Liens over company records – where do you stand in a corporate recovery. Part 2

Part 2 of 2


Following on from our earlier article dealing with how liens over company records are treated in a liquidation, we will now cover how liens are dealt with in receiverships and bankruptcies, and how to handle a lien held over the assets of the entity.

Bankruptcy lien over records and documents

Upon the adjudication of a bankrupt all of their property is vested in the Official Assignee under Section 101 of the Insolvency Act 2006.  For those records that are not in the possession of the Official Assignee a written request is made for their surrender under Section 171 of the Insolvency Act 2006.  This request encompasses any document that relates to the bankrupt's property, conduct, or dealings that is in a third party's possession or under the control of a third party.

Failure to comply with a request made under Section 171 will likely result in a summons being issued for your attendance at an examination before the Official Assignee or a District Court Judge Court under Section 165.  There are no sections under the Insolvency Act that allow the holder of the records to charge for any expenses or disbursements incurred in providing the requested records.

What happens if you are owed funds by the bankrupt and hold a valid lien over records?

Section 172 of the Insolvency Act 2006 sets out that a person is not alowed, against the Official Assignee, to claim a lien over business records or a deed or instrument that belongs to the bankrupt.  However, a person may be a preferential creditor under Section 274(2)(f) provided they fall into the criteria set out under Section 172(2)(a)-(c).

Section 172(3) sets the total preferential claim as 10% of the total value of the debt, up to a maximum amount of $2,000.  The remainder of the claim will be recorded in the bankruptcy as an unsecured creditor's claim and will rank pari passu with the other unsecured creditors in the bankruptcy.

Where does your preferential claim rank in accordance with Section 274 of the Insolvency Act 2006?

The Official Assignee must follow Section 274 when making a distribution from the assets of the bankrupt estate that are not subject to a charge, as it sets out the order in which preferential creditors rank.  Below is a list of preferential creditors that rank ahea dof valid lien holders:

1. Fees and expenses of the Official Assignee;

2. Costs of the applicant creditor;

3. Costs incurred and the claim of any funding creditors from the assets protected, preserved or recovered;

4. Wages/salary, PAYE, holiday pay, redundancy pay, any other deduction that would form part of an employee's weekly wage (child support and student loan payments) up to $20,340.  For wages/salary and PAYE this is limited to what is outstanding in the four months before adjudication.

Once the debts of the above preferential creditors have been satisfied in full the preferential claim of the lien holder will be paid.

Receivership lien over records and documents

With the appointment of receivers over the assets of the company by a secured creditor, the powers that are granted to the receiver will be dependent on those outlined in the appointment documents prepared by either the secured creditor or the High Court depending on the method of appointment.

Section 14 of the Receiverships Act 1993 outlines that the receiver may inspect at any reasonable time, books or documents that relate to the property in receivership and are in the possession or under the control of the grantor in addition to those that are in the possession or under the control of a person other than the grantor.

What happens if you are owed funds by the company in receivership and hold a valid lien?

While the lien will allow you to have a form of security interest in the books and documents of the company these rights are not directly dealt with under the Receiverships Act 1993 like the Companies and Insolvency Act.  The receivers will often find themselves in the same situation as the company would be if they required the records.  They will often only have the option to settle the debt or wait for liquidators to be appointed over the company.

A lien over the assets of the entity and how it is dealt with

Upon the commencement of an insolvency procedure there are a number of potential liens that may be held over the assets of the entity.  This includes contractual liens which are dealt with as a security interest in accordance with the PPSA, common law liens and statutory liens.

Common law liens and statutory liens

From a creditor's perspective if you have supplied services over an asset that has added value you may have priority to receive payment ahead of other creditors, however it is important to maintain possession of the asset that you are claiming their lien over, whether it is a tradesman's lien or other form of lien.  Once you have released possession you have effectively eroded any leverage that you may have had and detrimentally affected their standing which will result in increased difficulty in negotiating favourable settlement terms between the parties involved.

It should be noted however that each lien should be dealt with individually on a case by case basis as no two sets of facts are the same and will likely have an effect on the outcome.

If you wish to discuss liens further please contact McDonald Vague for free and confidential advice to find out how we can help.

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