Employees’ Employment on Liquidation

When a company goes into liquidation, all of the company’s employment agreements are automatically terminated.  If the company is still trading when it is put into liquidation, the liquidators will usually visit the business and inform the employees of the liquidation.  Otherwise, employees who have outstanding entitlements will be notified of the liquidation in writing, which is normally sent to the employee’s last known email or postal address.

 If the liquidators continue to trade the business or they require the expertise of certain employees after the company’s liquidation, the company in liquidation will re-employ the employees they require for the period they are required, which could be anywhere from a few days to months.  Employees who work for the company after its liquidation are paid as part of the company’s trading on expenses.  If the liquidators are able to sell the company’s business, the purchaser may be able to offer at least some of the company’s employees new employment.

Employees’ Claims in a Liquidation

 The Companies Act 1993 provides that employees have preferential claims for any:

  • Unpaid salary or wages and any commissions earned in the four months before the company’s liquidation; plus
  • Untransferred payroll donations made by an employee in the four months before the company’s liquidation; plus
  • Unpaid holiday pay payable to the employee as at the date that the company is put into liquidation, regardless of when the holiday pay accrued; plus
  • Untransferred KiwiSaver contributions, child support payments, and/or student loan payments deducted from the employee’s salary or wages; plus
  • Redundancy compensation, if provided for in the employment agreement.

These claims all rank equally amongst themselves.

Employee’s preferential claims are currently capped at $23,960 (as from 30 September 2018).  This figure is reviewed and adjusted every three years.  The next review will be in 2021.

Most employees have both preferential and unsecured claims in a liquidation.  Claims for payment in lieu of notice of termination and any preferential amounts that exceed the cap of $23,960 are both unsecured.  Any claims by employees for compensation under section 123(1)(c)(i) of the Employment Relationships Act 2000 are also unsecured. 

Personal Grievance Claims

From the time a company is placed into liquidation, all proceedings against it are automatically stayed.  If an employee or former employee has filed a claim in the Employment Relations Authority (or any other Court or Tribunal), that claim cannot continue without the liquidators’ consent.

Having an order from the Employment Relations Authority or the Employment Court requiring the company to pay wages or salary, holiday pay, compensation, and/or costs does not affect whether any part of an employee’s claim is preferential or unsecured.  Generally, liquidators will not consent to the proceeding continuing unless the outcome is likely to affect the employee’s claim in the liquidation and the liquidators consider that they are not in a position to accept the employee’s claim as submitted, which the liquidators have the power to accept in part or in full.

Timing of Employees’ Preferential Payments

Companies do not usually go into liquidation with the funds to pay employee entitlements sitting in their bank accounts – in most cases, the company’s bank accounts are in overdraft – so there is likely to be some delay in collecting funds so that payments can be made to employees. 

Even if a company has lots of assets, if any of the company’s assets are secured by a specific security, the secured creditor is entitled to the net proceeds of sale of that asset in priority to the company’s preferential creditors.  If the company has late model vehicles or recently purchased new equipment, the value realised rarely covers the amount owed to the secured creditor.  If there is any surplus from realising these secured assets, those funds are paid to the liquidators for distribution. 

Payment of employees’ preferential claims rank behind the cost of the company’s liquidation, which includes any trading on costs, the cost of realising the company’s assets, the liquidators’ fees and expenses, and the petitioning creditor’s costs (if the company was put into liquidation by the High Court).   

If there are funds available to pay employee preferential claims, those funds are likely to come from selling the company’s business and assets and collecting any payments owing to the company, all of which can take time.  If there are some funds available to pay employee claims, it is not uncommon for partial distributions to be made as and when those funds become available.    

If the company does not have enough assets of value and easily recoverable accounts receivable to pay the employees’ preferential claims in full shortly after liquidation, there is likely to be a reasonable delay before employees receive any further payments, if at all.  Those further payments will be dependent on the company and/or the liquidators having claims against third parties that, if pursued, are likely to result in creditors receiving a distribution. 

Once all avenues of recovery have been exhausted and all funds have been distributed, the liquidation comes to an end.

If the company has outstanding PAYE at the end of the liquidation, as between the IRD and the employee, the IRD treats the amounts declared by the company as PAYE as paid.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019 13:57

Picking An Insolvency Practitioner

You wouldn’t pick a tradie on price alone so why would you pick an insolvency practitioner solely on this basis?

You expect your tradie to work to industry standards when working on your house or car so why wouldn’t you take the same care before you hand over control of a business to an insolvency practitioner, who will be dealing with your company, its assets, its creditors, and its stakeholders?

Not all insolvency practitioners are created equal. They have different levels of experience and qualifications, work in different size firms, and may or may not be accredited. If you appoint the wrong insolvency practitioners, it can be difficult to remove them. If it’s shortly after appointment, the company’s creditors may be able to appoint replacement insolvency practitioners at the initial creditors’ meeting. If not, it will likely involve a trip to the High Court. If the insolvency practitioner is not accredited, they will not have to answer to a disciplinary board.

You should expect your insolvency practitioner be law abiding and to deal with the company’s directors, shareholders, and creditors fairly and ethically. We have put together a handy list of what to look for, what to ask, and what to consider before engaging an insolvency practitioner.


Your insolvency practitioner should:

1. Have experience in the industry the business operates in

2. Have relevant insolvency experience, including in relation to the type of appointment you are considering and any steps you expect them to take after their appointment

3. Be an Accredited Insolvency Practitioner, either through RITANZ or CAANZ

4. Have sufficient resources behind them to properly carry out the appointment

5. Have a history of making distributions to creditors


Ask questions, and lots of them. The more information you are able to get up front the better position you will be in when it comes time to make the decision on who you should go with.


(a) Are they members of RITANZ and Accredited Insolvency Practitioners (AIPs)? Until regulation come into force in June 2020, we recommend that you only use AIPs. AIPs are required to comply with a code of conduct that dictates the professional and ethical standards they are expected to meet. The code is enforced by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. There is a public register of AIPs on both the CAANZ and RITANZ website.

(b) What previous relevant experience do they have? There are different types of insolvency appointments (advisory, compromises, voluntary administrations, receiverships, and liquidations). If you are looking at appointing voluntary administrators, you probably do not want to appoint someone who has never done one before.

(c) What kind of qualifications and experience do they have within the firm? Depending on the type of post-appointment work that will be required, you may want to appoint AIPs that are chartered accounts, have legal knowledge, or are experienced in forensic accounting.

(d) Are they Chartered Accountants, do they have a legal background, or forensic accounting skills? The appointment may determine what kind of background you should be looking for.

(e) Do they have the resources necessary to deal with the appointment? If the business operates multiple stores across the city or the country, does the AIPs’ firm have enough staff to take on the appointment?

(f) Do they have a history of making distributions to creditors? What level of overall fees would the AIP expect to charge on the job?


It is important that the AIPs you appoint understand your personal situation and your business’ needs so they can help achieve the best result for all parties. It is important that you take your time with this decision because you will be trusting them with the business.

McDonald Vague’s directors are AIPS and Chartered Accountants. We also have three non-director AIPs and our professional staff are members of RITANZ. McDonald Vague is also a Chartered Accounting Practice and is subject to practice review.

Tuesday, 08 October 2019 10:52

Failure To Pay Taxes

Benjamin Franklin said, “There are only two certainties in life – death and taxes”. Whilst failure to pay the second shouldn’t lead to the first, it can cause significant problems for individuals, as outlined in a recent Court decision.

Nicola Joy Dargie was sentenced to two years six months imprisonment for failing to pay PAYE deducted from employees’ salary to the IRD.

Ms Dargie’s explanation for the non-payment of $740,000, which occurred over a period of 10 years, was that she had withheld the tax payments from the IRD to keep her employees in a job.

It is a practice that we encounter on a reasonably regular basis in liquidations - directors using the amounts they have deducted from their employees’ wages for things such as PAYE, Kiwisaver, Child Support and Student Loans, to boost the cashflow of their business. Their priority being to keep suppliers paid so they can continue to employ staff.

There are several problems with this course of action.

First and foremost, the funds are not the directors, or the company’s, to spend. They are the employees’ funds deducted from their wage entitlement for specific purposes and should be held in trust.

Secondly, there can be severe penalties imposed on directors who follow this course, as evidenced by the sentence imposed on Ms Dargie.

Thirdly, even if the intention was that the payments would be withheld for only a short time, to get through a tough trading period for example, the penalties and interest charged by the IRD for non-payment are at such a level that it does not make economic sense to do it. It would be better (and safer) to go to the bank for a short-term loan.

By continuing to operate a business that is not able to pay its debts, including taxes, as they fall due, directors expose themselves to potential claims against them personally that they have breached their duties as directors by trading whilst insolvent.

The amounts deducted from employees’ wages, and, to a similar degree, the GST collected on sales, are not funds available to a company to cover operating expenses and pay trade suppliers. These funds should be put into a separate account and only accessed to pay to the IRD as they fall due.

If directors find themselves in the position of having to dip into those funds to pay other expenses, then they need to review the financial position of the company to assess its on-going viability.

If you are in arrears with PAYE you are in a far better position if you consult with IRD and reach an instalment plan on arrears. If hardship applies, then notify IRD early on. If the company is insolvent, consult an accredited insolvency practitioner.

If you would like more information or advice on managing tax payments and the solvency of your business, please contact one of the team at McDonald Vague.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019 09:09

The Liquidation Lifecycle

Liquidation Timeframe

There is no prescribed timeframe under the Companies Act 1993 dictating the duration of a liquidation of a company. It is largely dependent on how quickly the assets of the company can be realised and distributed. Where litigation is involved the liquidation can span years.  Liquidators however has a duty under the code of conduct to attend to their duties in a timely way.

A company with no assets takes about 3 to 6 months depending on how quickly the liquidator completes his/her investigation into the affairs of the company. The length of time is subject to the complexity of the work.

A simple liquidation could span the notice period (4 weeks) and the objection period (4 weeks) plus the timing of the Companies Office to process the notice of intention to remove the company from the Register. The Companies Office also advertise the intention to strike off the company. The minimum time is therefore about 12 weeks. Most liquidations will span about six months.

The link to the flowchart sets out the process of liquidating an insolvent company.

Friday, 09 November 2018 14:00

Insolvency Lawyer or Insolvency Accountant

As it is in all areas of business, when you are seeking advice or input on insolvency matters it is important to go to the right source.

There are lawyers and accountants that specialise in insolvency but, depending of the circumstances, and what you are looking to achieve, who you choose is important.

Under the current legislation, the Companies Act 1993, anyone, without conflict of interest, and with a few other exceptions, can take an appointment as an Insolvency Practitioner and be appointed as liquidator or receiver of a company. They do not have to have any formal qualification and do not have to be registered or subject to any particular code of conduct. This situation is likely to change with current law changes being considered but for the time being the current provisions of the Companies Act apply.

So both lawyers and accountants can be appointed as liquidators or receivers and can be referred to as Insolvency Practitioners.

There are also Insolvency Practitioners who may be neither a lawyer or an accountant, who can also be appointed as liquidators or receivers.

Generally speaking, there are two ways that a business could be involved with an insolvency matter – either as a creditor seeking to recover a debt, or as the business owners deciding on a course of action because of the financial situation the business is in. The information or advice you would need from a lawyer and / or an accountant is different in each case.

Insolvency Lawyer:

If you are a creditor of a business that has failed to pay its debts as they fall due, you may decide to take action to have the debtor company liquidated.

To do this, we recommend you consult a lawyer experienced in the insolvency field to prepare statutory demands for service on the debtor company and, in due course, to prepare and file the application in the High Court to have the debtor company liquidated.

The lawyer will, prior to the matter being heard in Court, obtain the written consent of  Insolvency Practitioner(s), to be appointed,

If you are a director/shareholder of a debtor company that has been served with a statutory demand or liquidation proceedings, you may want to consult with an insolvency practitioner to gain an understanding of your rights and obligations and the options that are available to you.

Insolvency Accountant:

Many of the insolvency practitioners practicing in New Zealand have formal accounting qualifications or accounting backgrounds. This is understandable given that a lot of the work carried out by insolvency practitioners involves the review and analysis of accounting information.

IP's often then engage lawyers. Some of the larger accounting firms will have an insolvency practice as part of their firm’s structure. McDonald Vague, are Chartered Accountants specialising in business recovery and insolvency

If you are the shareholders or director of an insolvent company, your business accountants, who prepare your annual financial reports etc, may identify the fact that you are technically insolvent but, under those circumstances, they cannot be appointed as liquidator of your company. You would need to appoint an independent insolvency practitioner.

Accreditation Protection:

Accreditation for insolvency practitioners acknowledges IPs with appropriate experience. The main benefit is, accredited IPs are subject to the code of ethics, CAANZ rules and standards, CPD, practice review and a disciplinary body. If the practitioner is a CA and accredited, the designation is CAANZ accredited IP, whereas a non-CA but member of RITANZ is RITANZ IP Accredited by CAANZ. Dealing with an accredited practitioner provides more assurance to the appointor that the appropriate actions will be taken.

You can check the accreditation status of a particular IP or look for an accredited IP by following the links to the RITANZ or CAANZ websites 


Getting the right advice at the right time and from the right person can make a big difference to the final outcome in any given situation.

If you need legal advice in relation to an insolvency issue, then see a lawyer with expertise in that area of law.

If you need practical advice in relation to insolvency options and processes and the related accounting issues, then speak to an experienced insolvency practitioner.

The team at McDonald Vague are experienced and independent insolvency practitioners with the formal qualifications and experience to be able to provide good practical advice on your situation.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018 14:53

Winding Up A New Zealand Company

The winding up of a company in New Zealand can occur in three ways –

• A voluntary liquidation initiated by the shareholders of the company (solvent or insolvent companies); or
• A Court ordered winding up initiated by a creditor of the company; or
• A short form removal also known as Section 318(1)(d) process (solvent companies)

The purpose of this article is to set out the different processes involved with these options.

Voluntary Winding Up:

The process to be followed by the directors and shareholders of a company to wind the company up depends on the financial position of the company, that is whether it is solvent or insolvent.

Solvent Companies:

When the decision has been made that a solvent company is no longer required, it can be placed into liquidation by shareholder resolution after the directors have provided a Certificate as to Solvency pursuant to Section 243 (9) of the Companies Act 1993 (“the Act”).

The process to place a solvent company into liquidation is as follows:

• The liquidators’ consent to their appointment in writing.
• Directors pass a resolution as to the solvency of company on liquidation.
• Directors sign a certificate stating the grounds on which they are relying for their opinion as to solvency.
• A copy of the directors’ resolution is filed at the Companies Office within 20 working days before the appointment of liquidators.
• A special resolution of shareholders is signed appointing liquidators.
• The liquidators give notice of their appointment to the Companies Office.
• A notice of appointment and notice to creditors to claim is published in the New Zealand Gazette and a newspaper for the region in which the company operated.
• The liquidators’ first statutory report is filed at the Companies Office with copies to the shareholders and any creditors.

The shareholder special resolution cannot be passed until after the resolution of solvency has been signed and filed at the Companies Office (but no later than 20 days thereafter).

There is also a second procedure for having a solvent company removed from the Register of Companies known as the short form removal process.

This short form process can be administered by the company’s directors / shareholders or by its external accountants and it is quicker and easier, without the requirement for public notice to be given or the filing of reports.

The down side to this process is that it does not confirm the solvency of the company and does not provide the level of certainty to 3rd parties that a formal liquidation, conducted by an independent accredited insolvency practitioner, does, leaving the possibility of someone making application to the Registrar to have the company reinstated to the Register. In liquidation, the process to reinstate a struck off company involves a High Court application and is costly.

Insolvent Companies:

When the directors of a company conclude that the company is insolvent and should stop trading they have the option to commence the voluntary winding up of the company by having the shareholders appoint a liquidator.

The process to place an insolvent company into voluntary liquidation is as follows:

• The liquidators’ consent to their appointment in writing.
• A special resolution of shareholders is signed appointing liquidators. This requires 75% or more of shareholders by number and by value of shareholding to sign to make the appointment valid.
• The liquidators give notice of their appointment to the Companies Office.
• A notice of appointment and notice to creditors to claim is published in the New Zealand Gazette and a newspaper for the region in which the company operated.
• The liquidators’ first statutory report is filed at the Companies Office with copies to the shareholders and any creditors.

The voluntary process is only available if the company acts within 10 working days of a winding up proceeding being served.

Court Ordered Winding Up:

As the creditor of a company that is failing to make payment of amounts owed, you may reach the stage where the only option left to you is to have the debtor company wound up, or liquidated, by order of the High Court.

The process to have an insolvent company wound up by order of the High Court, on the application of a creditor, is as follows:

• Make sure that you have the correct legal name of the debtor company – not just a trading name.
• Have a statutory demand served on the company. This gives the debtor company 15 working days to make payment or enter into an arrangement to settle.
• If the statutory demand is not satisfied, an application must be filed in the High Court to have the company placed into liquidation.
• Have copies of the documents filed at Court formally served on the debtor company.
• Public notice of the application has to be given in the local newspaper.
• Have the liquidators provide their written consent to being appointed.
• The matter will be heard at the next Court day set for hearing insolvency matters and the liquidation will commence once the Associate Judge of the High Court makes the order.

It is advisable to have your lawyers involved from the beginning of the process to ensure that the statutory demand is properly prepared and served. They will have to be involved in the preparation and filing of the Court proceedings. The creditor making application can nominate an insolvency practitioner to act.


The processes set out above are the basic steps that can be taken to wind a company up in New Zealand. The processes described may not always be appropriate because of the particular circumstances of the case.

If you are considering winding up your own company, or taking steps as a creditor to wind up another company, and would like to discuss the options, please contact the team at McDonald Vague

Colin Sanderson
September 2018

Thursday, 26 July 2018 11:36

Appointing an Interim Liquidator

As the creditor of a company that is failing to make payment of amounts owed, the process you have to follow, to have liquidators appointed in relation to that debtor company, can be slow and frustrating.

It will be even more frustrating, and worrying, if you have concerns about what will happen with the assets of the debtor company while the process takes place?

There is an option, pursuant to Sections 241(4)(d) and 246 of the Companies Act 1993 (“the Act”) to have an interim liquidator appointed by the Court to take control of and preserve those at-risk assets.


In the normal course of events, when liquidating a debtor company, the process starts with the serving of a statutory demand giving 15 working days for the debtor company to make payment or enter into an arrangement to settle.

If the statutory demand is not satisfied, then an application must be filed in the High Court to have the company placed into liquidation and requires the service of those documents on the debtor company. Public notice of the application has to be given in the local newspaper and, depending on the Court the application is filed in, it may be up to a month before the application is heard.


Rather than go through the normal process of making demand and then following up with liquidation proceedings, a creditor can, if the circumstances justify it, make an application to the High Court for the appointment of a liquidator to the debtor company pursuant to section 241(4)(d) of the Act, on the basis that it is just and equitable to do so.

If there are justifiable concerns about the potential for the assets of the debtor company to be dissipated in the period between the time of the application being filed in the High Court to have debtor company liquidated and the date for the hearing of that application, the applicant creditor can also apply to the Court, pursuant to section 246 of the Act, to have an interim liquidator appointed.

The Court may appoint an interim liquidator if it is satisfied that it is “necessary or expedient for the purpose of maintaining the value of assets owned or managed by the company”. The Court impose some restrictions on the interim liquidator, such as not being able to make distributions, until the full liquidation order is made at the hearing date.


If you are looking to have a debtor company liquidated but have serious concerns about what will happen to assets in the intervening time, an application for the appointment of the interim liquidator can be made without notice to the debtor company and such an appointment should ensure that the risk of the debtor company’s assets being dissipated, before the full hearing of the liquidation proceedings can be held, is greatly reduced.

If you would like any information about appointing an interim liquidator please contact us.

We have recently been involved in a liquidation where we considered the directors breaches of duties and ultimate loss to creditors so extreme as to be worthy of taking an action in the High Court.

The action was funded by the largest creditor. We alleged the directors (a former banned director, an undischarged bankrupt based in Hong Kong, and a lawyer) traded recklessly (s135), incurred obligations without reasonable belief they would be able to perform the obligations (s136) and failed to exercise care, diligence and skill that reasonable director would have exercised in the same circumstances (s137). We sought recovery from the directors.

The case involved customer losses from the companies first order, when the customer had paid a large deposit to the company which in turn had contractual obligations to meet.

High Court Judgment

The High Court judgment agreed there was a causative link between the director breaches and the resulting loss to creditors. The Court agreed with the liquidators that there were clear, blatant, ongoing and serious breaches of obligations imposed on the directors for the duration of the trading life of the company and said “the directors’ initial actions set the company up to fail”. The judgment criticised the Directors “at no time did the directors stand back and undertake the “sober assessment” the company’s financial circumstances clearly required. The High Court found the case to be “a paradigm case of reckless trading under s135”. The case is a public record and can be viewed here.

The decision summarised the causes for the collapse and ultimate liquidation.

These included:

• Failure to ensure the company was properly capitalised from the outset;
• Misrepresented expertise and nature of business by directors
• The involvement of an undischarged bankrupt in the company’s business – in a shadow and at times de facto director position;
• Failure to undertake a proper risk assessment before entering into its main contract;
• Failing to keep proper business management records and financial statements;
• Failing to consider in advance how the company was going to fund the outgoings required to meet its obligations to its customer;
• Spending the deposit paid by the customer to the benefit of related entities;
• Entering into an order with a customer which it had no means to perform;
• Transferring the assets of the company to a related entity for no proper consideration.


The case highlights that when directors engage in practices that primarily benefit themselves and related entities and enter into commitments that the Company cannot meet, that the Court will take a strong position. In this case the [188] “company’s ongoing mismanagement blighted its prospects” and the Court has issued judgment that the Directors are liable to compensate the company 100% of creditor losses plus interest, and costs.

This case is a reminder that Directors need to be diligent and be aware of their obligations and seek advice before they create a position of serious loss to its creditors.

The case is currently in its appeal period.

We are often asked ‘how do liquidators’ work’ and what are their rights regarding access to company records and information. To clarify we have put together this article.

When a liquidator is appointed over a company, either by the shareholders or by order of the High Court, one of the first steps taken will be to locate and uplift the books and records of the company and to seek information about the business, accounts or affairs of the company to enable a full review to be undertaken.

The purpose of the review is to –

  • Establish the financial position of the company at liquidation;
  • Ensure that all assets have been properly accounted for;
  • Identify any other avenues of recovery for the benefit of the company’s creditors; and
  • Examine the actions of the company’s officers to see if they have properly carried out their duties and take the appropriate steps where necessary.

Books & Records

The books and records are generally in the possession or control of the director or are held by the company’s professional advisors, such as accountants and lawyers.

When we are appointed as liquidators, our first approach in relation to obtaining company records, is by way of a letter to the relevant person or entity requesting details of the records held and seeking arrangements to uplift those records.

In most cases that initial letter is sufficient but, on occasion, the request is either ignored or refused.

When the records requested are not provided in a timely manner, the liquidator has powers under section 261 of the Companies Act 1993 (“the Act”) to issue a written notice demanding the records and it is an offence to fail to comply with a notice.

Pursuant to section 263 of the Act, a person is not entitled to claim or enforce a lien, over the books and records of the company, against the liquidator, that arises in relation to a debt for the provision of services to the company prior to the liquidation commencing.  However, the debt is a preferential claim in the liquidation to the extent of 10% of the total debt up to a maximum of $2,000.


When it comes to obtaining information about the company’s affairs, again our initial approach is to ask the people concerned to provide it.

But, if that doesn’t happen, section 261 of the Act also gives the liquidator the power to issue a notice in writing to various categories of people who have knowledge of the company’s affairs, to attend on the liquidator in person to provide the information that they have.

The people who can be required to attend are –

  • a director or former director of the company; or
  • a shareholder of the company; or
  • a person who was involved in the promotion or formation of the company; or
  • a person who is, or has been, an employee of the company; or
  • a receiver, accountant, auditor, bank officer, or other person having knowledge of the affairs of the company; or
  • a person who is acting or who has at any time acted as a solicitor for the company.

The person to whom the Notice is issued may be required –

  • to attend on the liquidator at such reasonable time or times and at such place as may be specified in the notice:
  • to provide the liquidator with such information about the business, accounts, or affairs of the company as the liquidator requests:
  • to be examined on oath or affirmation by the liquidator or by a barrister or solicitor acting on behalf of the liquidator on any matter relating to the business, accounts, or affairs of the company:
  • to assist in the liquidation to the best of the person’s ability.

A person who fails to comply with a notice given under this section commits an offence and, if convicted, is liable to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or imprisonment for up to 2 years.



When appointed over a company, the liquidator doesn’t know what they don’t know so they have been given statutory powers to uplift company records and to obtain information from those people who do know to ensure that any potential avenue of recovery for creditors is identified.

If you would like to find about more about the different insolvency services available you can read more here. If you would like more information about the powers of the liquidators to obtain information and records or how liquidators work, please contact one of the team at McDonald Vague.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017 17:05

Independent Directors

It is common in New Zealand for the directors and shareholders of small companies to be the same people and many are also employees of the company – executive directors.  Whether this is in the form of a family owned business or a just a small to medium sized enterprise made up of unrelated individuals this involvement on all levels can create difficulties.

The advantage of such a set up is that the individuals are motivated to make the business work and be profitable.

The downside is that the closed nature of the board can leave gaps in the knowledge and experience held by the directors and their closeness to the business can lead to subjective decision making.

Depending on the numbers on the board, this can also lead to a stalemate position if there is a difference of opinion on matters requiring board approval.

There are two other types of directors that can be brought into the board to help address these issues, non-executive directors and independent directors.

Non-executive directors vs Independent directors

Whilst both can address the lack of knowledge and experience, a non-executive director may be representing a shareholder and, therefore, may not act without some bias.

An independent director will generally have no links with the company, other than sitting on the board, and have no affiliation to any of the other directors or shareholders.

Case Study

A liquidation that we have been conducting involves a company with two directors with the shares held by entities associated with each of the directors.  One director was an executive director, employed by the company. Two further non-executive directors were appointed to the board – one nominated by each of the other directors.

The board functioned properly, and in unity, until the company faced financial issues. 

When the issues were identified, one director made a proposal to restructure the company’s business in an effort to remedy the problems. The restructure proposal was not accepted by the other executive director and, when it went to a vote, the non-executive directors voted with their appointer so there were two in favour and two against – stalemate.

As a consequence, the company continued to trade for a period and left all four directors with a potential liability for breaches of their duties as director.

The closely aligned shareholder interests did not want to change the boardroom dynamic by resigning as directors, or voting against their appointors interests and/or personal views.  In the end the directors settled with the liquidator. 

A truly independent director, with no affiliation to the other directors or the shareholding parties, could have looked at the restructure proposal in an objective way.


There is no way to know what decision an independent director might have made in the liquidation referred to above but at least a decision would have been made, and action taken accordingly, rather than having the company in limbo.

If you would like more information on appointment of directors and directors’ duties, please contact one of the team at McDonald Vague.

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