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The handcuffs are on debt recovery, but for how long? What you can do in the meantime…

By Jeffrey Brown, Principal at Matthews Folbigg in the Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group


As part of the Federal Government’s response to the COVD-19 crisis, a handbrake has effectively been applied to court proceedings aimed at bankrupting individuals and placing companies into liquidation. This has been achieved by lengthening the time for debtors to respond to formal demands, from 21 days to 6 months, for both bankruptcy notices (in the case of individuals) and statutory demands (for payment of debts incurred by companies). As part of the same reforms, the minimum debt amount that can be the subject of bankruptcy or winding up proceedings has been increased to $20,000.00.

The Federal Government intends to keep these extended compliance periods and amounts in place until at least the end of 2020. While they remain in place, debtors will be well aware that creditors have limited options open to them to enforce their debts.

Anecdotal evidence would suggest that many of those debtors are choosing to trade on their businesses well beyond the point at which they have become insolvent (that is, unable to pay their debts as they fall due).
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Model Behaviour: the Australian version of America’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Scheme – Trustees & Creditors

By Jodie Rodrigues, solicitor at Matthews Folbigg in the Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

On 24 September 2020, the latest instalment in Australia’s insolvency reforms was announced. These reforms have been branded “the most significant reforms to Australia’s insolvency framework in 30 years”.

For information about the proposed insolvency regulations, read Part 1 of this blog here.

 The proposed scheme has been developed to provide relief to small business in light of the economic impact of the coronavirus by way of the additional debt taken on to survive. However, the impact of the proposed mechanisms is wide reaching, and particularly in circumstances where no draft legislation has been released, no consultation has been undertaken, and the plan is to have these amendments in place by 1 January 2021, the reforms may be hazardous for creditors and insolvency practitioners. Read on to find how the insolvency reform will affect you.

Ramifications for Creditors

Aside from the implicit ramifications listed in Part 1, for at least thirty-five business days, creditors can do nothing to recover their debt. During the thirty-five day period, creditors are restricted from:
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Model Behaviour: the Australian version of America’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Scheme – Key Points

By Jodie Rodrigues, solicitor at Matthews Folbigg in the Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

Part 1: The Key Points

On 24 September 2020, the latest instalment in Australia’s insolvency reforms was announced. These reforms have been branded “the most significant reforms to Australia’s insolvency framework in 30 years”.

And yet the plan, apparently, is to have these reforms in place in 3 months.

Under the Morrison government’s proposal, Australia would adopt a framework modeled on parts of Chapter 11 of America’s Bankruptcy Code. The proposed system would provide two alternative forms of insolvency administration for small businesses with liabilities of up to $1,000,000:

  1. A ‘debtor in possession’ restructuring plan, allowing thirty-five business days to obtain creditor approval for a debt restructure; and
  2. A simplified form of corporate liquidation, is restructure is not possible.

Restructuring Process

From 21 January 2021, small businesses with liabilities of less than $1,000,000 will have access to a debtor-controlled restructuring process in which there will be:
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Collecting Money? Avoid Going It Alone!

By Ellen Ferris, a Solicitor in Matthews Folbigg’s Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group.

Collecting money, especially from people you know, is always a delicate business.

Collecting money requires you to be persistent, and all too often becomes something that we let slip to the back of our mind to avoid the hassle, inconvenience, and sometimes even embarrassment of chasing valued customers for unpaid debts. Certain debts, even large ones, can be placed in the “too hard basket”, and never followed up on. Certain timelines for recovering debts can then expire, or more simply, debts can be forgotten or ignored.

Matthews Folbigg Lawyers understand these issues. When it comes to collecting money we are very experienced, and know that handing over the problem of collecting money to lawyers is normally only considered after the last resort has failed. However, at Matthews Folbigg Lawyers we can go about collecting money in a way that suits your special relationship with your customers. Whether you would like a gentle reminder or a final warning, if you are not getting anywhere with your own attempts at collecting money, we would be happy to assist.
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Danger – COVID-19 Safe Harbour Flaw Requires URGENT External Administrator Appointment

A fatal flaw exists in the government’s COVD-19 safe harbour legislation. This means directors must appoint an external administrator to their company on or before 24 September 2020, if they wish to take advantage of the COVID-19 safe harbour protection from insolvent trading.

At the beginning of the global pandemic the Australian Federal Government introduced temporary legislation to protect directors from liability for insolvent trading during the global COVID-19 pandemic. This safe harbour protection from insolvent trading will excuse directors for liabilty in respect of debts incurred in the ‘ordinary course of business’ during the operation of the temporary legislation, presently due to expire at the end of 24 September 2020.

However, for reasons which are not clear, but possible linked to the urgency with which the legislation was passed, the drafters included an additional fundamental and crucial requirement to gain the benefit of this COVID-19 safe harbour protection from insolvnt trading. That requirement is that in order to gain this COVID-19 safe harbour protection, an external administrator (either a voluntary administrator or a liquidator), must have been appointed before the legislation expires at the end of 24 September 2020.
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Debt Collection Sydney – Statutory Demands and the Expiration of the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus Act 2020 amendments

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus Act 2020 (Cth) was introduced, which resulted in various temporary changes to the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) and Corporations Regulations 2001 (Cth) in respect of statutory demands.

These temporary changes include extending the time period for a company to respond to a statutory demand from 21 days to six months, and increasing the monetary threshold for a creditor to issue a statutory demand from $2,000 to $20,000.

These changes, which came into effect on 25 March 2020, are currently only applicable for a six month period which is due to expire on 25 September 2020. This means that any statutory demands served on or before 25 September 2020 must comply with the temporary changes.

Importantly, these changes only apply to statutory demands which are served between 25 March 2020 to 25 September 2020; not for debts which are incurred during the same period. This means that, on the basis that there are no extensions to these temporary amendments, a creditor can issue a statutory demand pursuant to the original requirements for debts incurred 25 March 2020 to 25 September 2020, as long as the statutory demand is served after 25 September 2020.
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Recovering costs for debt collection services

Recovering costs for debt collection services

Fees and costs, including legal costs and costs for third party debt collection services can only be collected from a debtor if there is an agreement between the creditor and debtor providing for those costs to be payable to the creditor. Attempting to recover costs in the absence of a clause in the relevant agreement can be misleading deceptive and conduct in contravention of section 18 of the Australian Consumer Law (Schedule 2 to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth)), section 154 of the National Credit Code (Schedule 1 of the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 (Cth)) as well as Section 12DA of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 (Cth) (“the ASIC Act”).

This issue was raised in Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Sampson [2011] FCA 1165 in which a solicitor was found liable for, amongst other things, asserting that debtors were liable for legal costs of $30 on top of the debt for unpaid video rental fees, when sending letters of demand and notices to customers of a video rental company. There was no entitlement for the video rental company to recover pre-litigation legal costs and so the Court found the statements made by the solicitor were misleading and deceptive.
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Clearing your debtor ledger – Get in touch with your not too friendly Debt Collection Lawyer!

By Hayley Hitch, an Associate of Matthews Folbigg Lawyers in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

Do you hate debt collection? Do you have a list of debt collection tasks that is getting longer every day? Have you been unable to accomplish the critical debt collection part of debt collection? If only debt collection were easier, and there was some way of moving those pesky debtors off the debt collection ledger! And don’t forget the cashflow side of debt collection – wouldn’t you like to have a bit extra cashflow back in your budget?

You need a Debt Collection Lawyer!

Matthews Folbigg assists clients with a range of debt collection services, including issuing letters of demand, negotiating settlements, negotiating instalment arrangements with debtors, and where the debt collection process requires, commencing court proceedings and enforcing judgments. We can also assist with debt collection before it even becomes debt collection – making sure you protect your interests by reviewing your terms of trade and where applicable, assisting with the registration of caveats, or personal property security registrations. Debt collection doesn’t need to wait until debts are overdue. We want to help you come through COVID-19 with a breath of fresh air and a tidy debt collection ledger.
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