Treasurer outlines proposed changes to insolvency laws

September 24, 2020

Yesterday and first thing this morning the media was abuzz, with coverage from the Guardian,  the Sydney Morning Herald, the ABC and the Financial Review (amongst many other news outlets) with news of proposed changes to the insolvency laws as embargoed releases were provided to them last night.

The Treasurer revealed the proposed changes to the insolvency laws.  That will significantly affect  professionals who practice insolvency law such as myself.

The Treasurers’ media release relevantly provides:

The Morrison Government will undertake the most significant reforms to Australia’s insolvency framework in 30 years as part of our economic recovery plan to keep businesses in business and Australians in jobs.

The reforms, which draw on key features from Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the United States, will help more small businesses restructure and survive the economic impact of COVID-19. As the economy continues to recover, it will be critical that distressed businesses have the necessary flexibility to either restructure or to wind down their operations in an orderly manner.

Key elements of the reforms include:

    • The introduction of a new debt restructuring process for incorporated businesses with liabilities of less than $1 million, drawing on some key features of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy model in the United States.
    • Moving from a rigid one-size-fits-all “creditor in possession” model to a more flexible “debtor in possession” model which will allow eligible small businesses to restructure their existing debts while remaining in control of their business.
    • A rapid twenty business day period for the development of a restructuring plan by a small business restructuring practitioner, followed by fifteen business days for creditors to vote on the plan.
    • A new, simplified liquidation pathway for small businesses to allow faster and lower cost liquidation.
    • Complementary measures to ensure the insolvency sector can respond effectively both in the short and long term to increased demand and to meet the needs of small business.

The reforms will cover around 76 per cent of businesses subject to insolvencies today, 98 per cent of whom who have less than 20 employees.

Together, these measures will reposition our insolvency system to reduce costs for small businesses, reduce the time they spend during the insolvency process, ensure greater economic dynamism, and ultimately help more small businesses get to the other side of the crisis.

On 22 March 2020, the Government announced temporary regulatory measures to help financially distressed businesses get to the other side of COVID-19. On 7 September 2020 the Government announced a further extension of this relief to 31 December 2020.  The new processes will be available for small businesses from 1 January 2021.

The 10 page fact sheet is found here and Read the rest of this entry »

Commonwealth extends trading while insolvent protections

September 9, 2020

The Attorney General announced yesterday that the Commonwealth Government will extend the insolvency and bankruptcy protections previously enacted in relation to:

  • trading while insolvent
  • increasing the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand and the time for responding to a statutory demand.

The protections will extend until 31 December 2020.

The Attorney General’s media release provides:

The Morrison Government will continue to provide regulatory relief for businesses that have been impacted by the Coronavirus crisis by extending temporary insolvency and bankruptcy protections until 31 December 2020.

Regulations will be made to extend the temporary increase in the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company and the time companies have to respond to statutory demands they receive.

The changes will also extend the temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent.

These measures were part of more than 80 temporary regulatory changes the Government made designed to provide greater flexibility for businesses and individuals to operate during the coronavirus crisis.

The extension of these measures will lessen the threat of actions that could unnecessarily push businesses into insolvency and external administration at a time when they continue to be impacted by health restrictions.

These changes will help to prevent a further wave of failures before businesses have had the opportunity to recover.

In addition, the Government is providing an unprecedented level of support totalling $314 billion to cushion the blow for workers, households and businesses during the coronavirus crisis.

As the economy starts to recover, it will be critical that distressed businesses have the necessary flexibility to restructure or to wind down their operations in an orderly manner.

The Government will continue to help businesses successfully adapt and restructure so that they can bounce back on the other side of this crisis.

As the Age reports in ‘More harm than good’: Businesses get reprieve but thousands still set to fail on the the changes, importantly that the extensions may actually harm rather than benefit Read the rest of this entry »

Lewis (liquidator), in the matter of Concrete Supply Pty Ltd (in liq) [2020] FCA 841 (16 June 2020): s 477(2B) Corporations Act 2001 application, approval for liquidator to retain solicitor who act for creditor of the company in liquidation

July 16, 2020

In Lewis (liquidator), in the matter of Concrete Supply Pty Ltd (in liq) [2020] FCA 841 White considered the relevant principles in considering an application under section 477(2B) of the Corporations Act 2001.

FACTS

Between August 2009 and November 2017, ABCL had supplied concrete to Concrete Supply [5].

In October 2017, ABCL discovered that it had been underpaid about $12 million by Concrete Supply.  The underpayment was disguised by false entries made by one of its employees.  ABCL sought payment of the shortfall from Concrete Supply. On 14 November 2017, the directors of Concrete Supply resolved that it was, or was likely to become, insolvent and appointed Messrs Cooper and Cantone at Worrells as administrators. On 19 December 2017, the creditors of Concrete Supply resolved that it enter into a Deed of Company Arrangement (” DOCA”) [5].

ABCL opposed the 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 »

A’la Carte Homes Pty Ltd v AAPD CO P/L [2019] VSC 108 (5 March 2019): application to set aside, section 459J Corporations Act

March 13, 2019

In A’la Carte Homes Pty Ltd v AAPD CO P/L [2019] VSC 108 the Supreme Court, per Randall AsJ, set aside a statutory demand. The key issue was the failure of the assignment of a debt being described in the statutory demand or accompanying affidavit.

FACTS

The application was made under ss 459G, 459H and 459J of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). The orders sought were Read the rest of this entry »

C Tina Pty Ltd v Warners Electroplating Pty Ltd [2019] VSC 66 (18 February 2019): Application to set aside statutory demand, s 459G Corporations Act 2001

February 21, 2019

In C Tina Pty Ltd v Warners Electroplating Pty Ltd [2019] VSC 66 Associate Justice Gardiner set aside a statutory demand.

FACTS

On 1 October 2018, the defendant (‘Warners’) served on the plaintiff (‘C Tina’):

  • a creditors statutory demand for payment of debt; and
  • an affidavit in support sworn by Grant Warner on 26 September 2018 [1].

The Demand related to two invoices totalling $166,332.10 for work and labour done and materials supplied [2].

On 19 October 2018, C Tina made application by originating process to set aside the Demand [3].

The application is based on the ground that C Tina has a genuine dispute in relation to the debt in that it never contracted with Warners and that Read the rest of this entry »

In the matter of Polar Agencies Pty Ltd [2019] VSC 43 (8 February 2019): winding up application, ss 440 & 447A Corporations Acct 2001

February 14, 2019

Judicial Registrar considered an application to wind up a company when administrators had been appointed shortly before the hearing In the matter of Polar Agencies Pty Ltd [2019] VSC 43.

FACTS

The plaintiff  a statutory demand served on the defendant by the plaintiff by post sent on 18 October 2018 [4].  The demand is in respect of debts totalling $558,508.56 for goods supplied by the plaintiff to the defendant and invoiced in the period March to August 2018. The defendant failed to comply with it [4] and made no application to set aside the statutory demand [5] thereby failing to comply with the demand in about midNovember 2018 which gave rise to a statutory presumption of insolvency under s 459C(2)(a) of the Corporations Act (the Act).

By an originating process filed on 16 November 2018 [3] the plaintiff applied for the defendant be wound up in insolvency pursuant to s 459P and s 459Q of the Act [1].

The proceeding first came on for hearing on 19 December 2018 where:

  • the plaintiff appeared and the defendant did not.
  • the Court was informed that negotiations were underway. Directions were made that any request for a further adjournment was to be supported by an affidavit to be filed and served by 4 February 2019,
  • the hearing was adjourned to 6 February 2019 [6].

Read the rest of this entry »

Print Mail Logistics Limited v Warratah Investments Pty Ltd [2018] FCA 1618 (29 October 2018): section 459E, H and J of the Corporations Act, application to set aside a statutory demand

December 1, 2018

The Federal Court, per Markovic, set aside a statutory demand in Print Mail Logistics Limited v Warratah Investments Pty Ltd [2018] FCA 1618.  It was a very hard fought fight which involved a complex factual situation and difficult legal issues.  Unusually it involved a cross examination of a deponent.  The demand was set aside because of a technical error by the respondent.

FACTS

The parties  were:

  • Nigel Benjamin Elias (“Elias”),  director of Print Mail and the sole director of Print Mail Logistics (International) Pty Ltd (PMLI).
  • Jennifer Joan Hutson (“Hutson”),  director and secretary of Warratah and sole director of Wellington Capital Pty Ltd (now called Southland Stokers Pty Ltd) (Wellington);
  • Mark John Halle (“Halle”), director of Warratah and the chief financial officer of Wellington; and
  • Wellcap Holdings Pty Ltd the ultimate holding company of Warratah and  sole shareholder of Wellington [4].

On 5 February 2013 PMLI and MMB entered into a commercial facilities agreement with  MMB makiung a facility of $312,000 available to PMLI to assist with the purchase of a property in 11 McRorie Court, Cambridge, Tasmania (Property) [5].  On 28 October 2013  PMLI and MMB entered into a commercial facilities agreement pursuant to Read the rest of this entry »

Re Ad Astra Institute Pty Ltd [2018] VSC 563 (25 September 2018) and : Section 359G Corporations Act, application to set aside statutory demand, 21 day affidavit required to ‘raise’ or ‘identify’ a particular ground expressly, genuine dispute, offsetting claim.

November 3, 2018

The Victorian Supreme Court in Re Ad Astra Institute Pty Ltd [2018] VSC 563 considered an application to set aside a statutory demand.  In dismissing the application the court undertook a useful analysis of both genuine dispute but more particularly the approach to be taken in preparing an offsetting claim.

FACTS

The defendant was engaged to develop QMS and other documentation (‘Training Documentation’) to meet the requirements of being a Registered Training Organisation (‘RTO’) and on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (‘CRICOS’) [4].

In July of 2016, the plaintiff offered the defendant a contract for services, [4], with consultancy fees at:

    • an hourly rate (minimum of 3 hours) $575 per hour + GST
  • daily rate (maximum of 8 hours) $2,800 per day + GST [5].

The note at the bottom of the consultancy fees provides:

Please note:The terms of all invoices are 14 days and all invoices will be charged according to the hourly rate plus GST (Goods and Services Tax). These rates are reviewed from time to time and may change. We will tell you of any changes as soon as practicable after a change occurs [6].

with a further stipulation :

As negotiated:It is agreed that IRM [the Defendant] will cap its fees payable for initial registration and CRICOS registration at AUD$100,000 inclusive of required ASQA fees.

The Agreement was set out to have been made on 25 July 2016 and executed by James Sackl on behalf of the plaintiff. At all material times Read the rest of this entry »

A G Coombs Pty Ltd v M & V Consultants Pty Ltd (in liq) [2018] VSC 468 (22 August 2018): failure to comply with statutory demand, interlocutory injunction, allegation of abuse of process

August 31, 2018

The Victorian Supreme Court in A G Coombs Pty Ltd v M & V Consultants Pty Ltd (in liq) [2018] VSC 468 considered and dismissed a plaintiffs’ application for injunctive relief to prevent an application under section 459 of the Corporations Act 2001 being made.

FACTS

On Friday 15 June 2018, the plaintiffs sought urgent interlocutory relief and final relief by way of an injunction to enjoin the defendant from making an application under s 459P of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) to wind up each of the plaintiffs in insolvency in connection with statutory demands Read the rest of this entry »