Re Australian Builders Group Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 254 (20 May 2022): statutory demand, s 459G, application to set aside, genuine dispute about existence and/or amount of debt & whether due and payable because condition precedent in deed not met,validity of notice, principles of economic duress

May 23, 2022

In Re Australian Builders Group Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 254 the Supreme Court, per Hetyey AsJ, set aside a statutory demand based on a genuine dispute based on the construction of an agreement and default notice but also by a claim of duress.

FACTS

On or around 1 June 2017 Mind, a not-for-profit organisation providing community-managed specialist mental health services entered into an agreement with Australian Win Win Investment Pty Ltd (‘the landlord’) to lease a property located at 691 High Street, Thornbury, Victoria (‘the property’ and ‘the lease’ respectively) for an amount of $130,000 per annum (approximately $10,833.33 per calendar month) [1].

In early May 2018, Mind and ABG entered into a sublease agreement for the property (‘the sublease’). The parties to the sublease agreed that ABG would pay a reduced amount of rent of $121,000 per annum (approximately $10,083.33 per calendar month) [2].

From February 2019, ABG began to fall into arrears & by 15 April 2021, it owed Mind approximately eight months’ rent, totalling $82,279.92 (‘the arrears’). Pursuant to a repayment deed, ABG agreed to make regular payments of the arrears of $2,500 plus GST, together with interest, per week.

Regarding the repayment Read the rest of this entry »

CBS Commercial Canberra Pty Ltd v Axis Commercial (ACT) Pty Ltd, in the matter of CBS Commercial Canberra Pty Ltd [2022] FCA 544 (12 May 2022): application to set aside statutory demand, offsetting claim,

May 15, 2022

The Federal Court, per Halley J, set aside a statutory demand in CBS Commercial Canberra Pty Ltd v Axis Commercial (ACT) Pty Ltd, in the matter of CBS Commercial Canberra Pty Ltd [2022] FCA 544 in finding that an offsetting claim constitutes a genuine dispute. It is a very good decision setting out the complications of offsetting claims arising from building contracts relied upon in setting aside a statutory demand which is based on a certificate and judgment obtained under the Security of Payments Act.

FACTS

CBS engaged Axis as a sub-contractor to undertake work at a building site located in Gungahlin in the Australian Capital Territory [12].

The chronological events Read the rest of this entry »

Australian Securities and Investments Commission v RI Advice Group Pty Ltd [2022] FCA 496 (5 May 2022): ss 912A(1)(a) & (h) Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), failure to have adequate cybersecurity risk management in place,

May 14, 2022

The Federal Court, per Rolfe J, in Australian Securities and Investments Commission v RI Advice Group Pty Ltd [2022] FCA 496 made what has widely been described as a first occasion a corporation has been found to have breached its licence obligations in failing to have adequate risk management systems to manage its cyber security risks. The Court ordered declaratory relief requiring RI Advice to undertake work to improve its security under the supervision of an expert.  

The orders were made in terms agreed between the parties just before the trial was scheduled to commence.

I have followed this proceeding closely with posts ASIC commences action against RI Advice Group Pty Ltd for failing to have adequate cyber security in August 2020 and ASIC v RI Advice Group Pty Ltd cyber security civil penalty trial pushed off from a 29 November 2021 hearing date to a date in April 2022 in May 2021,

FACTS

The Court provided a factual background about stating that RI Advice :

  • was:
    • a wholly-owned subsidiary of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ). RI Advice up to and including September 2018;
    • from 1 October 2018, along with two other ANZ financial licensees, part of the IOOF Holdings Limited (IOOF) group of companies [12]
  • carries on a financial services business within the meaning of s 761A of the Corporations Act Act (“The Act”) under a third-party business owner model.
  • authorises Under s 916A of the Act, RI Advice independently-owned corporate authorised representatives (“ARs”) and individual authorised representatives to provide financial services to retail clients on RI Advice’s behalf and pursuant to the Licence [13]

The AR Practices (practices of groups of one or more Authorised Representatives):

  • electronically received, stored and accessed  confidential and sensitive personal information and documents in relation to their retail clients. The personal information included:

(a) personal details, including full names, addresses and dates of birth and in some instances health information;(b) contact information, including contact phone numbers and email addresses; and

(c) copies of documents such as driver’s licences, passports and other financial information [14].

  • since 15 May 2018 provided financial services to at least 60,000 retail clients [15]
  • had 9 cybersecurity incidents between June 2014 and May 2020, being:
    • in June 2014 an AR’s email account was hacked and five clients received a fraudulent email urging the transfer of funds, one of whommade transfers totalling some $50,000;
    • in June 2015 a third-party website provider engaged by an AR Practice was hacked, resulting in a fake home page being placed on the AR Practice’s website;
    • in September 2016 one client received a fraudulent email purporting to be an employee of an AR Practice asked for money. The AR Practice used an email platform where information was stored “in the Cloud”, with was no anti-virus software and only one password which everyone used.
    • in January 2017 an AR Practice’s main reception computer was subject to ransomware delivered by email, making certain files inaccessible;
    • in May 2017 an AR Practice’s server was hacked by brute force through a remote access port, resulting in file containing the personal information of some 220 clients being held for ransom and ultimately not recoverable;
    • between December 2017 and April 2018 (December 2017 Incident) an unknown malicious agent gained unauthorised access to an AR Practice’s server for several months  compromising the personal information of several thousand clients, some of whom reported unauthorised use of the personal information;
    • in May 2018 an unknown person gained unauthorised access to the email address of an AR and sent a fraudulent email to the AR’s bookkeeper requesting a bank transfer;
    • an unauthorised person used an AR Practice’s employee’s email address:
      • in August 2019 to send phishing emails to over 150 clients ; and
      • in April 2020 to send phishing emails to the AR Practice’s contacts [16].

Inquiries and reports following the cybersecurity incidents revealed thatthere were a variety of issues in the respective ARs’ management of cybersecurity risk, including:

  • computer systems not having up-to-date antivirus software installed and operating;
  • no filtering or quarantining of emails;
  • no backup systems in place, or backups not being performed; and
  • poor password practices including:
    • sharing of passwords between employees,
    • use of default passwords,
    • passwords and other security details being held in easily accessible places or being known by third parties [17].

Regarding the incidents Read the rest of this entry »

In the matter of Credit Clear Limited [2022] VSC 206 (29 April 2022): security for costs,

May 3, 2022

Justice Riordan considered an appeal against an order for security for costs in In the matter of Credit Clear Limited [2022] VSC 206.  The appellants were unsuccessful across the board. 

FACTS

By originating process filed 15 July 2020, the plaintiffs made an application under:

(a) sections 175, 232, 233, 461(1)(k), 1041H(1), 1324(1) and 1325 of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (‘the Act’);

(b) sections 12DA and 12GM of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001(Cth) (‘the ASIC Act’);

(c) Sections 237 and 243 of the Australian Consumer Law, being Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2020 (Cth) (‘ACL’); and

(d) the inherent jurisdiction of the Court [2].

The plaintiffs sought the following substantive relief in their points of claim [4]:

(a) The first plaintiff (‘Mr McKendrick’) sought to be reinstated as a director of the first respondent (‘Credit Clear’).

(b) The appellant sought the following relief:

B. Declarations and or orders under s 1325 of the Act, alternatively s 233(1)(c) and or (j) of the Act, s 12GM of the ASIC Act and or ss 237 and 243 of the ACL, that the Separation Agreement dated 11 November 2016 and Intellectual Property Assignment Agreement dated 11 November 2016 (by which the plaintiffs were forced to give up their interests in the first defendant together with the intellectual property rights owned by the first plaintiff) are void on the grounds they were procured under duress, undue influence, unconscionable conduct and or misleading and deceptive conduct in contravention of 1041H(1) of the Act, s 12DA of the ASIC Act and or s 18 of the ACL;

C. A declaration that the second plaintiff is entitled to hold 20% of the issued ordinary shares in the first defendant;

D. Rectification of the share register of the first defendant pursuant to s 175 of the Act to reinstate the second plaintiff as a member and to record that it holds a number of fully paid ordinary shares representing 20% of issued shares in the first defendant alternatively that it holds 6,805,555 fully paid ordinary shares in the first defendant;

E. A declaration that the affairs of the first defendant are being conducted contrary to the interests of the members as a whole and or are oppressive to, or unfairly prejudicial to, or unfairly discriminatory against the second plaintiff, or in the interests of and to the benefit of the second to third defendants and not the first defendant or its members;

F. An order that the second and or third defendants purchase the second plaintiff’s shareholding in the first defendant at fair value; Read the rest of this entry »

Bioaction Pty Ltd v Ogborne, in the matter of Bioaction Pty Ltd [2022] FCA 436 (26 April 2022): 459G of the Corporations Act 2001, whether service within 21 days

April 27, 2022

In Bioaction Pty Ltd v Ogborne, in the matter of Bioaction Pty Ltd [2022] FCA 436 the Federal Court considered, for the first time by the courts, the deeming provisions of sections 105A and 105B of the Corporations Act regarding service applications to set aside a statutory demand within the 21 day time limit,.  

FACTS

By originating process filed on 3 February 2022, the plaintiff, Bioaction Pty Ltd, sought an order setting aside a statutory demand pursuant to s 459G of the Corporations Act dated 12 January 2022 served by the defendant, Gordon Ogborne (“Ogborne”) [5].

Bioaction  specialises in the design, manufacturing and installation of systems to eliminate or mitigate odorous, hazardous and corrosive gases & Ogborne was its Chief Financial Officer / Chief Operating Officer from December 2019 until November 2021, when he was made redundant [7].

Ogborne and Bioaction were in dispute as to his entitlements where Ogborne claimed he was entitled to any additional sum [8].

On 13 January 2022, Ogborne served the statutory demand on Bioaction seeking payment of $240,688.31 being unpaid:

  • salary,
  • superannuation,
  • salary in lieu of termination,
  • annual leave and
  • redundancy

pursuant to an employment contract [9].

The statutory demand was Read the rest of this entry »

Re Slodyczka & Farren Pty Ltd (Costs) [2022] VSC 102 (4 March 2022): application for costs by the defendant; where presumption of insolvency rebutted, multiple defences relied upon

March 9, 2022

The postscript to Re Slodyczka & Farren Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 102 is a decision by Associate Justice Hetyey regarding costs of the application. 

FACTS

in the substantive judgment  the plaintiff’s application to wind up the defendant in insolvency was dismissed.

The relevant facts for the purpose of considering a costs order were:

  • whilst the matter was commenced by originating process filed on 11 April 2021, there were delays and adjournments [2] resulted in two previous costs orders being made being:
    • on 7 July 2021, consent orders were made which, among other things, required the plaintiff to pay the defendant’s costs thrown away by reason of an adjournment of the hearing originally scheduled that day (‘the first costs order’).
    • at the next hearing date, on 27 July 2021, it was adjourned at the request of the defendant to enable it to put on supplementary material on the question of solvency, including audited accounts for the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 financial years. The plaintiff’s costs of the hearing be reserved (‘the second costs order’).

The defendant opposed the winding up application on the following alternative bases [4]:

(a) service of the plaintiff’s statutory demand dated 3 February 2021 (‘the statutory demand or the demand’) was defective;

(b) the defendant was solvent and could displace the statutory presumption of insolvency;

(c) the defendant should be given leave pursuant to s 459S of the Corporations Act2001 (Cth) (‘theCorporations Act’) to oppose the winding up application on a ground or grounds it could have relied on for the purpose of an application to set the demand aside. The grounds sought to be raised were: (i) there was a genuine dispute about the amount of the debt claimed in the statutory demand in accordance with s 459H(1)(a); (ii) the defendant had an offsetting claim for the purpose of s 459H(1)(b) of the Corporations Act; and (iii) the demand was defective and a substantial injustice would be caused to the defendant if the demand was not set aside pursuant to s 459J(1)(a) of the Corporations Act; and

(d) pursuant to s 467(1)(a) of the Corporations Act, the Court should dismiss the plaintiff’s application as a matter of discretion.

In the substantive judgment the court held that, [5]:

  • the defendant failed to rebut the presumption of service of the statutory demand under s 29(1) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 (Cth).
  • the defendant succeeded in displacing the statutory presumption of insolvency on the basis that it was cash flow positive and balance sheet solvent. The proceeding was dismissed on this basis.
  • the defendant’s application under s 459S of the Corporations Act was not granted because the grounds sought to be raised in respect of the plaintiff’s debt were not material to proving solvency however  had the defendant failed to establish solvency the corut would haveultimately have granted it leave
  • the defendant could not to pursue its argument that the Court should dismiss the plaintiff’s application in accordance with the Court’s discretion under s 467(1)(a) of the Corporations Act because of a lack of proper notice to the plaintiff Read the rest of this entry »

Statutory demands. update Re Amville Constructions Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 65 (17 February 2022), Re Slodyczka & Farren Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 19 (1 February 2022) & Re Wynyard Victoria Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 81 (24 February 2022); insolvency, service, setting aside statutory demands, ss 459A, 459C, 459G, 459H, 459J, 459P, 459S of Corporations Act.

March 6, 2022

Associate Justice Heytey has had a busy start to the year with 2 decisions regarding applications under the Corporations Act 2001; Re Slodyczka & Farren Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 19 and Re Amville Constructions Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 65.  Associate Justice Gardiner considered an application to set aside a statutory demand in Re Wynyard Victoria Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 81.

Re Slodyczka & Farren Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 19

The key issue in this application was whether there was proper service of a statutory demand and whether the presumption of insolvency was rebutted. 

FACTS

Slodyczka & Farren Pty Ltd (‘the defendant’) was first registered on 14 December 2015. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it commenced a business in March 2020 for the manufacture and sale of face masks.  Between April 2020 and August 2020, Lion & Horn Pty Ltd (‘the plaintiff’) providing it with marketing services to sell of its masks [1].

In early February 2021, the plaintiff purportedly served the defendant with a statutory demand dated 3 February 2021, which claimed the sum of $36,091.77 in relation to an outstanding invoice dated 28 August 2020 for its marketing services . The defendant did not comply with the demand within the 21-day statutory period.

By originating process filed on 11 April 2021, the plaintiff sought to wind up of the defendant pursuant to ss 459A and 459P of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) relying upon the statutory presumption of insolvency contained within s 459C(2)(a) of the Corporations Act.

The Court framed the questions for consideration as being, at [9]:

(a) was service of the statutory demand effective?

(b) is the defendant solvent?

(c) should the Court grant the defendant leave pursuant to s 459S(2) of the Corporations Act to oppose the winding up application on one or more grounds that the defendant could have relied upon in seeking to set aside the demand, but did not so rely? Further, is such a ground material to proving the Company is solvent?; and

(d) should the Court dismiss the plaintiff’s application under s 467(1)(a) of the Corporations Act as a matter of discretion?

DECISION

Service

In reviewing the legislation and legal principles the court Read the rest of this entry »

Extension of temporary changes to continuous disclosure provisions for corporations and its officers

September 23, 2020

Today the Federal Treasurer announced an extension of the temporary amendments to the continuous disclosures obligations under the Corporations Act 2001 until 21 March 2021.

This announcement does not come as a particular surprise to insolvency practitioners.

The release Read the rest of this entry »

ASIC commences action against RI Advice Group Pty Ltd for failing to have adequate cyber security

August 22, 2020

Today the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (“ASIC”) commenced proceedings against RI Advice Group Pty Ltd (“RI”).   It has been filed in the Federal Court Victorian Registry.  

RI holds an Australian Financial services licence and at all relevant times was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (the ANZ).

According to the Concise Statement :

  • on 3 January or 3 March 2017 RI became aware of a ransomware attack on the computer systems of one of RI’s authorised representatives in 2016 which made files inaccessible [5];
  • on 30 May 2017 RI became aware another authorised representative’s files were hacked which affected 226 client groups [6]. 

ASIC alleges that in relation to each of those incidents RI should have but failed to:

 (a) properly review the effectiveness of cybersecurity controls relevant to these incidents across its AR network, including account lockout policies for failed log-ins, password complexity, multi-factor authentication, port security, log monitoring of cybersecurity events, cyber training and awareness, email filtering, application whitelisting, privilege management and incident response controls; and (b) ensure that those controls were remediated across its AR network where necessary in a timely manner, in order to adequately manage risk with respect to cybersecurity and cyber resilience.

  • between 30 December 2017 and 15 April 2018 an unknown malicious agent obtained and retained remote access to an authorised representative’s remote access to its file server and spent 155 hours accessing sensitive client information.  That resulted in 27 clients reporting unauthorised use of their personal information with that there were 3 attempts to redirect mail and multiple bank accounts being opened upon without consent.  There was a notification to the Australian Information Commissioner.  An investigation revealed that 8,104 individuals were exposed to the breach.

ASIC alleges that the risk management systems and resourcing relating to cybersecurity and cyber resilience were inadequate Read the rest of this entry »

Yeo, in the matter of Ready Kit Cabinets Pty Ltd (in liq) v Deputy Commissioner of Taxation [2020] FCA 632 (15 May 2020); deed of company arrangement, Corporations Act sections 588FA and 588FE, voidable transactions

June 11, 2020

In Yeo, in the matter of Ready Kit Cabinets Pty Ltd (in liq) v Deputy Commissioner of Taxation [2020] FCA 632 Middleton J considered the operation of the sub sectin 588FE(2B) involving the voidable transactions and whether payments were made under the administrator of a deed of company arrangement.

FACTS

On 29 October 2013, Mr Yeo and Mr Rambaldi were appointed as joint and several administrators of Ready Kit Cabinets Pty Ltd (in liq) (” the Company”) [8].

The DCT  commenced proceedings seeking to wind up the Company before the appointment of  Yeo and Rambaldi as voluntary administrators [9].  The first meeting of the Company’s creditors was convened and held on 7 November 2013 [10].  On 14 November 2013,  Yeo and Rambaldi issued a circular to creditors in which they advised that the second meeting of the Company’s creditors would be held on 22 November 2013. Yeo and Rambaldi provided creditors with a copy of a s 439A report with the circular [11].  At the second meeting of creditors  a resolution was passed that the Company should execute a deed of company arrangement [12].

On or about 11 December 2013, the DOCA was executed by:

  • each of the Company (by its then administrators,  Yeo and Rambaldi),
  •  Yeo and Rambaldi as deed administrators, and
  • the Director [13].

His Honour identified key provisions of the DOCA as:

  • Recital H. [14], that:

This Deed binds all Creditors of [the Company] pursuant to Section 444D of the Corporations Act and [the Company], all officers and members of [the Company], and the Administrators pursuant to Section 444G of the Corporations Act.

  •  management and control of the Company’s day-to-day business affairs were returned to the Director;
  • a fund was established and controlled by the Deed Administrators which constituted the whole of the property available for distribution to participating creditors [15];
  • the Company and Director made certain covenants and undertakings, including in respect of the Company’s compliance with its taxation obligations [15]; and
  •  upon default of the DOCA by the Company or the Director, the Deed Administrators were to convene a meeting of creditors to determine whether to terminate the DOCA and wind up the Company [15].

Between 11 December 2013 and 5 July 2017, the Company was returned to the management and control of the Director and continued to trade [16]. During this time the Company incurred fresh liabilities Read the rest of this entry »