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Government restrains creditor enforcement action in wake of COVID-19

By Andrew Hack, Solicitor, and Stephen Mullette, Principal, of Matthews Folbigg Lawyers, in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group.

As mentioned in yesterday’s blog, the Australian Government announced it would introduce a bill, to be fast-tracked through the Parliament, to address the economic crisis as a result of COVID-19. The bill was proposed on 23 March 2020 with the third reading agreed to in the Senate on the same day. As at 24 March 2020 it has passed both houses.

Much of the legislation provides substantial subsidies to businesses as well as payments to individuals affected by the economic downturn. However, a significant part of it provides relief to distressed businesses. The main changes are:

  1. An increase in the cap on issuing creditors statutory demands from $2,000 to $20,000;
  2. An increase in the cap on issuing bankruptcy notices from $5,000 to $20,000;
  3. For both statutory creditors statutory demands and bankruptcy notices, the period of compliance has been increased from 21 days to 6 months; and
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Winter is Coming – COVID-19 Changes Insolvency Law

By Anica Cunanan, Law Clerk at Matthews Folbigg in the Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

The unprecedented financial impact of COVID-19 has forced the laws surrounding insolvencies to change – well at least temporarily.  Analogous to the process of containing the virus, the Government is currently deciding on temporary changes to also flatten the curve of the inevitable insolvencies following this pandemic.

The Treasurer has been given a temporary instrument-making power in the Corporations Act 2001, for a period of six months, in order to provide temporary relief to distressed businesses. This was announced by the Government on 12 March 2020.

By way of summary these changes may include the following:

  1. A temporary increase in respect of the debt for which creditors may issue a statutory demand – from $2,000 to $20,000;
  2. Further, extension of the time for compliance with a statutory demand – from 21 days to six months;
  3. An increase in the threshold for initiating bankruptcy proceedings;
  4. Continue reading…

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Debt Recovery – Why should I use a Lawyer?

By Darrin Mitchell, a Senior Associate in Matthews Folbigg’s Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group.

Meet Darrin

Aside from being a lawyer, Darrin has been involved in debt recovery for 30 years, helping companies and individuals recover monies due and owing to them.

Before Darrin was admitted as a lawyer, he worked for a finance company and a mercantile agent so he saw first hand the nuts and bolts of dealing with debtors.

This experience has given Darrin a boost in assisting clients to recover monies in-house up to the management of a full blown hearing where the debtor defends everything from non-supply of goods to alleging that the goods supplied were defective.  It also allows Darrin to give advice on the implications of debt recovery, so clients can make practical, commercial decisions.

Why should I use a lawyer to collect my debts?

The answer is that in most cases you should not use a lawyer.  Most lawyers don’t have the X factor that will get a debt recovered as for most, debt recovery is just one of many areas of law listed on the firm’s “We Do …” list on their webpage.
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Creditor’s Requests – When is it unreasonable?

By Bonnie McMahon, an Associate in Matthews Folbigg’s Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group.

Many external administrators and trustees will have been receiving requests from creditors under section 70-45 of the new insolvency practice schedules, which were first introduced into the Corporations Act and Bankruptcy Act in September 2017.

This new provision allows creditors to request information, reports or documents from an external administrator or trustee.

At this stage, there is not a lot of guidance as to when external administrators and trustees can refuse to comply with these requests, especially as the scope of section 70-45 has only been considered by the Court in one reported case to date.

However, there is some guidance in the Insolvency Practice Rules which insolvency practitioners should be aware of, especially if they are concerned that complying with a creditor’s request may open them up to criticism by another creditor or a third party.

Section 70-15 of the rules, sets out when a creditor’s request will be unreasonable.
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Company Records? I could tell you, but I would have to go to gaol… ?

By Chloe Howard of Matthews Folbigg Lawyers, a lawyer in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

A company is presumed to be insolvent if it fails to keep proper financial records (section 588E(4) of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)).

But what if you have the records, but providing them might send you to gaol?

This issue was recently discussed in the matter of Substance Technologies Pty Ltd [2019] NSWSC 612.

In this matter, the director refused to respond to a liquidator’s repeated requests for the company’s financial records because he said the records might contain incriminating material.  He couldn’t be certain but “would suspect there could well be.” (at [42])

Justice Rees drew attention to the similarities between Sections 77(1) of the Bankruptcy Act and Section 530A of the Corporations Act. Both sections require production of records to insolvency practitioners. Her Honour noted that in Griffin v Pantzer (as trustee of the bankrupt estate of Griffin) [2004] FCAFC 113 the Federal Court had held that a claim for privilege against self-incrimination did not override the obligation of a bankrupt to provide records to a trustee in bankruptcy.
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Creditor’s statutory demand issued pending negotiations is upheld

By Andrew Behman, an Associate of Matthews Folbigg, in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

In a recent matter which we acted for the Defendant (In the matter of Precise Training Pty Ltd [2018] NSWSC 1383), we successfully defended an application to set aside a creditor’s statutory demand issued by the Chief Commissioner of State Revenue (“the Commissioner“) against Precise Training Pty Ltd, the Plaintiff.


The Commissioner issued a number of assessments for payroll tax to Precise Training in 2015 as a member of a larger tax group. Precise Training disputed the assessments and lodged an objection on 10 December 2015. The Commissioner disallowed the objection and proceeded to enter into negotiations for payment of the assessments.

Precise Training lodged a second objection on 18 July 2016 and requested that the Commissioner undertake not to commence recovery proceedings while the second objection was being decided and the parties were in negotiations.

On 10 November 2016, the Commissioner responded to the request for an undertaking advising that “recovery proceedings have been on hold” while the objection is being decided and the parties are in discussions to settle the disputed assessments.

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Not opening your emails? That is not an excuse to avoid valid service!

By Chloe Howard of Matthews Folbigg Lawyers, a lawyer in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

A recent Supreme Court matter has determined that service of an application to set aside a statutory demand was validly served in time, even though the solicitor in question did not open the email serving the application until the expiration date for service had passed.

In March 2019, the plaintiff’s solicitor and the defendant’s solicitor commenced communicating in an attempt to facilitate a resolution of the dispute between their respective clients. The communications predominantly took place by email.

On 11 September 2019, the defendant issued on the plaintiff a statutory demand. The statutory demand was served on the plaintiff initially by email from the defendant’s solicitor.

On 27 September 2019, the defendant’s solicitor sent an email to the plaintiff’s solicitor enclosing a letter which advised that they held instructions to accept any application to set aside the statutory demand.
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Preventing a Service Fail – A Tale of Email v. Snail Mail?


In one of our recent matters, a client instructed us to bring winding up proceedings against four companies with the same sole director. The total debt across the four companies was over $300,000.00. Whilst there were four applications before the Court, one common issue was whether the companies had been properly served with the statutory demands relating to the debt owed.

On 11 April 2019, statutory demands were sent to all four companies, with the demands posted to the registered offices of the defendants according to the records of ASIC. Unbeknownst to the creditor, the director had vacated the registered premises of two of the companies over a year earlier, but had failed to update ASIC’s records in respect of this change, and had not put in place a mail-forwarding system. The demands addressed to the other two companies were sent to the office of the director’s solicitor.

No application to set aside the statutory demands was filed by any of the 4 companies. Therefore winding up proceedings were filed against the companies on 28 May 2019. The Originating Processes in respect of the winding up applications were served at the same addresses that the statutory demands had been sent.
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