Regulating insolvency practitioners: what ASIC aims to achieve in 2016-17

 ASIC, Corporate Insolvency, External administrators, Regulation  Comments Off on Regulating insolvency practitioners: what ASIC aims to achieve in 2016-17
Dec 202016

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has a business plan to guide its regulation of insolvency practitioners. In 2016-17 two new projects have been added to the ongoing ones. Here is ASIC’s summary of the plan as published recently on its website …

2016-17 ASIC Business Plan Summary by Sector: Insolvency Practitioners

ASIC Key Projects

ASIC Focus

Stakeholder engagement
Communicating with industry and individual firms to reinforce and articulate standards and expectations (ongoing project)
⚬ Communicating with stakeholders (e.g. through media releases, journal articles, ad-hoc bulletins, regular newsletters), including in relation to surveillance outcomes, to reinforce and articulate standards and expectations

⚬ Releasing key communications, such as:
– Annual report on supervision of registered liquidators
– Monthly insolvency statistics
– Annual report on insolvency statistics

⚬ Engaging with stakeholders, including meeting with individual firms and industry bodies (such as the Australian Restructuring, Insolvency and Turnaround Association (ARITA), Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, CPA Australia, and Australian Financial Security Authority, and other government agencies such as the Australian Taxation Office, Department of Employment and Fair Work Ombudsman

⚬ Participating in and contributing to the Phoenix Taskforce and the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce

Information for registered liquidators and other stakeholders (new project) ⚬ Working closely with industry to further develop guidance and lift standards of conduct

⚬ Reviewing existing ASIC guidance to reflect law reform and improving existing creditor and other stakeholder information published by ASIC

⚬ Reviewing and improving what information registered liquidators currently report to facilitate the assessment and, where appropriate, investigation of reports of alleged misconduct

Registered liquidators’ independence and remuneration (new project) ⚬ Independence (including referral relationships with pre-insolvency advisors) and remuneration (including adequacy of disclosure and reasonableness); anticipated to continue into 2017-18
Surveillance of high-risk registered liquidators (ongoing project) ⚬ Misconduct resulting from conflicts of interest, incompetence and improper gain
Ensuring compliance with statutory lodgements obligations and publication of notices requirements (ongoing project) ⚬ Reviewing registered liquidator outstanding statutory lodgements and publication of notices (including insolvency and external administration related notices) on the ASIC published notices website to identify systemic non-compliance
Lodgement of annual statements (ongoing project) ⚬ Reviewing all annual statements from registered liquidators to detect non-compliance with the requirements to maintain registration, including identification of potential competence concerns
Transactional reviews (ongoing project) ⚬ Undertaking reviews identified through referrals, and responding to identified concerns including:
– inappropriate relationships between registered liquidators and pre-insolvency advisers
– inadequate declarations of relevant relationships and indemnities
– inadequate remuneration disclosure
Investigate and where appropriate take administrative or court action (ongoing project) ⚬ Investigating and taking action against registered liquidator misconduct, as identified through surveillances and referrals
Policy advice
Support development and implementation of key Government law reforms and other initiatives (ongoing project)
⚬ Advising Government on proposed insolvency reforms (including proposed reforms in the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda) and implementing the Insolvency Law Reform Act 2016, including engaging with Treasury, industry and professional bodies, introducing new guidance and implementing IT and business process changes

⚬ Delivering an enhanced ASIC Form 507 Report as to Affairs (RATA), including stakeholder consultation, to provide better information to facilitate the conduct of external administrations and improve reporting to creditors

⚬ Liaising with Treasury and industry/professional bodies regarding the Government’s proposals/reforms to facilitate corporate restructure (a ‘safe harbour’ and voiding of ipso facto clauses) from the Productivity Commission (in recommendations from its inquiry report into business set-up, transfer and closure) and the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda

Levy on registered liquidators and other “industries” to help fund ASIC

 ASIC, Corporate Insolvency, External administrators, Regulation  Comments Off on Levy on registered liquidators and other “industries” to help fund ASIC
Dec 022016

….(UPDATE to post – 1 April 2017: In an email on 24 March 2017, Adrian Brown, leader of ASIC’s Insolvency Practitioners Team, informed practitioners that following a consultation process ASIC has worked with Treasury “to develop an alternative option for the Minister’s consideration”. The alternative option includes halving the fixed annual levy to $2,500.)….

….(SECOND UPDATE to post – 10 May 2017: The proposed fixed annual levy is now $2500 – SEE MY NEW POST.

A refined proposal for a government levy on registered liquidators – intended to recover costs incurred by the ASIC in regulating them – has been released as part of a Treasury consultation paper titled Proposed Industry Funding Model for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission – November 2016.

treasury consult banner

The proposal in brief

Each registered liquidator would pay a minimum, fixed annual levy of $5,000. On top of that the liquidator would be required to pay an activity-based levy – estimated to be $550 per appointment – for each external administration appointment in the financial year.

External administration appointments includes appointment as a controller, provisional liquidator, liquidator, voluntary administrator or administrator of a deed of company arrangement.

Special rules and adjustments are to apply where registered liquidators are appointed jointly and where an external administration appointment transitions from one type of external administration to another.

The paper states that there are 710 registered liquidators and the levies are aimed at recovering ASIC regulatory costs of $8.5 million.(Supporting attachment to the Government’s Proposals Paper, Table 8)

(More details of the proposal are supplied below, under the heading Extracts from the Consultation paper.)

What the liquidators’ professional association thinks

The Australian Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association (ARITA) opposes the proposed quantum of the levy. In a statement on its website on 9 November ARITA describes the ASIC user-pays funding model for registered liquidators as “highly controversial”. It says:

“ARITA remains strongly of the view that the quantum per practitioner is excessive in every respect and will cause significant harm to the structure of the profession, regardless of the methodology used” , adding that “the quantum is completely disproportionate to other similar profession’s fees”.

ARITA’s detailed analysis and critique of the proposal will be made in a submission to Treasury, due by December 16.

Passing on cost of the per-appointment part of the levy to clients

Continue reading »

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

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: 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.

Laws governing insolvency practitioners to change

 ASIC, Corporate Insolvency, Insolvency Law, Regulation  Comments Off on Laws governing insolvency practitioners to change
Dec 152011

On 14 December 2011 a new paper proposing changes to laws governing Australia’s insolvency practitioners was released by the departments of the Treasurer and the Attorney-General.  The paper’s introduction describes the intention and aims of the changes:

“The reforms are intended to improve value for money for recipients of insolvency services and to address cases of misconduct in the insolvency profession …. The reforms are aimed at ensuring the framework for insolvency practitioners promotes a high level of professionalism and competence by practitioners; promotes market competition on price and quality; provides for increased efficiency in insolvency administration; and enhances communication and transparency between stakeholders.”

The paper provides the following overview of the proposals:

  1. Reforms to the standards of entry into the insolvency profession are proposed to improve the balance between the need to protect consumers of insolvency services with the need for a competitive market that provides the best opportunity for maximising returns to creditors. 

  2. The qualification and experience requirements for insolvency practitioners would be aligned across the personal and corporate regimes. The requirements would include a prescribed level of formal studies in insolvency administration, adequate insurance cover, a fit and proper person test, and the requirement that the person has not been convicted of an offence involving fraud and dishonesty in the past 10 years.

  3. The framework for standards of entry would also be adjusted to allow conditions to be placed upon insolvency practitioners. This would include conditions on the registration of a particular practitioner and industry‑wide conditions. Standard conditions would be able to be imposed in relation to continuing education, quality assurance or review programs, insurance, complaint handling, residency, and inactive practice.

  4. The registration of practitioners would be aligned in a manner similar to the current personal insolvency process. Applications for registration would be determined by Committees composed of a regulator representative, an industry representative and a third person selected from a panel appointed by the Minister. Practitioners would be required to renew their registration every three years. 

  5. Reforms to remuneration arrangements are also proposed, including mandated caps on prospective fee approvals; restrictions on payments of disbursements to related entities; amendments to minimum fee entitlements; and the introduction of mechanisms for independent investigations into costs for corporate insolvency. Given recent substantial changes to remuneration arrangements in personal insolvency, there would be limited amendments to the rules regarding practitioner remuneration as part of this package.

  6. Significant communication and monitoring reforms are proposed to better empower creditors to monitor administrations and obtain information from practitioners. The laws governing committees of inspection would be aligned and consolidated, with committees of inspection being given expanded functions and rights. Creditors would have improved abilities to make reasonable requests for information; to set reporting requirements and to require meetings to be convened. Changes would also be made to allow resolutions to be passed without meetings in order to streamline the operation of administrations and reduce costs.

  7. Funds handling and record keeping rules would be aligned and made more efficient. Rules regarding the audit of accounts would be reformed and the ability of the regulators to appoint a person to audit the financial statements of an insolvency administration would be aligned. Mechanisms to enable third party reviews by insolvency practitioners of corporate administrations would also be introduced.

  8. Insurance rules would be revised and penalties for not taking out appropriate cover significantly increased. A practitioner would be required to take all reasonable steps to maintain adequate and appropriate professional indemnity insurance and adequate and appropriate fidelity insurance, with an increase in the offence from 5 penalty units ($550) to up to 1000 penalty units ($110,000) for a breach of this duty.

  9. There would be significant reforms to discipline and deregistration mechanisms. The regulators would be empowered to take direct action in relation to certain breaches. Liquidators would no longer be subject to the Companies Auditors and Liquidators Disciplinary Board’s (CALDB’s) jurisdiction. Personal and corporate insolvency practitioners would be subject to Committees modelled on the current personal insolvency disciplinary mechanisms, with an expansion in Committees’ powers. Recognised professional bodies would be able to make referrals to the Committee in the same way as regulators.

  10. Reforms are also proposed to provide creditors with powers regarding the removal and replacement of insolvency practitioners. Creditors would be given the power to remove practitioners by resolution, subject to protections against actions that amount to an improper use of the power. Amendments would provide for the efficient transfer of records from outgoing to incoming practitioners.

  11. Regulators’ powers would be amended in relation to information gathering, information provision to stakeholders, and their ability to require meetings to be called. The ability of the regulators to gather information would be clarified and enhanced. The reforms would facilitate cooperative arrangements between the personal insolvency regulator and corporate insolvency regulator. Mechanisms would be introduced to ensure transparency in relation to regulator resourcing, the levels of complaints and referrals, regulator activity and regulatory outcomes.

  12. Specific reforms are also proposed to ensure that the insolvency framework works for small businesses. It is proposed that reforms would be introduced to ensure compliance by directors with filing and record provision obligations; allow practitioners to assign causes of action; facilitate greater co‑operation between the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia (ITSA) on connected insolvencies; and improve the utilisation of the existing Assetless Administration Fund (AA Fund).

  13. The Government’s 2010 Corporate Insolvency Reform Package has also been revised to ensure it is consistent and complements the proposed reforms set out in the Proposals Paper.

 The paper – titled ‘A Modernisation and Harmonisation of the Regulatory Framework Applying to Insolvency Practitioners in Australia’ –  may be viewed and downloaded from the following links

Interested parties have been invited to comment on the paper by 3 February 2012.  Written submissions are to be sent to:

The Manager
Governance and Insolvency Unit
Corporations and Capital Markets Division
The Treasury
Langton Crescent

Phone enquiries may be made by calling Alix Gallo on (02) 6263 2870.

Oct 142011

The Government has examined the case for making one regulator responsible for both personal insolvency laws and corporate insolvency laws and decided to retain the status quo. 

Hence, it will be business as usual for the Insolvency Trustee Service Australia (personal insolvency) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (corporate insolvency).

The Australian Productivity Commission (APC) recommended in its report on the Annual Review of Regulatory Burdens on Business: Business and Consumer Services (the Report) that the Government consider the option of having a single regulator of what are, in many respects, similar laws

In response to this recommendation (part of number 4.3), the Government says:

“The Government is not proposing to establish a new single regulator of personal and corporate insolvency regimes. There would be major upfront costs of merging the regulators, which may not necessarily be offset by long-term savings.  The extent to which simply unifying the regulators would result in an improved regulatory environment is not clear.  Separate policy considerations apply to many aspects of personal and corporate insolvencies and there is not currently sufficient evidence that a one-size-fits-all approach for all issues would necessarily optimise outcomes for stakeholders.  The removal of the responsibility for regulation of corporate insolvency from the corporate regulator would result in corporate insolvency losing its important connection with other parts of ASIC, for example in relation to major corporate administrations, regulation of insolvent trading and of director and corporate misconduct that may have occurred in the lead up to, or during, an insolvency event.”

  The Government’s formal response to the Report was released by the APC on 13 October 2011 and may be found HERE.

Aug 102011

The Insolvency Practitioners Association of Australia (IPA) has suggested that solvent companies pay a fee to fund the liquidation of small assetless companies.  The proposal is that this new pool of funds be used to pay a set fee to liquidators who are willing to do the work.

The IPA’s proposal is made in its July 2011 submission to the Treasury, in response to an Options Paper on regulation of insolvency practitioners. 

This fund would be in addition to the existing Assetless Administrations Fund (AAF).  The problem with the AAF is that it is not open to liquidators of assetless companies unless and until they have conducted preliminary investigations and made preliminary reports to the Australian Securities and Investments commission (ASIC), and then only for the purpose of paying for additional investigations and reports by liquidators where it appears that directors ought to be banned or prosecuted.

 The IPA is the professional body covering over 85% of registered insolvency practitioners in Australia.  In its submission, forwarded this week to members, it says:

 “Currently there is no process for an assetless insolvent corporation to be wound up in the absence of a director or creditor able and prepared to indemnify the practitioner’s remuneration. In the case of a court liquidation, practitioners are required to conduct the administration with no prospect of remuneration.

 We recommend the establishment of a fund to have practitioners wind up small assetless corporations, on the basis of a set fee available either to all providers, or to a panel of willing providers **, and with the ability for the practitioner to apply to the current assetless administration fund if their work identifies the likelihood of offences. (** As an example, under the regime operating in Hong Kong, practitioners bid for work of this kind quoting a fixed fee for the administrations they would undertake.)

 This scheme could be funded via a levy imposed at the time of initial company registration, or by a small annual fee charged on every corporation. The large number of corporations at any  time means that the annual fee could be very low and still provide adequate funds for the operation of the scheme.

 There are very low barriers to the formation of a corporation inAustralia, and every corporation in the economy benefits from the health and reliability of the insolvency regime. While the frequency of insolvent administration is very low, any corporation has the potential to enter the insolvency regime at some future point. It is therefore reasonable that the costs of administering assetless insolvent corporations be born equally by corporations across the economy.   

 An alternative approach would be for ASIC to administratively deregister such companies without a formal insolvency process. (But) In our opinion, this option would encourage poor corporate behaviour.  By ensuring that a company is left with no assets in the event of insolvency, a director might seek to avoid any investigation into the failure of the company and any possible breach of duties.

 The recommended approach ensures that a minimum level of investigation is done which can lead to further applications for funding in the event that offences or recoverable transactions are identified. 

 Such initial funding to wind up these companies would also:

 •   Ensure protection of employees’ rights by allowing employees to access the GEERS scheme (or any such replacement arrangement); (GEERS is the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme, administered by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations)

 •   Provide a deterrent to poor corporate behaviour by directors, though this needs to be supported by a proactive corporate regulator; and

 •   Assist ASIC to identify directors who should be banned from continuing in such a role. “


The IPA submission – which is 36 pages long and seems to respond to all the issues and questions raised in the Options Paper – will be published, along with all other public submissions, in a few weeks. 


Does deregistration short cut conflict with Court judgment?

 ASIC, Forms, Insolvency Laws, Regulation  Comments Off on Does deregistration short cut conflict with Court judgment?
Nov 252010

A controversial ASIC-approved short cut to deregistration in a creditors’ voluntary liquidation  seems to be at odds with sentiments expressed in a decision of the Federal Court of Australia.

In my post headed Obscure short cut through insolvency law on company deregistration” (24/11/2010) I questioned whether this officially sanctioned short cut or escape mechanism – which allows  liquidators to bypass  sections 509(1) to (5) of the Corporations Act 2001 (the Act) in loosely defined and very common circumstances – was warranted.

Now it stikes me that it might actually be unlawful.

His Honour, Jacobsen J, examined section 509 of the Act in considering the case of  Emergen X Pty Ltd (In Liquidation) ACN 114 579 510 [2010] FCA 487.

His Honour’s written judgment (May 2010)  illustrates the importance attached to the requirements to convene a final meeting and to let 3 months elapse after that date.

A shareholder of the company applied to the Court for an order under section 509(6) to bring forward the date of deregistration by shortening the 3 month period that is otherwise required to elapse. (The shareholder wanted deregistration to occur on the earlier date so that it (the shareholder) could obtain a tax benefit, under CGT rules, by being able to claim a loss on the shares in the current tax year.)

 His Honour took the view from examining legal authorities that the 3 month period is a “period of grace”, designed to allow “for claims by creditors or other aggrieved parties so as to ensure that they can make a claim against a company without having to go through the process of seeking an order reinstating it.”

I find it difficult to see how the sentiments expressed by His Honour sit in harmony with the short cut – as ASIC has approved with companies Form 578 – which allows liquidators to bypass giving  notice of a final meeting of creditors and also removes the 3 month period of grace.

Let’s have a debate.


Note: The following quote is from His Honour’s judgment in Emergen X Pty Ltd (In Liquidation) ACN 114 579 510 [2010] FCA 487:

“The reason why there is a period of grace of three months allowed after the filing of the return seems to be explained in a Victorian authority from the nineteenth century. The decision, which is relevant, is John Birch & Co. Limited v The Patent Cork Asphalt Co. Limited (1894) 20 VLR 471 (“John Birch”). In that case Madden CJ said at 472 that the suspension of a dissolution for three months in the then relevant section of the legislation means that a purpose is to be served. His Honour said the only easily understandable purpose is to enable persons who are affected to come in and make a claim. Thus the period of grace is allowed for claims by creditors or other aggrieved parties so as to ensure that they can make a claim against a company without having to go through the process of seeking an order reinstating it.   

Although the decision of Madden CJ in John Birch was reversed on appeal, the discussion of the Full Court does not affect the primary judge’s explanation for the rationale of the three month period, see John Birch & Co. Limited v The Patent Cork Asphalt Co. Limited (1985) 21 VLR 268.”

Note:  For the full text of this judgment, issued in May 2010, click HERE.


The comments and materials contained on this blog are for general information purposes only and are subject to the disclaimer.          
Nov 242010

Here’s a tip for the student of insolvency law and practice.  Don’t look to legislation or legal judgments for all the answers.  Some of the official rules are contained in  “regulatory guides” which can easily escape your attention. 

But even more problematic is the occasional, obscure,  almost unwritten, rule which is the result of a pragmatic arrangement between regulators and insolvency practitioners. 

A good, current example , is deregistration of a company following a creditors’ voluntary liquidation.  Here, the pragmatic twist to the law dwells in the text on a non-prescribed form, and in the text of an even more obscure document, a statement issued by the Insolvency Practitioners Association of Australia (IPAA or IPA) to its members.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Look up Part 5.5 of the Corporations Act 2001 (the Act), under the heading “Final meeting and deregistration”, and you will find law (section 509) which states that “ASIC must deregister the company at the end of the 3 month period after the (final) return was lodged.”  This requirement  is sometimes referred to as “automatic deregistration”.

To get to this point in a creditors’ voluntary liquidation where the liquidator lodges a final return, the Act states that the liquidator “must convene a general meeting of the company, or, in the case of a creditors’ voluntary liquidation,  a meeting of the creditors and members of the company, for the purpose of laying before it the account and giving any explanation of the account” .

On the face of it, these provisions would appear to be the law.  Put simply, a company which has entered into a creditors’ voluntary liquidation is deregistered automatically 3 months after the liquidator’s return of the final meeting is lodged. 

If you, the student, wanted this confirmed, you might consult a book on corporate insolvency law  in Australia, where you would almost definitely find such confirmation.

But what you and the author of the book (and, of course, creditors and the general public) don’t know is that ASIC  has modified the law. 

How?  Well not – as far as I can see – through the official process of issuing a regulatory document, such as a Regulatory Guide or Information Sheet (of which there are a great many).

Instead, the modified rule finds its expression in companies Form 578 (which is not a prescribed form).  The form is headed “Deregistration request (liquidator not acting or affairs fully wound up)”.  One of the two tick boxes on the form, which constitute the basis for requesting deregistration, states:

“There are no funds left in the creditors’ voluntary liquidation to hold a final meeting and also the affairs of the company are fully wound up.”

So, dear student, the “law” relating to deregistration of a company following a creditors’ voluntary liquidation has been modified by inserting an escape clause.  If there are no funds left in the liquidation and the affairs of the company are “fully wound up”, the requirement to hold a final meeting is nullified or overlooked, and deregistration can be achieved by simply ticking a box and lodging a form.

This change is a result of ASIC “exercising its discretion”,  says the IPAA in a submission to Treasury in 2009:

“This issue concerns the application of s 601AB of the Corporations Act in finalising a creditors’ voluntary liquidation as an alternative to holding a final meeting of the company’s members and creditors under s 509.  After consultation with ASIC, the IPA issued a Practice Update in the June 2008 issue of its journal.  The Update informs members that ASIC has advised the IPA that in situations where the liquidator is without funds to cover the cost of holding the final meeting, ASIC will exercise its discretion and accept lodgement of a Deregistration Request (Form 578) under s 601AB(2).  It may be that the words of that subsection need clarifying to accord with what appears to be this intent of the section. “

But, dear student, you should also know that there is apparently a proviso attached to the phrases “no funds left to hold a final meeting”  (ASIC) and “without funds to cover the costs of holding the final meeting” (IPAA). Whether the staff in ASIC who process Form 578 applications are aware of this proviso is not clear.  Nevertheless, in a statement to members in 2008 (which was published again in July 2010 due to a number of queries from members) the IPAA states that:

“Only liquidators that are without funds are eligible to use section 601AB(2). “Without funds” does not include situations where the liquidator distributes all available funds via a dividend to creditors. Therefore, liquidators should ensure that sufficient funds are retained to cover the cost of a final meeting when a dividend is paid.”

Personally, and like most people, I am strongly opposed to obscure  or unwritten rules in any area of law, and especially so when they come into being with little debate and are at odds with the principle or intention of the law as it is expressed in applicable legislation. 

No doubt there are practical reasons for the procedure authorized by Form 578:

1.  Liquidators receive a benefit, particularly when they are winding up a company that does not have enough funds to pay the costs of calling a final meeting of members and creditors.  Without this short cut to deregistration these liquidators would be out of pocket.  However, the saving in each case may not be great, given that there is (apparently) no requirement to give notice of the final meeting other than by means of one advertisement in the Government Gazette.

2.  The government regulator (ASIC) receives a benefit by getting more dead companies off its Register with less “fuss”, thus reducing its workload in this area and thereby saving taxpayers some government expenditure. 

But what of the creditors of the company in liquidation? 

Financially, the Form 578 short cut to deregistration appears to make no difference to the creditors, for if the company is able to pay them a dividend the procedure cannot be utilized; and if  the company is unable to pay them a dividend, it  remains unable to pay them a dividend.

From the intangible views of justice and equity, it can be seen that,  in the case of creditors of a company which is unable to pay a dividend, the Form 578 short cut deprives creditors of the right to receive a final account of the winding up and the opportunity to discuss the winding up with the liquidator and others at a final meeting. 

Apart from the fact that these rights and opportunities seem to be enshrined in sections 509(1), the short cut method overlooks one of the main themes of recent attempts to reform insolvency laws, namely the need to improve information to creditors.

Is this short cut justified by the financial savings and improved efficiency?   Let’s have a debate.


The comments and materials contained on this blog are for general information purposes only and are subject to the disclaimer.          

Code of conduct for liquidators being revised

 Australian Senate 2009-2010, Ethics, Official Inquiries, Regulation, Standards  Comments Off on Code of conduct for liquidators being revised
Sep 302010

Due to “various factors”, including the Senate Inquiry into Liquidators and Administrators, the Australian association of  insolvency practitioners has drafted changes to its code of conduct.

On 29 September 2010 the latest version of the code (Version 2) was released to members of the Insolvency Practitioners Association of Australia (IPA) and made available to the public via its website:

Visitors to the site can view the existing Code of Professional Practice (COPP) — which is Version 1,  issued in May 2008 — and a version of the proposed new code marked up for changes between versions 1 and 2.

Typically such codes  set out the ethical principles, values, behaviours and standards of practice expected of members

The IPA says that its COPP is the standard for professional conduct in the insolvency profession.  It says that: “The primary purposes of the COPP are to educate IPA members as to their professional responsibilities; and provide a reference for stakeholders against which they can gauge the conduct of Practitioners”.

IPA members have until  20 October 2010 to provide feedback or raise any concerns in respect of the draft Version 2.  The IPA expects that Version 2 will be in operation prior to the end of 2010.