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Winding Up Applications and the Extension of Time

By Darrin Mitchell, Senior Associate at Matthews Folbigg in the Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

Section 459R(1) of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (“the Act”) requires that an application be filed to wind up a company, and for it to be determined within six months of filing. Should that six month period expire, the application can be dismissed without the orders sought being made.

However, there is provision for the six month period to be extended under section 459R(2) of the Act, if the applicant can satisfy the Court that special circumstances exist.

These time limits compare unfavourably with the Bankruptcy Act 1966 (Cth), which allows 12 months for an application for a sequestration order to be determined and the ability to extend the application for up to a further 12 months.

In the New South Wales Supreme Court, His Honour Justice Hamilton has said in relation to an application to extend time under section 459R of the Act:
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To Extend, or Not to Extend: That is the Question

By Darrin Mitchell, Senior Associate at Matthews Folbigg in the Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group

Part 5.7B of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)(“the Act”) contains provisions that allow a liquidator to seek orders that void certain transactions undertaken by a company whilst it is insolvent, or that are not in the company’s interests. The kinds of transactions that will be investigated by a liquidator include:

  • Preferential payment – see section 588FA of the Act;
  • Uncommercial transactions – see section 588FB of the Act;
  • Insolvent transactions – see section 588FC of the Act;
  • Insolvent transactions – see section 588FD of the Act;
  • Unreasonable director-related transactions – see section 588FDA of the Act; and
  • Creditor-defeating dispositions – see section 588FDB of the Act.

The period of scrutiny of the company’s transactions prior to liquidation for each category of voidable transaction is set out in section 588FE of the Act.

Section 588FF(3) of the Act stipulates that a voidable transaction action by a liquidator must be commenced within:
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Debt Restructuring legislation proposed for SMEs

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

The Treasury has today announced its Draft Bill designed to create a new, affordable restructuring mechanism for distressed small to medium businesses. The legislation seeks to resolve problems SMEs face in affording the costs of expensive Voluntary Administration processes. The Australian Government’s “Debt Restructuring” solution is a new process similar to a Part IX debt agreement available to insolvent individuals under bankruptcy legislation, as well as Chapter 11 arrangements available to companies in the US.

The Debt Restructuring process allows company directors to retain control of the company while putting a proposal to creditors for consideration, provided they meet the “eligibility criteria”, to be prescribed in regulations. Notably, the company’s total liabilities must be limited to a certain size in order to meet the eligibility criteria (as with Part IX debt agreements).

Whilst it is not a new proposal (ARITA has been advocating for such a mechanism since 2014), it has been picked up by the Government amidst the COVID-19 economic crisis in the hope of limiting fallout as a result of collapsing businesses once the faucet of stimulus is turned off and other temporary relief measures come to end, which is currently scheduled for the end of the year. As such, the new legislation will be effective from 1 January 2021.
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Danger – COVID-19 Safe Harbour STILL Requires Early External Administrator Appointment

The Government has recently extended COVID-19 business protection measures introduced in March, including the temporary safe harbour protection from director liability for insolvent trading. These protections will now expire 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.

In March Parliament passed a raft of legislative reforms in an attempt to provide protections for businesses an ameliorate the economic effects of the coronavirus in Australia. One of these amendments was temporary legislation to protect directors from liability for insolvent trading during the global COVID-19 pandemic. This temporary protection is found in section 588GAAA of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). This safe harbour protection from insolvent trading will mean that directors will not be personally liable for debts incurred in the ‘ordinary course of business’, provided those debts were incurred during the operation of the temporary legislation, presently which will now expire at the end of 31 December 2020.
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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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Insolvency Relief Extended until New Years!

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


The Morrison Government earlier this year introduced the Coronavirus Economic Response Package Omnibus Act 2020 (Cth) which came into effect on 25 March 2020 to provide relief to individuals and entities under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), Bankruptcy Act 1966 (Cth) and supporting legislation. These changes were due to expire on 25 September 2020, where the legislation was expected to revert back to its former position where, for example, statutory demands and bankruptcy notices required a 21 day response period.

You may recall our earlier blog which goes into some detail about these changes, this may be viewed here.

The Morrison Government has however today extended the operation of the relief provided (and described above) until 31 December 2020. This means that:

  1. Any statutory demands issued under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) on or before 31 December 2020 will need to provide the debtor with a period of 6 months to respond and be for at least $20,000;
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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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