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GREATER SYDNEY’S 2021 LOCKDOWN: WILL BUSINESSES SINK OR SWIM?

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

Greater Sydney is currently in a lockdown and has remained in the dark with respect to whether, and when businesses would receive some relief.

Last year, the Federal Government introduced the JobKeeper scheme to assist with keeping businesses afloat (including employees within those businesses) through of the payment of wage subsidies subject to certain criteria.

The Morrison and Berejiklian Governments have announced that NSW businesses will finally receive some relief as we enter the fourth week of lockdown in NSW. It is evident that regardless of whether lockdown is in fact extended past 30 July 2021, businesses have already experienced a substantial hit. Should lockdown continue to be extended, we may see plenty of businesses struggling to make it through this lockdown.

On 13 July 2021, The Premier, Treasurer released some information regarding the new NSW COVID-19 support package, including the following:
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A DEBT COLLECTION AGENCY VERSUS A DEBT COLLECTION LAWYER

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

The debt collection process is one which causes a lot of hesitation and frustration which can lead to a misunderstanding of what the key differences are between a debt collection agency and a debt collection lawyer.

Some creditors choose to handle such matters on their own whilst others choose to engage with a debt collection agency at first instance. That being said, engaging with a debt collection lawyer is a step which many avoid due to some misconceptions of how lawyers deal with the debt recovery process and by the same token, engaging a lawyer can seem daunting.

Well, what approach should you take and are there certain circumstances where one is more appropriate than the other?

There are various factors that need to be considered when deciding on whether to engage a debt collection agency or debt collection lawyer, such as:
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Creditor’s Statutory Demand Threshold: What It Is and How to Use It

By Kim Nguyen, Solicitor of Matthews Folbigg Lawyers, in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group.


On 15 February 2021, the Treasury released a consultation paper “Increasing the Statutory Demand Threshold” seeking submissions on the appropriateness and impacts of permanently increasing the statutory demand threshold. The consultation period expired on 5 March 2021, however, further information can be found here.

What were the temporary changes?

In response to COVID-19, Federal Parliament introduced insolvency reforms to support small businesses in financial distress.  In March 2020, the Government passed the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus Act 2020 (Cth) (Coronavirus Act) which temporarily:

  • Increased the statutory minimum debt(s) based on which a creditor can issue a statutory demand from $2,000 to $20,000;
  • Extended the period within which the company may respond from 21 days to six months.

The purpose of the reform was said to be to reduce the pressure upon companies that were struggling to pay their debts.
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Bankruptcy reform: a vaccine for the economy?

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

Countries around the world have commenced their vaccine programs, with Australia’s vaccine expected to commence imminently once the TGA completes its approval process. As to the economic impacts of COVID-19, the Australian Government has been testing its own form of vaccine through legislative changes to corporate insolvency and bankruptcy laws.

In March 2020, the Australian Government enacted a number of changes to corporate insolvency and bankruptcy laws, seeking to address the economic impact of the coronavirus. The significant changes to bankruptcy laws included:

  1. An increase in the cap on issuing bankruptcy notices from $5,000 to $20,000; and
  2. An increase in the period for compliance with a bankruptcy notice from 21 days to 6 months.

Both of these changes were made by providing definitions determined through Regulations, which means that they are able to be adjusted from time to time by the Executive. Previously those amounts were hard-coded in the Bankruptcy Act and could only be changed through Parliament.
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Debt Restructuring Part 3 – Restructuring plans

This is the third part in a blog series discussing the new debt restructuring regime, which commences on 1 January 2021. This blog discusses the the process of putting forward a restructuring plan to creditors.

The regime will be implemented through substantial amendments to the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (“the Act”) and the Corporations Regulations 2001 (Cth) (“the Regulations“). Relevant links are:

How a restructuring plan is to be proposed is guided by the Regulations (Division 3, Subdivision B). The process is again somewhat similar to a voluntary administration, but instead it avoids the need to call creditors meetings. A regime for the restructuring practitioner to resolve disputes about creditors’ debts is tied into the process. A brief overview of the process follows.

  1. The company has 20 business days (the ‘proposal period’) to prepare and execute a restructuring plan with an accompanying restructuring proposal statement.
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Debt Restructuring Part 2 – affects on a company under restructuring

This is the second part in a blog series discussing the new debt restructuring regime, which commences on 1 January 2021. This blog discusses the effects on a company entering debt restructuring, and its creditors.

The regime will be implemented through substantial amendments to the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (“the Act”) and the Corporations Regulations 2001 (Cth). Relevant links are:

Conduct of the company’s business

Section 453L of the Act will prohibit the directors from entering the company into any transactions dealing with the company’s property, unless one of the following applies:

  1. The transaction was in the ordinary course of business;
  2. The restructuring practitioner consents to the transaction (which can only be given if the restructuring practitioner believes it would be in the interests of creditors);
  3. The transaction was entered into by order of the Court;
  4. The transaction was with a bank, and was made in good faith and in the ordinary course of the bank’s business.
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Debt Restructuring Part 1 – Introduction, Eligibility & the Restructuring Practitioner

This is the first part in a series of blogs discussing the new debt restructuring regime, which commences on 1 January 2021. The regime will be implemented through substantial amendments to the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (“the Act”) and the Corporations Regulations 2001 (Cth). Relevant links are:

The amendments will include a new Part to the Act – Part 5.3B, titled “Restructuring of a company”. The Part sets out the regime (referred to as a ‘restructuring’) for directors of insolvent companies to propose and enter into a ‘restructuring plan’ with creditors. The process is overseen by a ‘restructuring practitioner’, who must be a registered liquidator (s 456B of the Act). The focus on this process is that it allows directors to retain some control of the company, reducing the costs of having an insolvency practitioner involved in day-to-day operations.
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Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls – COVID-19 Safe Harbour is (still) not Safe

The temporary safe harbour protection from director liability for insolvent trading expires on 31 December 2020. However the Government has not corrected a critical timing issue which exists in the COVD-19 safe harbour legislation. This means directors must appoint an external administrator to their company on or before 31 December 2020, if they wish to take advantage of the COVID-19 safe harbour protection from insolvent trading .

The temporary protection is found in section 588GAAA of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). There has been some recent debate about whether the words “before any appointment during that period” of an external administrator, mean what they appear to say, namely that any appointment must take place “during that period” of the temporary safe harbour expires.

Our Stephen Mullette has recently responded to the alternative view – that an appointment can be delayed until the new year. Unfortunately, the conclusion is that the better view is still that to take advantage of  the safe harbour defence, the directors must have appointed an external administrator before 1 January 2021. You can read the further consideration here, and make up your own mind.
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