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

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

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

Channel 10 emblem

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Jun 272014

Recommendation 17 of the Senate Economics References Committee final report (26/6/2014) on the performance of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is:

“… that  ASIC,  in  collaboration  with  the Australian  Restructuring  Insolvency  and  Turnaround  Association  and accounting  bodies,  develop  a  self-rating  system,  or  similar  mechanism,  for statutory  reports  lodged  by  insolvency  practitioners  and  auditors  under  the Corporations  Act  2001  to  assist  ASIC  identify  reports  that  require  the  most urgent attention and investigation.” (Page 244, para. 15.66)

Source: Final report of Senate Economics References Committee on Performance of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, 26/6/2014 

Committee’s comments preceding this recommendation

Before making recommendation 17 the Senate Committee’s Report looks at “Reports from industry professionals”  including external administrators. It states as follows (note: I’ve removed its footnotes):


External administrators

15.55  The  Corporations  Act  also  places an obligation on liquidators, receivers and voluntary  administrators  (external  administrators)  to  report  suspected  breaches  of the  Corporations  Act  to  ASIC….

15.56  Reports  made  pursuant  to  these  sections  are  referred  to  as  statutory  reports and  are  an  important  source  of  information  about  possible  breaches  of  the  law….

15.57  Liquidators  also  have  the  discretion  to  lodge  further  reports  if,  in  their opinion, it is desirable to draw the matter to ASIC’s attention.

15.58  In 2012–13, external administrators lodged 9,788 reports with ASIC. Of this number,  initial  external  administrators  accounted  for  95  per  cent  or  9,254  reports. ASIC recorded  that 81 per cent of the initial reports  involved  companies with fewer than  20  employees.  The  construction  industry  was  subject  to  the  highest  number  of reports  accounting  for  just  over  24  per  cent.  Of  the  initial  external  administrators’ reports, receivers lodged one per cent under section 422; administrators lodged 3.8 per cent under section 438D; and 95 per cent of the reports were submitted by liquidators under section 533.

15.59  Importantly,  external  administrators  alleged  misconduct  in  more  than two-thirds of reports  (6,761)  involving an overall possible 16,562 breaches. Although this  number  accounts  for  an  average  of  between  two  and  three  breaches  per  report, almost  30  per  cent  of  reports  or  2,493  recorded  no  misconduct. ASIC  asked  the external administrator to prepare a supplementary section 422, section 438D or section 533  report  for  677  of  the  6,761  reports  that  identified  possible  misconduct. In its analysis of the statistics, ASIC explained  that its request for an additional report is  a  function  of  its  assessment  of  risk  based  on  a  number  of  factors,  including,  but not limited to:
*   the nature of the possible misconduct reported;
*   the amount of liabilities;
*   the deficiency suffered;
*   the availability of evidence;
*   prior misconduct; and
*   the advice of the external administrator that the reported possible misconduct warranted further investigation.

15.60  In  a 2007 report, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO)  observed that given  the  large  number  of  statutory  reports  received  by  ASIC  each  year  that  allege offences  against  the  Corporations  Act,  it  was  appropriate  that  ASIC  had  systems  in place  to  prioritise  its  regulatory  action,  through  risk  scoring.  It  found  that  ASIC’s recording of statutory report information was accurate to  a high degree. The ANAO recognised  that  ASIC  could  use  a  wide  variety  of  possible  remedies  to  deal  with offences identified in statutory reports or other deficiencies that warranted some sort  of regulatory action. They ranged from warning letters to directors for the less serious offences  to  prosecution  and  potentially  imprisonment  for  more  serious  offences. It noted that where ASIC identified  that a statutory report raised  issues of regulatory significance,  it  sought  further  information  about  the  matter  from  the  external administrator.

15.61  According to  the ANAO  report, ASIC  did  not always obtain that additional information.  Based on its sample, it found that in 40 per cent of instances,  ASIC did not obtain additional information that it had requested. The ANAO concluded:

… the  small  number  of  statutory  reports  subject  to  regulatory  action  by ASIC  each  year  indicates  that  there  is  opportunity  for  greater  regulatory action on these reports.

15.62  Mr  David  Lombe,  President  of  the  Australian  Restructuring  Insolvency  and Turnaround Association  (ARITA)  was of the view that  ANAO’s  2007  findings  were still  relevant  and  applicable. He  noted  the  thousands  of  reports  lodged  with  ASIC each  year  but  not  acted  upon.  In  Mr  Lombe’s  view,  there  was  a  ‘general  perception within  the business community that, if you do certain things at a certain level, there will be no effective review’. He explained further:

“The difficulty that we have as official liquidators is that you get a matter off the  court  list  and  often  that  matter  has  no  funds  in  it,  so  there  are  no available assets. Often that is a process by which directors have deliberately done that—it has been a deliberate course of action. If you report the matter to ASIC and there is no assistance from that space, there is not much  you can do. If you felt really aggrieved by it or you felt that it was a matter that was  of  sufficient  importance,  you  may  be  able  to  persuade  a  firm  of solicitors to act on a pro bono basis, but that is very difficult. I found myself in  that  sort  of  situation  with  Babcock  &  Brown,  where  I  had  inadequate funds to be able to pursue a proper investigation. The only thing that was available to me was to ask creditors to fund me, which they did, which then allowed me to do a public examination, which brought out the conduct of directors and other stakeholders in that company. If you do not have funds in a matter, the courses are very limited.”

15.63  By  way  of  example,  Mr  Lombe  expanded  on  his  concerns  citing  the requirement  to  lodge  a  section  533  report,  which  deals  with  offences  committed  by directors.  He explained that for the liquidator to understand what has happened,  he or she  needs  to

  ‘review the books and records, determine the transactions, try to find out what assets are there, look at insolvent trading and look at preference payments and all those sorts of things’.

  The liquidator is  required to file that report,  which  takes  time. So, according to Mr Lombe,  the reports involve both  time and money, and often  with official liquidations there are no assets at all and, if there are, creditors are effectively paying for the report.  He noted that thousands of  such reports  are lodged  with ASIC but  most  of  them  come  back  ‘no  further  action’.  In  his  view,  it  is  frustrating  for liquidators because they feel, ‘Why am I bothering to do it?’ Mr Lombe concluded that ‘you  can  understand  someone’s  frustration,  where  they  have  reported  offences  and nothing happens’.

15.64  When asked whether liquidators, in their  statutory  reports,  could assist ASIC to  distinguish  the  very  serious  breaches  from  the  less  so,  ARITA  indicated  that  it ‘might be a useful reform’. After considering the matter further, ARITA informed the committee that if it were consulted, it could assist ASIC to determine a risk scoring profile. It explained further, however:

“But we consider that the decision on how the information required by s533 is ‘risk-scored’ for action is ultimately one for the regulator and its decision and  methods  should  not  be  publicly  disclosed.  For  one  thing,  this  would appear to give the  ‘green light’ to the  commission of certain offences that are deemed not serious enough to warrant action by ASIC.”

15.65  ARITA  also  stated  that  ‘a  more  co-operative  approach  between  ASIC  and liquidators  should  also  be  pursued’.  The  committee  believes  that  ASIC  and  ARITA should  work  closely  together  to  develop  a  more  effective  and  efficient  reporting mechanism that would assist ASIC to identify the alleged  serious  breaches from the less so.”

Jan 242014

A Federal Government report on compliance by insolvency practitioners who work in the field of personal bankruptcy and insolvency, and are governed under the Bankruptcy Act 1966, was released on 16 January 2014. The 29 page report, published by Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA), is titled

“Personal insolvency practitioners compliance report 2012-13”.

The phrase “personal insolvency practitioners” refers to Registered Trustees in Bankruptcy and Registered Debt Agreement Administrators.

A list of the CONTENTS is published below. For a copy of the report (PDF) CLICK HERE.