Articles

The Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of the High Court in Lewis Holdings Limited v Steel & Tube Holdings Limited, and held the parent company responsible to pay the debts of its subsidiary.   In this case the level of involvement of the parent compromised the independence of the subsidiary.  There was no clear distinction between parent and subsidiary.  The parent treated the subsidiary as an economic division of itself, akin to a "de facto amalgamation".  The cumulative factors supporting lack of independence led to this decision. The case relied on a rarely used section of the Companies Act 1993 ("the Act").  It highlights the importance of subsidiary companies maintaining independence from their parents.  Failure to do so may…
One of the first tasks facing liquidators after their appointment is to ascertain and communicate with those people and entities who can rightly register a claim in the liquidation as a creditor. Generally, this information will be provided by the directors of the company, along with copies of unpaid invoices or statements on the individual accounts, but not all eligible creditors are that easily identified. Section 303 of the Companies Act 1993 ("the Act") sets out the admissible claims in a liquidation - Claims admitted - Subject to subsection (2) of this section, a debt or liability, present or future, certain or contingent, whether it is an ascertained debt or a liability for damages, may be admitted as a claim…
From time to time we are approached by persons or companies pursued by liquidators of other insolvency firms. We are also asked to provide guidance or opinions on how a liquidator should act, what is reasonable and how to respond to demands/requests. Insolvency specialists take different approaches and some Insolvency Practitioners ("IP") do not always act in the best interests of the company creditors. There have been several reported instances in recent years. At McDonald Vague our objective is to maximise the return for creditors. We do not always achieve a return for unsecured creditors but have a good reputation for taking a firm and fair approach and getting returns. Cost/benefit is always a consideration. This blog post discusses the…
There is a lot of confusion amongst business owners on the best sale option – assets or shares. Getting it wrong can incur unexpected liabilities and loss. There are two types of business sales: An asset sale (plant, property, machinery, equipment, goodwill, etc) A share sale (being shares, either all or part). However, understanding the risks and benefits will help business owners make an informed decision.  The sale/purchase decision should consider debt structures, securities held and required, the level of transparency sought, risk profile of the parties, the tax impacts, how the business operates, who is required, and whether the business will attract investors. It also depends on consents being achieved, transferability or gaining of regulatory licenses, warranties, contingent liabilities,…
Dealing with non-payers can be like ‘pulling teeth’. Cash, however, is the lifeblood of business and most business owners cannot afford to sit back and not take action. We cover our top tips for taking control of your debtors... The good news is that you can take steps (with Court proceedings often a last resort) to improve your cash flow and disincentivise your clients from treating you like a bank. We all know court can be an expensive and time consuming process and can spell the end of a business relationship. A formal demand can also damage your relationship with your customer and, if you suspect insolvency, potentially place you in a difficult position with the liquidator seeking to ‘claw…
Due to both a lack of sufficient legislative regulation and in order to bring New Zealand Insolvency Practitioners further in line with Australia and other jurisdictions, the Restructuring Insolvency and Turnaround Association of New Zealand (RITANZ) working alongside Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand (CAANZ) has developed a framework of self-regulation. Under the various acts Insolvency Practitioners are charged with administering, there are only negative licensing regimes in effect. These regimes only exclude individuals from acting as Insolvency Practitioners if they fail to meet a specific set of criteria. These include the Insolvency Practitioner being: over the age of 18; of sound mind; not currently an undischarged bankrupt; and having no continuing business relationship with the insolvent company.   This new framework requires…
Amongst the director duties imposed by the Companies Act 1993 ("the Act") directors must keep proper accounting records (section 194), and their remuneration must be properly authorised by the board and recorded in the company's interests register (section 161). Without proper accounting records directors' ability to perform their other duties can also be affected. If directors fail to perform their duties they may face fines, personal liability for company debts, or orders to compensate the companies concerned for losses caused. The case of Madsen-Ries and Vance v Petera [2015] NZHC 538 dealt with various breaches and remedies in respect of directors' duties, and the judgment is well worth further study for both directors and insolvency professionals. Madsen-Ries and Vance v…
With power comes responsibility, and the duties imposed on company directors are extensive and onerous. Whilst business is brisk and revenues swell, breaches of directors’ duties often go unnoticed and without serious repercussions. When fortunes change, a director’s conduct, even years before, can come under close scrutiny from various quarters. As matters go from bad to worse, these parties include shareholders, creditors, receivers, liquidators and regulatory enforcement. Section 126 of the Companies Act 1993 (“the Act”) widely defines directors; effectively including shadow and silent directors, as well as those who although not duly appointed, exercise certain powers of a director. Calling to account Under the Act, liquidators have extensive powers to investigate the affairs of failed companies and the conduct…
An increasing number of building firms "went bust" in 2014 despite the building boom in Christchurch and Auckland, leaving homeowners, contractors, and the taxman out of pocket.  As the construction boom in Auckland gathers pace the situation is going to get worse. Nearly 100 rebuild-related companies have gone into liquidation or receivership in Christchurch alone since the February 2011 earthquake. We see the same trend occurring in Auckland. People often ask us why so many building firms are going under as they should be making a fortune.  The simple answer is that the good ones are, but there are many that have been caught out by over trading (transacting more business than the firm's working capital can normally sustain), thus…
Creditors of companies that fail are often shocked and angered by the ability of directors of the failed company to start up a new business and carry on as though nothing happened. They cannot accept that they are suffering because of the losses they are facing whilst the people they see as being responsible for the losses appear to suffer no ill effects. Who is at fault? It is important to note that the debt owed to the creditor is owed by the company, not the directors personally.  A limited liability company has its own separate legal identity and it is generally only when the directors have given personal guarantees in favour of particular creditors that they become personally liable…
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,…
Workplace investigations can detect the source of lost funds, identify employee misconduct and possible culprits, as well as help recover losses.  They are usually undertaken when there is alleged employee misconduct, or a rumor of something amiss comes to the attention of the employer which requires action. Investigations must be undertaken in a fair and reasonable manner without bias. Investigations into employee misconduct can cause significant problems.  They can also be expensive, time-consuming and disruptive to organisational morale.  Investigations which are not conducted in an ethical and transparent manner, with the utmost care and confidentiality, can lead to a number of legal issues and other unexpected complications.  Well-done workplace investigations can provide a solid defence to legal challenges raised by…
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