January 14, 2013
In Re Australian Property Holdings Limited (in liq) (recs & mgrs apptd) (No 2)  VSC 576 Robson J considered applications by the defendants to stay the proceedings, which was refused, and to file limited defences, which was granted.
Australian Property Custodian Holdings (“APCH”) commenced proceedings in the Supreme Court against seven of its former directors to recover $30 million that was paid out of its assets it held on trust as a fee to companies controlled by Mr Lewski . ASIC commenced action in the Federal Court against APCH and 5 of its directors who are also defendants in this proceeding alleging breaches of the Corporations Act (“the Act”).
APCH is the responsible entity of the Prime Retirement and Aged Care Property Trust, a managed investment scheme under the Act . In 2006 the constitution of the Prime Trust was amended by the board of APCH to provide for a payment of a listing fee to APCH if units of the Prime Trust were listed on the ASX , which they were in August 2007 and APCH received $33m out of the assets of the trust. The Supreme Court proceedings were commenced by the liquidator on 5 March 2012 in the name of APCH  and a statement of claim was filed and served against all defendants for compensation under sections 1317H and HA or 1325 of the Act as well as a claim for equitable compensation. ASIC commenced proceedings in the Federal Court on 21 August 2012 .
Both proceedings allege that APCH breached its statutory duties under the Act in amending the trust to the detriment of the unit holders  and both rely upon section 601FD .
STAY OF PROCEEDINGS
The Supreme Court has an inherent power to stay proceedings in the interests of justice  (which is the overriding consideration ). His Honour set out, at , the relevant principles regarding a stay found in McMahon v Gould as follows (absent citations):
(a) Prima facie a plaintiff is entitled to have his action Read the rest of this entry »
December 19, 2012
Griffiths J in Platinum Communications Pty Ltd v Computer Networks Pty Limited  FCA 1260 considered an amendment to application to set aside a statutory demand.
The plaintiff, a retailer, and the defendant, a software provider, entered into an agreement whereby the plaintiff would use the defendant’s software under licence and receive related services for payment . When the software was switched on the plaintiff suffered difficulties in many of its stores . The plaintiff claimed Read the rest of this entry »
November 1, 2012
The Personal Liability for Corporate Fault Bill passed the Houe of Representatives today. The bills web page is found here.
The Bill arose from the Council of Australian Governments’ National Partnership Agreement to Deliver a Seamless National Economy whose aim is to remove regulatory burdens on directors and corporate officers that cannot be justified on public policy grounds, and to minimise inconsistency between Australian jurisdictions in the application of personal liability for corporate fault in government laws.
The relevant COAG Principles are
- Where a corporation contravenes a statutory requirement, the corporation should be held liable in the first instance.
- Directors should not be liable for corporate fault as a matter of course or by blanket imposition of liability across an entire Act.
- A ‘designated officer’ approach to liability is not suitable for general application.
- The imposition of personal criminal liability on a director for the misconduct of a corporation should be confined to situations where: Read the rest of this entry »
The Full Bench of the Federal Court in Georges v Seaborn International Pty Ltd (Trustee), in the matter of Sonray Capital Markets Pty Ltd (in liq)  FCAFC 140 considered the right of the liquidator to recover proceeds of shares the purposes of pooling and distribution to creditors.
Sonray was the holder of the Australian financial services licence from 4 May 2005 until it went into administration on 22 June 2010 . It provided access to trading platforms made available by third parties. Clients deposited money with Sonray, which was held in accounts and subject to statutory trust under the Corporations Act . It had 18 segregated accounts which were used to receive deposits in respect of margin calls, proposed trades and the return of funds. In these accounts clients’ funds were co-mingled with funds from other clients  to the point where the trial judge found that the funds were so thoroughly mixed as to be almost impossible to ascertain entitlements to each of the segregated accounts . Efax, the trustee of a family trust, entered into a written agreement in 2009 with Sonray regarding its trading activities. In April 2010 Efax instructed Sonray to purchase 78,000 shares in BHP Billiton Ltd (“BHP”)  for $3 million , which it did through Saxo Bank (“Saxo”), one of its trading platforms. Efax’s funding for the purchase was deposited into a Sonray accounted which was subject to numerous defalcations. The purchase price for the shares however was not paid out of a tainted account but rather by Saxo using its own money or by way of credit arrangements. Sonray debited Efax’s ledger account with the purchase price of the BHP shares.
The Liquidators seek a direction to allow them to pool shares purchased on instructions by Efax with proceeds attributable to all other Sonray clients which would then be distributed amongst all of the clients .
The trial judge held that Efax is entitled to resist the claim for pooling on the ground that it is entitled to the BHP shares in specie .
The Majority upheld the appeal by a 2-1 majority.
His Honour commenced his analysis by Read the rest of this entry »
October 30, 2012
In ACN 079 638 501 Pty Ltd (in liq) (recs & mgrs apptd) v Pattison & Anor  VSC 445 Justice Ferguson considered whether work in progress was covered by a charge given by company.
Mr Paul Pattison (“Pattison”), a qualified chartered accountant and registered liquidator and trustee in bankruptcy established and was sole director and secretary of the Plaintiff. Until April 2010 he conducted his insolvency practice through the Plaintiff . In November 2006 the Plaintiff charged its assets in favour of bank of Western Australia Ltd (“BankWest”). In 2010 BankWest appointed receivers and managers over the assets of the Plaintiff under the charge  &  – .
The issue in the proceeding was whether the work in progress recorded in the books of the Plaintiff, being time spent by Pattison working on insolvency administrations was an asset caught by the charge . Pattison contended that his appointments were personal to him and the Plaintiff provided services to him in connection with those appointments . The receivers contended that all work performed by him pursuant to his appointments as liquidator, deed administrator or trustee in bankruptcy was performed as an employee of the Plaintiff and his work in progress was an asset of the Plaintiff.
Her Honour found:
- the Plaintiff would raise invoices for fees and disbursements payable . The time spent by Pattison was included in the Plaintiff”s invoice on a separate charge made by him personally;
- cheques would be paid to Pattison and he would endorse them as payable to the Plaintiff. Payment was made into the company’s bank account ; and
- the Plaintiff’s payslips evidence fortnightly wages payable to Pattison as an employee although this was disputed in part .
Ferguson J framed the question as, at :
..the real question is as to the relationship between Mr Pattison and the Company and the effect (if any) that that had on ownership of the work in progress.
The fact that Pattison had certain obligations arising Read the rest of this entry »
October 11, 2012
The Victorian Court of Appeal in 360 Capital Re Limited v Watts & Ors  VSCA 234 dismissed an appeal from a decision in Watts & Watts & Ors v 360 Capital Re Limited & Anor  VSC 320 which held modifications to the 360 Capital Fund’s constitution were invalid for want to compliance with section 601GC(1)(b) of the Corporations Act 2001 (the “Act”).
The 360 Capital Industrial Fund (“360 Capital”) is a managed investment scheme under Chapter 5C of the Act. There are 180.63 million units in the Fund. The Constitution of the Fund relevantly provides, at  :
1) Clause 5.1(a): The Trustee could only issue units in accordance with clause 5 and subject to the Constitution.
2) Clause 5.2(a): The Trustee could not grant Options unless the Trust were Listed.
3) Clause 5.4: New Units were required to be issued at a price determined in accordance with clause 5.4.
4) Clause 13.5(a): An Option did not confer on the Optionholder any interest in the Fund.
On 31 May 2012 the directors of 360 Capital executed a Supplemental Deed Poll which Read the rest of this entry »
September 14, 2012
Yesterday the Corporations Legislation Amendment (Derivative Transactions) Bill 2012 was introduced into the House of Representatives.
It is a lengthy and significant bill providing:
Part 1—Amendment of the Corporations Act 2001
Corporations Act 2001
1 Section 9
Australian derivative Read the rest of this entry »
August 14, 2012
Section 461(1)(k) of the Corporations Act is a very useful provision when dealing with directors and shareholders who are in dispute but there is no evidence of oppression (where sections 232 and 233 would apply). The circumstances giving rise to the court exercising the very broad discretion vary. As such it is worth briefly reviewing 3 decisions to gauge the approach the court’s take in the very practical exercise of deciding whether it is appropriate to wind up a company; Giacobbe & Anor v Giacobbe & Anor  VSC 285, Warner v Global Pacific Aerospace Pty Ltd & Anor  VSC 291 and White Family No 1 Pty Ltd v Organic Brands Pty Ltd & Anor  VSC 247.
Giacobbe & Anor v Giacobbe & Anor  VSC 285
Michele and Antonio Giacobbe, brothers, went into business in 1962 manufacturing and selling office furniture. In October 1974, a family trust was established and the furniture business became an asset of the trust. The beneficiaries of the trust were the two brothers and their respective family members. In the early 1980s, Michele and Antonio fell out Read the rest of this entry »
December 14, 2011
In recent decisions of Sportsco Pty Ltd v Singh Group Pty Ltd (No 2)  VSC 576 (per Ferguson J) and BKW Investments Pty Ltd v Training Connect Limited  FCA 1314 (per Cowdroy J) the courts considered applications to set aside statutory demands. In Sportsco the court, hearing an appeal from an Associate Justice, refused to set aside the application. In BKW the court set aside the application.
Sportsco Pty Ltd v Singh Group Pty Ltd (No 2)
The underlying dispute related to the purchase of a franchise business. Singh, the purchaser, submitted that the statutory demand on Sportsco for $70,500 was a refundable deposit under the franchise agreement. Sportsco, the vendor, applied to set aside the demand claiming there was a genuine dispute concerning the debt and that it had an offsetting claim. Singh alleged there was an agreement that the money was refundable if it was unable to obtain finance for the franchise business. Singh did not obtain finance. While Singh was provided with an an offer to lease premises from which the franchise would operate it was never executed by Singh. Sportsco claimed there was a dispute as to what constituted the agreement and whether the agreement was subject to finance. It also claimed Singh was liable to pay a franchise royalty fee of five years as a consequence of the breach and was liable for damages of approximately $300,000.
Ferguson J referred to TR administration proprietor Ltd V Frank marketing and Sales Brochure Ltd as support forthe proposition that Read the rest of this entry »
June 29, 2011
In Australian Securities and Investments Commission v Healey Middleton J found against the directors of Centro Properties Limited. It is a very long and detailed decision which provides an excellent summary of the obligations of directors.
ASIC alleged that the approval of the consolidated financial accounts of Centro Property Limited. Centro Property Trust and Centro Retail Trust for the financial year ending 30 June 2007 contravened sections 180(1), 344(1) and 601FD(3) of the Corporations Act 2001. Those contraventions included failing to disclose $1.5billion of short term liabilities of Centro Property and $500 million of Centro Retail by classifying them as non current liabilities and failing to disclose guarantees of short term liabilities of an associated company of about US $1.75 billion that had been given after the balance date (see  for a detailed summary of the issues). Middleton J found that those matters were well known to the directors or, if not well known to them, should have been  & .
Middleton J found, at , the directors failed “..to take all reasonable steps required of them, and acted in the performance of their duties as directors without exercising the degree of care and diligence the law requires of them.” His consideration of the facts with respect to each director is found at ( – ). It is too extensive to comment upon here. The focus of this post is on the legal principles enunciated by Middleton J.
Middleton J highlighted the consequences of the breaches and why they are significant when he said, at :
This proceeding is not about a mere technical oversight. The information not disclosed was a matter of significance to the assessment of the risks facing CNP and CER. Giving that information to shareholders and, for a listed company, the market, is one of the fundamental purposes of the requirements of the Act that financial statements and reports must be prepared and published. The importance of the financial statements is one of the fundamental reasons why the directors are required to approve them and resolve that they give a true and fair view.
Middleton j restated the obligations and responsibilities of a director as: Read the rest of this entry »