omitted, added and substituted words, items, definitions and sections, and so many additional parts, divisions, subdivisions, schedules and transitional provisions, that only an expert with tremendous devotion to the task would be able to understand what it all means and see what the new law governing corporate insolvencies is going to look like. The rest of us will probably have to wait until this Bill is passed and a compilation of the Corporations Act 2001 that takes into account all these changes is prepared.

Even then it appears we’ll see quite a mishmash of insolvency laws scattered throughout the Corporations Act and its Rules and Regulations. Perhaps our corporate insolvency laws need a real clean up, like gathering all existing provisions together and moving the lot (with amendments and additions) out of the Corporations Act and into a new, specific Act, such as a Corporate Insolvency Act. But that’s a discussion for another day.

However, one of the changes proposed by the Insolvency Law Reform Bill will take us a little in this direction. Several rules that are currently scattered throughout the Corporations Act will be encompassed in a new Division 4 – which is to be called the Insolvency Practice Schedule (Corporations).  It will be added to Part 5.9 (Miscellaneous) of Chapter 5 (External Administration) of the Corporations Act 2001. The table below shows the layout of this new Division and points to the pages of the Bill’s Exposure Draft where the text of the laws is set out. I hope it’s of some help to those trying to understand the proposed changes.

 

Division 4—Insolvency Practice Schedule (Corporations)

Part

Division

Exposure Draft – pages

1-Introduction 1-Introduction 151 to 152
5-Definitions 153 to 158
2-Registering and disciplining practitioners 10-Introduction 158 to 159
15-Register of liquidators 159 to 160
20-Registering liquidators 160 to 168
25-Insurance 169
30-Annual liquidator returns 170
35-Notice requirements 171 to 172
40-Disciplinary and other action 172 to 189
45-Court oversight of registered liquidators 189 to 190
50-Committees under this Part 190 to 195
3-General rules relating to external administrations 55-Introduction 195
60-Remuneration and other benefits received by external administrators 196 to 208
65-Funds handling 208 to 215
70-Information 216 to 234
75-Meetings 235 to 244
80-Committees of inspection 244 to 256
85-Directions by creditors 256 to 257
90-Review of the external administration of a company 257 to 269
4-Other matters 95-Introduction 270
100-Other matters 270 to 271
105-The Insolvency Practice Rules *** 271 to 272. (Note: To be made by the Minister.)

*** The Bill’s Exposure Draft mentions  the Insolvency Practice Rules many times, stating how and where they may be used to clarify, interpret, amplify, refine and flesh out the insolvency laws. A separate document – a 27 page Proposals Paper for Insolvency Practice Rules – has been released for comment (closing date 19/12/2014). The part of the Paper that applies to Corporate Insolvency is pages 16 to 27.

Note:  There is an official Explanatory Material to the exposure draft of the Bill. It is 228 pages long, but only 115 pages concern  changes to corporate insolvency laws!

________________________ END OF POST ____________________________

2014 version of Bill to amend corporate and personal insolvency laws

 ASIC, Corporate Insolvency, Insolvency Law, Personal Bankruptcy, Regulation  Comments Off on 2014 version of Bill to amend corporate and personal insolvency laws
Nov 172014
 

On 7 November 2014  an exposure draft of the Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2014 (ILRB 2014) was released by the Australian Treasury for comment.

The Treasury Crest

Summaries:

The Treasury’s summary/promotion of the legislation is as follows:

“The draft Bill comprises a package of proposals to amend and streamline the Bankruptcy Act 1966 and the Corporations Act 2001. The proposed amendments will:

•remove unnecessary costs and increase efficiency in insolvency administrations;
•enhance communication and transparency between stakeholders;
•promote market competition on price and quality;
•boost confidence in the professionalism and competence of insolvency practitioners; and
•remove unnecessary costs from the insolvency industry resulting in around $55.4 million per annum in compliance cost savings.”

The Explanatory Material issued with the Bill opens with this outline:

“The Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2014 (Bill) amends the Corporations Act 2001 (Corporations Act), the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 (ASIC Act) and the Bankruptcy Act 1966 (Bankruptcy Act) to create common rules that would:
• remove unnecessary costs and increase efficiency in insolvency administrations;
• align and modernise the registration and disciplinary frameworks that apply to registered liquidators and registered trustees;
• align and modernise a range of specific rules relating to the handling of personal bankruptcies and corporate external administrations;
• enhance communication and transparency between stakeholders;
• promote market competition on price and quality;
• improve the powers available to the corporate regulator to regulate the corporate insolvency market and the ability for both regulators to communicate in relation to insolvency practitioners operating in both the personal and corporate insolvency markets; and
• improve overall confidence in the professionalism and competence of insolvency practitioners.”

 Links to government material:

The draft Bill (ILRB 2014) in PDF format

The Explanatory Material in PDF format

The Insolvency Practice Rules – Proposals Paper in PDF format

Coversheet for a submission by post

The Treasury website page

Previous Bill and background material:

The first version of ILRB 2014 appeared on 19/12/2012 as Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2012, but it never became law. However, the 2012 Explanatory Memorandum and  the 2012 Exposure Draft  contains valuable background information related to the current Bill. (Sixteen submissions were made for this 2012 consultation.)

Further background information regarding ILRB 2014 is available in the June 2011 Treasury Options Paper titled “A Modernisation and Harmonisation of the Regulatory Framework Applying to Insolvency Practitioners in Australia”. (Thirty three submissions were made for this consultation.)

The 2011 options paper was followed in December 2011 by a Proposals Paper with the same title. (Twenty nine submissions were made for this consultation.)

Submissions regarding ILRB 2014:

Closing date for submissions: Friday, 19 December 2014.

Email submissions are to be done online at:

http://www.treasury.gov.au/ConsultationsandReviews/Consultations/Submission-Form?parent={34029467-07BE-46D9-AA9E-86DAC3715DFF}

Address for written submissions:

Manager
Corporations and Scheme Unit
Financial System and Services Division
The Treasury
Langton Crescent
PARKES ACT 2600

 For enquiries call Peter Levy at The Treasury on (02) 6263 3976.

Further posts on this site:

Further posts will be made on this blog site in the coming days with details of some of the proposed changes to corporate insolvency laws.

 


 

Sep 032014
 

The Australian Restructuring Insolvency and Turnaround Association (ARITA) has released its second-round submission (26/8/2014) to the government’s Financial System Inquiry (FSI). ARITA has more than 2,200 members practising in, or interested in, the insolvency and restructuring industry. It’s full 32 page submission can be seen HERE. The Executive Summary from the submission appears below:

ARITA submission Part 1

ARITA-exec-summary-part2

ARITA-exec-summary-part3

 

Aug 292014
 

Background

In the brief External Administration section of its Interim Report in July 2014 the Financial Systems Inquiry (FSI) aired criticisms of Australia’s external administration regime as it applies to small and medium companies (SMEs), and sought views from interested parties. (See my previous blog on this subject.) Specifically it asked for views on “the costs, benefits and trade-offs of the following policy options or other alternatives: 1. No change to current arrangements. 2. Implement the 2012 proposals to reduce the complexity and cost of external administration for SMEs.” Also, the FSI sought more information in response to the question, “Is there evidence that Australia’s external administration regime causes otherwise viable businesses to fail and, if so, what could be done to address this?” The following is ASIC’s response to these questions, taken from it’s second submission to the FSI  on 26/8/2014:


ASIC logo

 Response by Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)

(Note: Headings added by author)

CLICK HERE to see copy of full ASIC second-round submission

The anticipated benefits of the 2012 insolvency law reform proposals

(Author’s note: These proposal are in the Insolvency Law Reform Bill 2013 )

Para.468     ASIC welcomes the anticipated benefits of the Australian Government’s 2012 insolvency law reform proposals, which largely aim to harmonise and align the systems of corporate and personal insolvency by introducing: (a) a streamlined model for winding up or restructuring small- and medium-sized enterprises; and (b) a review of current external administration options for restructuring large and complex, financially distressed companies to consider whether Australia could adopt attributes of external administration processes in other jurisdictions to achieve better outcomes.

Para.469     However, we note that these proposals do not fully address the issue of perceived complexity in Australia’s insolvency regime, or the issue of the costs of the regime. The law reform proposals arose out of the 2010 Senate inquiry into the conduct of insolvency practitioners and ASIC’s involvement. The 2010 Senate Inquiry’s terms of reference reflected concerns about registered liquidator conduct and ASIC’s supervision of registered liquidators, rather than more fundamental policy issues.

Para.470      The vast majority of external administrations occur in the small- and medium-sized enterprise market. For these companies, the opportunity exists to consider how the winding up and restructuring processes might be further streamlined to reduce complexity and costs. Initiatives to reduce costs while appropriately remunerating registered liquidators for their work, increasing competition and ensuring consistency in external administration processes would also help maximise the potential return to creditors and help build confidence in the insolvency regime.

Alternative funding models and professional standards

Para.471     ASIC suggests that in considering how the external administration process can be streamlined for small- and medium-sized enterprises, consideration should be given to: (a) alternative funding models, as discussed in ASIC’s main submission to this inquiry and which are the subject of recommendations made by the Senate inquiry into the performance of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. The funding model affects, among other things, the supervision of registered liquidators and, potentially, their remuneration; and (b) professional standards and regulation, including those relating to investigation and reporting to creditors and to ASIC.

External administration regime and business failure

Para.472     ASIC is not aware of empirical evidence supporting the view that Australia’s external administration regime causes otherwise viable businesses to fail. If empirical evidence supporting the contention that viable companies unnecessarily enter external administration does exist, ASIC believes the Australian Government could consider legislative change that would address this, and that would achieve better outcomes for creditors.

Damage to entity value

Para.473     We are aware, however, of concerns in the market that unnecessary external administrations, which destroy entity value and result in significant cost, are the result of: (a) a lack of a ‘safe harbour’ from what are said to be stringent insolvent trading laws (which can make a director personally liable for a company’s debts); and (b) the positive obligation/duty on directors to appoint an external administrator if their company is insolvent, or might become insolvent.

Para.474     We acknowledge the possibility that the formal appointment of an external administrator can also reduce the value of a company’s business, and note that there is anecdotal evidence to support this view.

Voluntary administration as a ‘quasi liquidation’

Para.475     ASIC’s statistics on voluntary administration and deeds of company arrangement suggest that, for small companies, there is often not a viable business worth saving as many companies that enter voluntary administration end up in liquidation. This is supported by a recent review of 72 sample deeds of company arrangement (85% of which related to what might be described as small company insolvencies). The review found that 72% of these deeds were compromises akin to liquidation and involved no, or very limited, trading on of the business under the deed (although the dividend return paid to creditors was greater than that estimated if an immediate winding up of the company had occurred). In other words, the statistics show that companies often use the restructuring option of voluntary administration as a ‘quasi liquidation’.

Continuation of viable businesses

Para.476      The current insolvency legislation provides for the continuation of a viable business. Where there is a viable business of a company in liquidation, the liquidator has the ability to sell that business. Alternatively, the liquidator can appoint a voluntary administrator to facilitate the company’s restructuring with a view to its continued operation.

Reasons often cited as inhibiting corporate restructuring

Para.477     We note that four main reasons are often cited as inhibiting corporate restructuring in Australia: (a) the perceived stringency of our insolvent trading laws; (b) destruction of value by ipso facto clauses in contracts, which enable creditors to pursue enforcement action or enforce their contractual rights. This issue impacts on the extent of any moratorium on creditor claims during the period of a company’s restructuring; (c) a lack of formal ‘pre-pack sale’ regulation, which allows a sale of the business, or some company assets, to be negotiated prior to the appointment of an external administrator; and (d) the inability to bind third parties.

Para.478      In principle, we consider these matters worthy of further discussion and consultation noting they have proved contentious in the past.

US Chapter 11 style regime

Para.479     In terms of any legislative change, ASIC does not advocate a wholesale adoption of a US Chapter 11 style regime or other processes. However, we note that the US Chapter 11 regime, along with the administration regimes in the United Kingdom and Canada, might be worth examining to identify elements that could address the issues claimed to inhibit effective corporate restructuring in Australia.

Consider different laws for large and small companies

Para.480      We consider that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the external administration or reorganisation of failed and distressed entities may not be appropriate. The framework for external administration needs to take account of the fact that issues affecting large proprietary and public companies differ from those affecting small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Para.481     Legislative changes to facilitate corporate rehabilitation might therefore consider the different characteristics of large and small companies, and policy settings may need to be specifically tailored for these sectors, in order to promote deregulation, facilitate efficient reallocation of resources and improve competition.


Jul 172014
 

Is there evidence that Australia’s external administration regime causes otherwise viable businesses to fail and, if so, what could be done to address this?

This is the question being asked about external administrations in the Interim Report of the Financial System Inquiry (FSI) (July 2014). The FSI says it would value views on the costs, benefits and trade-offs of the following policy options or other alternatives:

  • No change to current arrangements.
  • Implement the 2012 proposals to reduce the complexity and cost of external administration for SMEs. [See below for details of these proposals.]

The brief section of the FSI’s report dealing with external administration may be viewed HERE.  (The full report in pdf format is available HERE.)

David Murray

David Murray, FSI chairman. Artwork from bluenotes.anz.com

US Chapter 11 regime?

Adoption by Australia of a US Chapter 11 style form of external administration could still be an option, although the FSI has already given it the thumbs down, as this extract from its interim report shows:

“The Inquiry considers adopting such a regime would be costly and could leave control in the hands of those who are often the cause of a company’s financial distress. Capital would be maintained in a business that is likely to fail, which would restrict or defer the capital from being channelled to more viable and productive enterprises. Adopting such a regime would also create more uncertainty for creditors by limiting their rights. The Inquiry notes that Chapter 11 has rarely enabled businesses to continue as going concerns in the long term. There is little empirical evidence that Australia’s voluntary administration process is causing otherwise viable businesses to fail. The Inquiry would like stakeholders to provide any empirical evidence that supports that view.”

Second round of submissions to FSI

Submissions in response to the Interim Report are due by 26 August 2014. Submissions can be lodged online using the Financial System Inquiry special facility,  or may be lodged by email or post: fsi@fsi.gov.au or Financial System Inquiry,  GPO Box 89,  Sydney NSW 2001.

Insolvency reform proposals of 2012

The 2012 insolvency reform proposals to which the FSI specifically refers in its request for second round submissions concern:

  1. Registration and discipline of insolvency practitioners (See note 1 at end of post for more information).
  2. Specific rules relating to external administrations (note 2).
  3. Regulator powers and miscellaneous amendments (note 3).

The Explanatory Material issued with the Insolvency Law Reform Bill  on 19 December 2012 can be viewed HERE.

“Thought leadership”

The Australian Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association (ARITA) (previously known as the Insolvency Practitioners Association) says it has embarked on “a major project to drive thought leadership around our insolvency regime”.  It is asking insolvency practitioners who want to make a submission to FSI to work with the professional association:

“ARITA has embarked on a major project to drive thought leadership around our insolvency regime.  Along with some of ARITA’s excellent previous work, significant new work has already been completed and ARITA members will soon be asked for comment on key aspects of our policy positions. This work is, obviously, well timed to support the FSI request for submissions. ARITA will actively work to represent the views of its membership and the profession to the FSI. We would urge all members and their firms to work with ARITA on providing strong and consistent representation to the FSI. If you or your firm is looking at making its own submission, please let ARITA know so that we can collaborate with you.”  ARITA Press Release 15/7/2014



NOTES re Proposals in December 2012 Insolvency Reform Bill:

Note 1: Registration and discipline of insolvency practitioners

Common rules regarding:   the physical registers of insolvency practitioners;  registration and disciplinary Committees.

Note 2: Specific rules relating to external administrations

Common rules regarding: •

  • Remuneration and other benefits received by the insolvency  practitioner;
  • The handling of administration or estate funds;
  • The provision of information by insolvency practitioners during an external administration or bankruptcy;
  • The meetings of creditors during an external administration or bankruptcy;
  • Committee of inspection formed as part of an external administration or bankruptcy; and
  • The external review of the administration of an estate or insolvency.

Note 3, part (a): Regulator powers and miscellaneous amendments

Provide ASIC with further powers to assist it in its oversight of the regulation of registered liquidators. In particular, the Bill amends the ASIC Act to:

  • enable ASIC to require the provision of information and books as part of an ASIC proactive surveillance program;
  • enable ASIC to provide administration information to a person with a material interest in the information; and
  • improve the transparency of ASIC oversight of the corporate insolvency industry.

Note 3, part (b): Regulator powers and miscellaneous amendments

Amend the Bankruptcy Act to enable ITSA to provide information relevant to the administration of the corporate law to ASIC.

Note 3, part (c): Regulator powers and miscellaneous amendments

A range of miscellaneous amendments, including:

  • amending the Acts to strengthen the penalties for breach of a bankrupt’s or directors’ obligations to provide a report as to affairs (RATA), or the books of the company, to an insolvency practitioner;
  • amend the Corporations Act to provide a process for the automatic disqualification of directors that have failed to provide a RATA, or the books of the company, to a registered liquidator until they have complied with those obligations; and
  • amend the Acts to enable the assignment of an insolvency practitioner’s statutory rights of actions.