Insolvency Oracle

Developments in UK insolvency by Michelle Butler


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Navigating Obstacles: S100s for Work-Winners

I suspect that many of you (like me) have heard plenty of theory on the New Rules’ decision-making changes. Maybe reading it from the practical perspective of the work-winner will give it a freshness.

Some non London-centric IPs who missed out on my recent presentation for R3 expressed disappointment, so I thought a blog post was warranted. Here I have concentrated only on the S100 process.

 

S100 CVLs: Deemed Consent or Virtual Meeting?

Before we start thinking about what we might discuss with directors, I think it’s worth weighing up the pros and cons of the two possible routes in to a CVL appointment… well, apart from a physical meeting, of course, but a physical meeting might be required whichever initial decision process we start with.

  • Material Transactions

The rules don’t define a material transaction, but they do say that (R6.17):

“where the statement of affairs sent to creditors… does not, or will not, state the company’s affairs at the creditors’ decision date, the directors must cause a report… to be made to the creditors… on any material transactions relating to the company occurring between the date of the making of the statement and the decision date”.

That sounds to me like it’s any transaction that changes the SoA, but the InsS people I’ve spoken to don’t see this as wrapping in, say, changes in asset class where book debts are converted into cash at bank or where a forgotten van pops up. They say they intended the rule to ensure that creditors learn of events that might impact on the independence of the proposed liquidator, i.e. things that happened with his involvement or since his appointment in Centrebind cases.

Personally, I found this interpretation most surprising, as it’s really not what the rules say – and I’d love to get this down in writing from the InsS, as I think it’ll make a huge difference to the frequency of material transactions.  (UPDATE 02/05/2017: Dear IP 76 simply states that a New Rules’ material transaction “is the same as 1986 rules 4.53B-CVL(1) and should be interpreted as such”… so we’re on our own on this one.)

So why should it matter?

Well, it won’t matter if you’re having a meeting, because you’d just report the material transaction to the meeting – it’s in our rules now, but it is never done (well I’ve never seen it done) because the SoA is usually signed off minutes before the meetings.

But it will matter if you’re working with the Deemed Consent process.

In this case, you must send out the report to creditors and if the report is delivered within 3 business days of the Decision Date, then the decision date moves to the end of 3 business days from delivery of the report.

This could leave you either in an unexpected Centrebind or needing to adjourn the members’ meeting.

  • Fees Decisions – who knows?!

I have put question marks on the table above, as the rules are very unclear when it comes to proposing fees decisions around the S100 time. That’s so helpful, isn’t it? It’s not as if fees is something we need to get absolutely spot-on, is it..?!

The only thing we do know for certain is that Deemed Consent cannot be used for “a decision about the remuneration of any person” (S246ZF(2)). The rest is unclear.

Can you propose a fees decision via a correspondence vote to run concurrently with the S100 Deemed Consent process? I struggle with this, as I cannot see who has authority under the rules to “convene” such a Decision Procedure. The IP isn’t in office (and if he is the members’ liquidator, his limited powers do not extend to seeking fee approval) and the director only has the power to convene a decision by Deemed Consent or by virtual meeting.

Can fees decisions be considered at a virtual meeting? There is nothing in the rules that expressly addresses this, but at least the director does have the power to convene the virtual meeting. Is it not arguable that tagging on (pre and post) fees decisions corresponds to what we do with S98s now (especially as the New Rules expressly provide for the “proposed liquidator” to circulate fees information – R18.16(10))?

I have received conflicting opinions on the routes available from reliable sources. As the consequences of getting this wrong are so serious, I’m very reluctant to pass further comment and I do hope that the powers-that-be will put us all out of misery and tell us categorically – and before 6 April! – how/whether fees decisions can be made at the same time as the S100 decision, as R15.11(1) seems to suggest is possible… somehow.

  • Timing

The deadline for the Deemed Consent process is 1 minute to midnight. The disadvantage here is that you won’t be certain on the decision until the next morning. I get the sense that most IPs are planning to hold their members’ meeting on the day of the Deemed Consent process, but this will still leave us with an inescapable Centrebind – it may be for only a few hours, but it’s worth thinking about it for insurance purposes at least.

On the other hand, virtual meetings can be held at anytime – the old between-10-and-4 rule has not been repeated in the New Rules. However, the convener still needs to “have regard to the convenience of those invited to participate when fixing the venue for a decision procedure” (R15.10), so the virtual meeting’s timing and “platform” (which has been added to the definition of “venue”) is still a factor to consider.

  • Excluded Persons

The rules describe an excluded person as (R15.36):

“someone who has taken all steps necessary [to attend the meeting virtually or remotely, but the arrangements] do not enable that person to attend the whole or part of that meeting.”

In other words, the technology or signal for the virtual meeting has failed.

If the chair becomes aware of an excluded person, he can continue the meeting, suspend it for up to an hour, or adjourn it. If the chair decides to continue the meeting, resolutions can be taken and these will be valid but they’re subject to complaints from the excluded person or from any other attendee who claims they were prejudiced by the exclusion.

The timescale for complaints is short – before 4pm on the next business day from the meeting or from receipt of an “indication” of what occurred at the meeting – but the consequences can be far-reaching. The chair could review the voting and conclude that the excluded person’s vote overturns resolutions that had been thought passed.

Practically, where would this leave a liquidator who thought they were free to publicise their appointment and perhaps also to complete asset sales? I am not certain that these actions would be covered by the S232 defects-deemed-valid provision.

Clearly it is vital that office holders know where they stand immediately after a meeting, but how would they know whether there were any excluded persons? They may know if someone drops out of contact mid-stream, but what if someone could not get online in the first place? Obviously, this is a risk if the notice of the virtual meeting includes all the information necessary to attend… but is this what the Rules require?

R15.5 states that the notice to creditors must provide:

“any necessary information as to how to access the virtual meeting including any telephone number, access code or password required”

A couple of InsS people have told me that they believe that simply giving out a contact number so that creditors can ask for the login details before the meeting would satisfy this Rule – it is “necessary information”, after all. Clearly, this would be a great help in identifying excluded persons as well as going some way to “safeguard[ing] against participation by persons who are not properly entitled to participate” (SIP6) and helping to plan for sufficient access to a virtual meeting. Hopefully the InsS will confirm this in writing when they respond to a question about this on their blog.  (UPDATE 02/05/2017: Dear IP 76 describes the Insolvency Service’s view as explained here.)

 

S100 CVLs: What Directors Need to Know

Please bear in mind that it has been a loooong time since I worked on the frontline. I do not feel worthy of explaining to IPs what they should discuss with directors pre-appointment. However, with the New Rules – and new SIP6 – in mind, here are my suggestions:

  • S100/SoA fees

With the lack of clarity in the Rules, you’ll probably want to get your fees paid upfront. But what happens if you have to convene a physical meeting? Who is going to pay for that? It might be an idea to factor this in to your engagement letter: make sure that it’s clear what the fixed fee covers and what effect the cost of an additional physical meeting might make.

  • Quick information

You’ll want to line the director up to providing information very quickly, given the short timeframes for compiling the SoA and the SIP6 report (see below).

  • Post-SoA material transactions

It might be helpful to make the directors aware of the consequences of any material transactions occurring after the SoA is produced. The risk of a postponement in the Decision Date might help them to focus on giving you the whole story and avoid doing anything silly in the hiatus period.

  • Postponed decisions

Material transactions or the need for a physical meeting will delay the S100 decision. If these events happen early enough, there might be a chance to adjourn the members’ meeting. But of course, if this happens, then the directors will be in control of the company for longer. What effect will this have on the CVL strategy?

You might also want to warn the director that they may need to attend a physical meeting. And will you be around for the physical meeting? Fortunately, the new rules have been relaxed a bit so that the members’ liquidator need not attend the physical meeting, he can appoint someone else in his stead (another IP or an experienced staff member), but if a physical meeting has been requested, then you might want to make sure you’re there.

  • SIP6 additions to engagement letters

The new SIP6 states that the assisting IP should “take reasonable steps to ensure that the convener is made fully aware of their duties and responsibilities”, so you may need to beef up your engagement letter to set out the director’s duties to take appropriate action as regards objections, requests for a physical meeting, material transactions and excluded persons, all of which are the convener’s/chair’s responsibilities; and to provide the SoA/SIP6 required information swiftly.

SIP6 also requires “reasonable steps to ensure that… the instructions to the IP to assist are adequately recorded”. I’m not sure what the RPBs are getting at here, other than expecting a signed engagement letter. Do they want you to have set out whether your instructions are to proceed with the Deemed Consent or the virtual meeting route? And/or should you specify that you’ll be assisting with assessing objections and requests for physical meetings?

Connected with this is SIP6’s requirement to “take reasonable steps to ensure that the convener and/or chair is informed that it may be appropriate for them to obtain independent assistance in determining the authenticity of a prospective participant’s authority or entitlement to participate and the amount for which they are permitted to do so in the event these are called into question”. This isn’t surprising given that something similar is in SIP8 regarding the conflict risk when counting proxies, but it may be a good idea to put it in your engagement letter if it isn’t already.

  • Excluded persons

Given the risk of excluded persons changing the outcome of meetings, you might want to be careful about what you indicate to directors that you plan to do on the day of, and the day after, the meeting.

 

S100 CVLs: The Unintended Centrebind

So what does the new S100 process look like? What needs to happen when?

Here is a timeline for a no-complication Deemed Consent, demonstrating the shortest notice possible:

A virtual meeting timeline would work the same, but it would just mean that you’d be able to schedule the meeting on Business Day 7 for a sensible time instead of a minute to midnight.

In particular, note the time needed to send the SoA and SIP6 report in order to accommodate delivery in time.  (UPDATE 23/03/17: it has been pointed out to me that SIP6 only requires the report to be “made available”, so some are interpreting this to mean that it does not have to be delivered to creditors (although the SoA still does need to be).)

But what if creditors object to the Deemed Consent at the last minute (i.e. after the members’ meeting had been held on business day 7)?

(UPDATE 23/03/17: it has been pointed out to me that requests for a physical meeting must be received “between the delivery of the notice and the decision date” (R6.14(6)) and thus it has been suggested that a physical meeting request received on the decision date will be too late. (UPDATE2 02/05/2017: the Insolvency Service’s view, as set out in Dear IP 76, is explored further in my post, https://goo.gl/ygnWjg.)  The deadline for deemed consent objections, however, is “not later than the decision date” (R15.7(2)), so I believe the timelines above and below are still relevant.)

You could fit the physical meeting within the statutory 14 calendar day timescale, provided that you can get the director to move quickly to convene it, but it would leave you managing an unintended Centrebind.

The picture looks grimmer if a material transaction occurs:

 

As you can see, there isn’t enough time to deal with a material transaction and a physical meeting.  (UPDATE 02/05/2017: the Insolvency Service has expressed the view on its blog that “it is sufficient that the original decision date was within the required timescale”.)

Virtual meetings avoid this issue, as the report on the material transaction would occur at the virtual meeting. It’s not the whole answer to avoiding a Centrebind, as creditors could still request a physical meeting, but at least it could be held within the 14 days.

 

There’s More

As I mentioned at the start, I’ve limited this blog post to S100 decisions only – it’s long enough already.

If you want to listen to my whole presentation, you can purchase it via The Compliance Alliance (£250+VAT for firm-wide access to all our webinars for a year) – just drop a line to info@thecompliancealliance.co.uk.

Other topics covered include:

  • The timeline of an intended Centrebind
  • S100s for the IP acting for creditors
  • VAs: correspondence vote or virtual meeting?
  • Creditors’ powers and the process to seek an IP appointment in bankruptcies and compulsories
  • Administrations: the pros and cons of seeking approval of Proposals by Deemed Consent or a decision procedure
  • How creditors can stay in the loop on communications


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New Rules, Part 15: Decisions, Decisions!

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More than one IP has asked me: ok, I know the New Rules pretty-much remove creditors’ meetings, but what’s all the fuss about? It gets me every time! Not only are the changes far more widespread than this, but also this change is hardly simple. It sounds simple though, doesn’t it: just replace all creditors’ resolutions with some kind of postal vote?

From what I believe was a desire to provide options – to creditors mainly, but also to directors and IPs – has evolved a web of overlapping timescales and feedback mechanisms, not to mention reams more information to creditors, which cannot fail to bamboozle and further dissuade them from engaging.

 

Decision 1: what type of decision do you have?

The SBEEA15 introduced the idea of two tiers of decisions (by the way, in our new world, there are few resolutions anymore, just decisions… although some decisions are made by resolution, if considered at a meeting, whether physical or virtual). There are decisions that can be made by Deemed Consent and others that must be made by a Qualifying Decision Procedure (although the New Rules drop the “Qualifying” bit). In the latter category are:

  • any “decision about the remuneration of any person” (S246ZE(2)); and
  • the acceptance of IVA and CVA Proposals.

So what decisions might be dealt with by Deemed Consent? The biggie is the appointment of a CVL Liquidator (you might also have thought about the appointment of an IP in court cases, but this involves first the removal of the incumbent OR – aha, now the reason for the change so that the OR becomes Trustee immediately on the order becomes clear, doesn’t it..?). Other Deemed Consent decisions could include several ADM items, e.g. extensions, discharge and even the Proposals themselves. But other than these, Deemed Consent is unlikely to get out much.

I think the Insolvency Service saw Deemed Consent being useful to office holders in seeking creditors’ approval to certain strategies, e.g. to commence litigation. I agree that this is a possibility, however the abolition of the statutory requirement to seek sanction to exercise many old Schedule powers has meant that more often than not IPs feel empowered to take such decisions in the interests of creditors in any event.

 

Decision 2: should you use Deemed Consent?

The key point to note about Deemed Consent is that, unless more than 10% in value of creditors (entitled to vote) positively object to the decision, then it is approved as proposed. If this proportion of creditors objects, then the IP has another bite of the cherry by proposing the decision by one of the other decision processes (excluding a physical meeting unless the proposed decision is for your CVL appointment).

There is a wrinkle: creditors who meet different criteria can respond by asking for a physical meeting, rather than (or in addition to) objecting to the decision proposed by Deemed Consent. If this happens, then the Insolvency Service has stated that the Deemed Consent process is superseded and the decision must be considered at a physical meeting. Personally, I have failed to spot where this consequence is set out in the rules, so I have asked the Service for clarification.

The thresholds for seeking a physical meeting are either 10% in value of creditors, 10% in number, or 10 creditors (the “10/10/10” criteria). (UPDATE 23/03/17: recently-issued Amendment Rules affect this, although their application is unclear.  I have blogged a question on the Insolvency Service’s blog.) This time, the criteria relate to all creditors, not just those entitled to vote. Thus it seems to me more than just a theoretic possibility that a creditor/s might reach the threshold to seek a physical meeting but fall short of the threshold to object to a Deemed Consent decision… hence the need, I believe, for the rules to be clear on the consequences of a request for a physical meeting.  (UPDATE 02/05/2017: the Insolvency Service has blogged: “The intention here is that the creditors that have an interest in the decision being taken are the ones who determine whether the costs of holding a physical meeting should be incurred. Therefore the convener would consider the value of the potential vote of the creditor(s) making the request, and compare them to the total value of the potential vote.”  Got that? 😉 )

Whilst there are potential complications, I think the Deemed Consent advantages are clear, especially where you need to seek approval from uninterested creditors, e.g. the ADM extension and discharge questions (although if you need secured creditors’ approval, silence from the unsecureds is only half the battle won).

What if you are seeking a CVL appointment, should you go for Deemed Consent? Well, one downside is that you will need to add on another decision procedure if you want to get your fees, including your pre-appointment fee, approved. However, if another IP starts showing an interest, they will first have to object to the Deemed Consent process before the scene is re-set to count votes on nominations. Granted however, it may mean that you’re looking at an unexpected Centrebind.

Another strange characteristic of seeking a CVL appointment by Deemed Consent is that, if unopposed, there is no statutory requirement for any pre-appointment Gazette notice – how odd is that?!

 

Decision 3: which other Decision Procedure might you use?

How else might you seek a decision? In the order that I think they will be used, the methods are:

  • vote by correspondence (no longer a “meeting” by correspondence and not defined in the rules);
  • virtual meeting (yes, cumbersome and in some respects risky, but the only way effectively to negotiate decisions);
  • electronic voting (hmm… maybe not for some time yet);
  • only if sufficient creditors request it, a physical meeting;
  • and A N Other process that none of us has yet thought up.

Virtual meetings are prepared for pretty-much as physical meetings are now: they require Gazetting and they involve proxy forms, which can be delivered anytime up to the start of the meeting in any case, no longer just for VA meetings. Proofs of debt also need to be delivered and, although there is a deadline of 4pm the business day before the meeting, there is also provision for the chair to accept late proofs, if he is “content”.

Of course, the obvious difference is finding an appropriate virtual meeting resource. From those who I know have been exploring this, I understand that there is no clear winner. Issues include: being able to identify attendees, especially when they join and leave, and being able to block access to people not entitled to attend. The main risk in holding a virtual meeting is that an “excluded person” (i.e. someone who tried to participate but could not through no fault of their own; say, they just happen to live in an area of the UK with unreliable broadband connections) can influence the decision after the meeting (assuming you did not decide to adjourn it). They are given a very short window of opportunity to complain that, had they participated, they would have swung the vote, but this is clearly not an uncertainty you want to be left with after a decision on your appointment or on a VA Proposal. There is also the practical uncertainty in knowing how many people are likely to want to join in to a virtual meeting: multi-party conference calls are exasperating at the best of times and the prospects of being surprised by a virtual room full of fired-up creditors doesn’t bear thinking about.

So should you go for a correspondence vote? Well, if you’re looking for a CVL appointment, it’s worth clocking now that this is not an option: Deemed Consent and virtual meeting are your only options. It is also worth remembering that the deadline for correspondence votes (and other non-meeting processes, including Deemed Consent) is one minute to midnight on your chosen day (the “Decision Date”), so we will have to get used to not knowing the outcome of a proposed decision until the day after… which could prove challenging if you’re trying to coordinate it alongside a members’ meeting. Correspondence votes need to be supported by proofs of debt submitted by the Decision Date and importantly, once a vote has been lodged, it cannot be changed. This makes correspondence vote a risky choice for VA Proposals, I think. I also wonder where correspondence votes will get us on fee approvals: if there is no negotiating possible, then will it result in an increase in court applications?

As with Deemed Consent, on receiving an invitation to a virtual meeting or to vote by another means, a creditor may react by asking for a physical meeting. They have 5 business days after delivery of the notice of the decision procedure in which to have delivered a request (but see Timetables below) and the 10/10/10 thresholds apply.

There is also no ability to ask creditors for a deposit as security for the costs of convening a physical meeting on request… unless it is a requisitioned decision (yes, there is a difference!). The latter may arise for example as a consequence of issuing Para 52 Proposals, although the rules allow you only to ask for the costs of seeking a “decision”, not a physical meeting… however it is not clear whether creditors could ask explicitly for a physical meeting at this stage (that’s another question to the Insolvency Service).  (UPDATE 02/05/2017: the Insolvency Service has blogged that they think it is reasonable to interpret the rules as allowing the creditor to request a physical meeting at the same time as requisitioning a decision, although they have also confirmed that the deposit sought should only be for requesting a decision, not holding a physical meeting.)

 

Invitations to Form a Committee

In all cases (except, strangely, in Compulsory Liquidations unless the meeting is to appoint a liquidator), whenever a Deemed Consent or decision procedure notice is issued, creditors must be asked at the same time whether they wish to establish a Committee and to propose nominations. This requirement sits unhappily besides the other rules, especially the Deemed Consent process. For starters, how do you ask creditors “whether” they want something? You must propose it as a decision, e.g. I propose the decision that a Committee be established. But if you were to propose this as a Deemed Consent decision and received no objections, this would mean that the decision had been made and you would need to canvass for (more) nominations, thus postponing your original objective until the sorry “no we didn’t mean we wanted a Committee, we simply don’t care” response was made certain. Therefore, several have designed the proposed decision in the negative: I propose the decision that a Committee should not be established (which personally I think also sits better ethically where the IP does not believe a Committee is warranted: is it honest and straightforward for an IP to propose a decision he does not himself desire?). In this case, creditors’ silence works well.

But is it truly necessary to go through this rigmarole every time you propose a decision? Yes, it seems so. And of course we will need to highlight the SIP15 Committee Guidance… however I am puzzled by the SIP15 reference to highlighting it prior to inviting creditors for nominations: does this mean that we need to write to creditors separately before our first proposed decision? For once, this is not a question for the Insolvency Service!

 

Timetables

In most cases, notice of a decision – by Deemed Consent or other process – must be at least 14 days (plus delivery time). CVL appointment is the obvious exception: in this case, notice must be 3 business days after delivery, which including a weekend makes it very slightly shorter than the current requirement. Because of the short timescale in CVL appointments, requests for a physical meeting can be made at any time up to the Decision Date.  (UPDATE 02/05/2017: oops!  Sorry, the rules set the deadline as between the notice and the Decision Date and Dear IP 76 suggests that the Decision Date is not included in this period.  See https://goo.gl/ygnWjg for more analysis.)

 

There’s more

The rules contain prescriptive details about the content of notices and how to deal with “excluded persons”. In addition, the interaction of Deemed Consent/decision procedures with other requirements such as the need to send a Statement of Affairs before the CVL appointment Decision Date adds another layer of complexity to the work.

If you want to know more:

  • on the detail of decision processes especially in the context of CVL appointments, then access Jo Harris’ webinar, “New Rules: Decision Procedures and Changes on CVL Appointments” (mailto:info@thecompliancealliance.co.uk for details);
  • on the pros, cons and strategies of decision processes, then join me at the R3 breakfast seminar, The New Rules for Insolvency Work-Winners (16 March in London), or any of the three R3 SPG Technical Reviews (28 March in London, 6 June in Huddersfield, 4 July in Bristol)… and there are more Compliance Alliance webinars to come on these topics;

… or feel free to get in touch with me… but don’t expect many simple answers!


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Part 18: Reporting and Remuneration

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Finally, I’ve reached the end of the crazy-busy season and I can get back to the New Rules. This post deals with Part 18 of the Rules: Reporting and Remuneration.

I’m very pleased to see that the Insolvency Service has taken the opportunity to iron out some of the overly prescriptive, clunky and vague rules.   For example:

  • Fixing the prescriptive: stripping back on the loooong list of final report contents
  • Fixing the clunky: new approaches to the ADM-to-CVL conversion process and to reporting for changes in office holder or ADM extensions
  • Fixing the vague: settling the debates on issuing a fees estimate before being appointed as liquidator and on the process of seeking preferential creditors’ approval to fees in Para 52(1)(b) Administrations

Other changes have slipped in too, mainly as a consequence of the more material changes affecting other areas of practice, such as the abolition of final meetings.

For a step-by-step guide to Part 18, including many rules that I have not touched on in this post, I would recommend Jo Harris’ webinar, available now through The Compliance Alliance – contact info@thecompliancealliance.co.uk.

 

Part 18: Scope

Part 18 is one of the now “common” parts. I think it does help to bring together the procedures that are common to all cases… but it’s not quite this simple. Part 18 covers reporting and remuneration for Administrations, all Liquidations and Bankruptcies. It does not deal with VA reporting. Neither does it deal will all the closing reporting requirements – bits of these appear in the case-specific parts. Ho hum.

One key point to remember is that for the most part the changes apply across the board, so we need to be ready to report and seek rem under the New Rules from the off.

The exceptions are, as previously mentioned, progress reporting on the old pre-2010 appointments and any progress reports that fall due before 6 April 2017. But for everything else – including closure processes on all cases – the New Rules apply.

 

Contents of Progress Reports

There are some pesky little changes in here. One intriguing change is that, no longer must we detail “assets that remain to be realised”, but instead we need to detail “what remains to be done” (R18.3(1)(h)). I know that we usually do provide a one-liner on this, but isn’t it charming for the Insolvency Service to make it a statutory requirement..?

R18.3(6) accommodates the significant change in the process of an ADM moving to CVL. It’s good to see the Insolvency Service have yet another go at getting this process working smoothly. In my mind, the New Rules improve the process… although I still don’t see why we need to rely on the Registrar of Companies (“RoC”) to tell us when the ADM ends and the CVL starts. Regrettably, though, the trigger for the move has been set down in the Act, so the New Rules simply try to make the best of this awkward situation.

R3.60 sets out the new ADM-to-CVL process. The Administrator submits the Notice of the Move together with their final report to the RoC and copies the pack to creditors etc. Once the Notice is registered, the former Administrator informs the Liquidator of “anything which happens after the date of the final progress report and before the registration of the notice which the administrator would have included in the final report had it happened before the date of the report” (R3.60(5)).

Consequently, within the Liquidator’s first progress report, they must include “a note of any information received by the liquidator from the former administrator” (R18.3(6)).

This process sounds a bit odd when you remember that usually the Administrator is the Liquidator – will the RPBs expect the file to contain a “note to self”..? I think we get the idea though and at least the new process avoids the uncomfortable position of completing and issuing a final Administration report after having vacated office.

 

Timing of Progress Reports

In principle, nothing has changed on timing. However, again a couple of welcome simplifications in other areas will affect reporting complications with which we have all become familiar under the current Rules.

In future, the 6/12-monthly reporting routine will not be affected by the following events:

  • A change in office holder: under the New Rules, incoming office holders are required to deliver a notice to members/creditors (depending on the case type) “of any matters about which the succeeding (office holder) thinks the members/creditors should be informed” (Rs18.6(3), 18.7(4), 18.8(3)). This removes the need for a formal progress report to draw a line under the change, so the original progress reporting routine remains unaffected. The New Rules are vague on what triggers this requirement, but in my view it is likely to mean that nothing is required if the office holder changes but the practice does not.
  • Extension of an Administration: under the New Rules, a progress report is no longer required in order to seek approval of an extension. The New Rules simply require the Administrator to send, along with the court application or the notice requesting creditors’ consent, “the reasons why the administrator is seeking an extension” (R3.54(2)).

This is all good stuff, thanks Insolvency Service.

These changes do leave me with a question, though: what if you are already dealing with a case with an altered reporting schedule, i.e. an extended ADM or a case involving a change in office holder where the court was not asked to over-ride the current rules’ effect of changing the reporting timeline? After 6 April 2017, will you need to revert to the pre-extension/office holder-change schedule or will you continue to produce 6/12-monthly reports from the date of the last pre-April report? I have heard rumours that the Insolvency Service’s intention is the latter, but personally I think that the wording of the New Rules would require such cases to revert to the old schedule.   That’s another question for the Insolvency Service’s blog, I reckon.

(UPDATE 17/01/2017: the Insolvency Service responded to my query on their blog: “It was not the intention that where a reporting cycle in any relevant process had already been reset, it would need to be changed again as a result of the commencement of the new rules. As you have suggested, we had identified that a transitional provision would make it clear that this should not happen, and we are looking to see whether and how we can insert such a provision into Schedule 2 of the new rules.”)

(UPDATE 23/03/2017: the Insolvency Service has indeed introduced a fix via the recently-issued Amendment Rules.  This fixes the position for changes in office holder such that, if you have an existing case with an amended reporting schedule due to a pre-6/4/17 change in office holder, then after 6/4/17 you continue to report according to your amended schedule.  The position is a little less satisfactory for already-extended ADMs: whilst it seems that the Insolvency Service has attempted to apply the same principle to these cases, I am not convinced that the Amendment Rules wording delivers this effect… although casparjblog has suggested a possible wriggle-through – see the Insolvency Service’s blog at https://goo.gl/IE0pmK.)

(UPDATE 02/05/2017: in Dear IP 76, the Insolvency Service expresses the view that the Amendment Rule is “sufficiently clear” that the reporting schedule for an already-extended ADM should continue, rather than be re-set to the original schedule.)

 

Contents of “Final Accounts” and “Final Reports”

The abolition of final meetings in Liquidations and Bankruptcies necessitates a change in the final reporting processes. The new processes can be found at:

  • Rs5.9 and 5.10 for MVLs;
  • R6.28 for CVLs;
  • R7.71 for Compulsory Liquidations; and
  • R10.87 for Bankruptcies.

I won’t cover them here, but suffice to say that creditors (and/or members/bankrupt) are provided with a final account (or, in Bankruptcies, a final report) 8 weeks before the office holder obtains their release.

The contents of these final accounts/reports are found in R18.14. Delightfully, the Insolvency Service has decided to lighten up on the miserable prescription that had been introduced by the 2010 Rules (e.g. no more statements of the aggregate numbers of preferential and unsecured creditors or that accounts have been reconciled with those held by the SoS) – thank you again!

In case you’re wondering about Administrations, R3.53 contains details of some of the contents of an ADM final progress report… but because, in Administrations, the final document is called a final progress report, the Part 18 rules on the contents of progress reports also apply to Administration final progress reports (plus an additional requirement slipped in to R18.3(2)).

 

Remuneration: Circulating Fees Estimates

The biggest change in the remuneration chapters is something very welcome: finally, we can stop debating whether it is possible for an IP to issue a fees estimate (and/or other fees-related information) before they are appointed as Liquidator. R18.16(10) states that “a proposed liquidator” may deliver the information. Excellent!

Of course, the New Rules will transform the whole S98 process beyond recognition – this is a huge topic for another blog post entirely.

 

Remuneration Niggles

Yes, I know I can be pedantic. If you have visited the Insolvency Service’s blog, you will have seen my query on R18.18(3), which could be read as requiring every Administrator’s fees to be agreed by creditors by a “decision procedure”, which would have had unexpected consequences for Para 52(1)(b) ADMs with only secured creditors in the frame. Thankfully, the Service is on the case and hopefully this will be fixed before April.  (UPDATE 23/03/2017: the recently-issued Amendment Rules have fixed this issue so that Para 52(1)(b) case fees are subject to approval only by secureds/prefs.)

Another niggle of mine is that the wording of the time costs basis has been changed – again. I think it passed by many of us that the 2015 Rules changed the time costs basis from “the time properly given… in attending to matters arising in the administration/winding up/bankruptcy” to “the time properly given… in attending to matters arising in the administration/winding up/bankruptcy as set out in the fees estimate”. Those words in italics have been removed for the New Rules – so if you were diligent enough to change the wording of your standard resolutions last year, unfortunately you’ll have to put them back to the way they were pre-2015.

 

Preferential Creditors’ Approval

The New Rules resolve another long-running debate: how were we to read the current R2.106(5A)(b)(ii), which sets out that Administrators who have made a Para 52(1)(b) statement and who have made or intend to make a distribution to preferential creditors need to seek the approval to fees of “preferential creditors whose debts amount to more than 50% of the preferential debts of the company, disregarding debts of any creditor who does not respond to an invitation to give or withhold approval”. The question has always been: what happens if no preferential creditor votes, does this mean that you have approval?

R18.18(4) eliminates all doubt. It states that in future Administrators will need to seek preferential creditors’ approval (on relevant cases) “in a decision procedure”. This is a New Rules-defined term, which I will not go into here (again, this is another blog post entirely), but it does mean without a doubt that there will need to be at least one positive vote to reach a decision.

A second long-running question on the current R2.106(5A)(b)(ii) has also been: what if you have paid preferential creditors’ claims in full, do you still need to ask these creditors to approve your fees?

This conundrum is solved by Rs15.11 and 15.31(1)(a), which indicate that in these circumstances only preferential creditors who have not been paid in full are circulated and that, if there’s no claim left, the creditor has no vote. These two rules are specific to creditors voting in decision procedures in Administrations though, so they won’t help you in any other cases (including, I assume, where secured creditors are being asked to approve fees in Administrations).

 

As mentioned earlier, there are many more rules in Part 18 that are essential-reading, but if you prefer to hear about them, drop an email to info@thecompliancealliance.co.uk and ask about Jo’s webinar.


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The New Rules: Part 1… of many

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We’ve all heard overviews of the new Rules by now, but time is short – less than 5 months to go – and so it’s about time that we started delving into the nitty gritty.

 

Starting at the start

It would be wrong to assume that, with the exception of the SBEE changes that everyone has already talked about, the new Rules are simply the old rules in a different order. I thought that starting with the introductory Rules and definitions would be straightforward and frankly dull, but the new Rules are peppered with unexpected intricacies that make such assumptions dangerous.

 

New Rules, new approach to transitional provisions

No doubt you have heard that the new Rules are a departure from the tradition of leaving old cases to run out under the old rules. This has some advantages: no longer will we need to think twice about the date of an appointment before deciding how to approach a statutory matter, nor will we need to maintain old checklists, diaries and templates to cope with a variety of aged cases. Eliminating this complication should mean that we could run all cases, present and future, on one system… but is that true…?

 

If you don’t want the confusion, clear away pre-2010 CVLs (and MVLs)

The transitional provisions (Schedule 2 of the new Rules) refer specifically to cases commencing (i.e. orders in the case of bankruptcies (“BKYs”) and compulsory liquidations (“WUCs”)) before 6 April 2010:

  • BKYs & WUCs: this is the easy bit – the new Rules’ provisions on progress reports do not apply
  • CVLs: “a progress meeting required by section 104A of the Act” continues and “R4.223-CVL as it had effect immediately before 6 April 2010 continues to apply”
  • No specific reference to MVLs – did the Insolvency Service assume that all pre-2010 MVLs would be closed?

In pretty-much all other respects, the new Rules apply to these old cases.

What is “a progress meeting”?! Search all you like in the current Act and Rules, you won’t find one. And what is the relevance of S104A to meetings? S104A was the method used to replace the old S105 annual meetings by progress reports.

I think that the Insolvency Service planned for annual meetings to continue on old CVLs, as well as the old six-monthly R&Ps, which had been required under the old R4.223… but I accept that this takes a bit of a stretch of the imagination. Perhaps we will receive some clarity before April.

(UPDATE 23/03/17: the recently-issued Amendment Rules have changed the references to “progress meeting” and S104A so that it now refers to “meetings required by sections 93 and 105 of the Act”.  Therefore, it seems to me that annual meetings on pre-04/2010 MVLs and CVLs should continue to be convened after 04/2017.)

 

Perhaps also avoid calling a meeting to be held after 6 April 2017

Schedule 2 also includes transitional and savings provisions to enable meetings called before the Rules’ commencement date to be held after that date and for all the usual items resolved upon in meetings, e.g. fixing the basis of fees, to be decided. In a similar way, the old rules will apply also where an invitation to vote on a resolution by correspondence was issued prior to 6 April 2017 but where the deadline for voting falls afterward.

The Schedule includes potential catch-all references, e.g. “governance of the meeting”, stating that “the 1986 Rules relating to the following continue to apply”. Presumably, this will also cover matters such as adjournments.

It is not clear to me whether these transitional provisions will also work where a draft final report has been issued but where, say, R4.126(1D) kicks in after 6 April 2017. That is, what should happen where you have not complied with R4.49D, e.g. because something unexpected has occurred in the 8-week period? Should you follow old R4.126(1D) and issue a revised draft final report and fresh notice of a final meeting under the old rules? It looks like it to me, but I would prefer to avoid straddling the April date with any meeting convened under the old rules.

 

Other transitionals

Schedule 2 contains many other transitional and savings provisions, including:

  • old rules apply where any progress report became due pre-6 April 2017 but where it has not been issued by that date;
  • conversions from Administration (“ADM”) to CVL started under the old rules generally continue; and
  • all statements of affairs due on pre-6 April 2017 cases continued to be expected under the old rules.

 

(UPDATE 23/03/2017: the recently-issued Amendment Rules have resolved the issues explored in these next two sections.)

How long is one month?

The mind-bending Schedule 5, “Calculation of Time Periods”, also appears in Part 1 of the Rules.

It starts sensibly enough: “days” are calculated according to the CPR (there is no definition of “weeks” in the Rules).

There are two ways of calculating “months”, depending on whether the date specified is the start date (e.g. the time period within which a progress report should be issued or the progress report review period) or the end date. As I’m struggling to think of any specified end dates involving months, let’s look at a scenario where the start date is specified:

  1. the month in which the period ends is the specified number of months after the month in which it begins, and
  2. the date in the month on which the period ends is:
    • the date corresponding to the date in the month on which it begins, or
    • if there is no such date in the month in which it ends, the last day of that month.

If I’m reading this correctly, then one month from 10 April is 10 May – one month and one day.

 

Reporting transactions on a period-end date

Let’s say that you received some money on 10 April 2017 on a CVL that began on 10 April 2016. How would this be reported in your progress reports?

  • The review period of your first progress report would be 10 April 2016 to 10 April 2017, so you would report it.
  • The review period of your second progress report would be 10 April 2017 to 10 April 2018… err… so you would report it..?!

This cannot be right, can it?! It would skew all your R&Ps, as the c/f and b/f figures would not tally. In the same way, your time cost breakdowns would be confusing if you incurred any time costs on the threshold day.

What I’m struggling with is why the Insolvency Service has seen fit to redefine the length of a month: what was wrong with the way us mortals measure time?

(UPDATE 17/01/2017: the Insolvency Service responded to my query on their blog: “We have taken legal advice on this matter and will be looking at whether and how we can clarify the definition of a period expressed in months in Schedule 5 so that there is no day which occurs in two different reporting cycles.”  Phew!)

(UPDATE 23/03/2017: the recently-released Amendment Rules have fixed this – no more time-shifting: a month is a month long again.)

 

So what is the deadline for sending out progress reports?

Let’s take an ADM with a period end date of 10 April 2017. You have “one month after the end of the period” in which to deliver a progress report. Setting aside whether “after” starts the day after – which would add another day to your timescale – let’s assume that this period ends on 10 May 2017.

Ah, but there’s a catch. The report must be “delivered”, not “sent”, by this date. The new Rules define “delivery” as follows:

  • 1st class post is “treated as delivered on the 2nd business day after the day on which it is posted”; and
  • 2nd class post is “treated as delivered on the 4th business day after the day on which it is posted”.

Therefore, you need to factor the delivery times into your statutory timescale. If you left it until 9 May 2017 to put the progress reports in the post, you would be too late. When the new Rules refer to “deliver”, in fact they are referring to the time that the document is deemed to be received by the recipient.

 

So will every statutory deadline need to factor in the time to deliver the document?

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. For example, the new Rule on issuing progress reports in CVLs – R18.7 – sets the 2-month deadline with reference to the sending of the report, not its delivery. “Send” is not defined in the new Rules.  (UPDATE 23/03/17: the Amendment Rules have changed this “send” to “deliver”, so that all filing deadlines are now consistent.)

However, notwithstanding this inconsistency (I thought that making the rules consistent was one of the main objectives behind the new Rules!), you could do worse than factor time periods to deliver documents into your processes. At least that way you should always meet the deadlines (and you would avoid any debate over semantics -v- the perceived “spirit” of the Rules with your regulator).

 

Opting out

In her November Technical Update https://goo.gl/XBTAFV, Jo Harris summarised the new Rules under which creditors can send to office holders a notice asking to be excluded from most future standard circulars. This provision – along with the wider website use described below – are two significant changes introduced by the Small Business, Enterprise & Employment Act 2015 that appear in Part 1 of the Rules.

I won’t go into detail on these points, but I will just add to Jo’s observations:

  • Ensuring that you provide information on opting out in your “first communication with a creditor” could take some managing. You will need to make sure you include this when you first communicate with newly-discovered creditors. The new Rules are also silent on how this applies to a successor office holder.
  • As Jo mentions, you will need to designate opted-out creditors differently on your system, but also ensure that they are included in the exempted circulars, such as “notices of intended distribution” (R1.37)… or should that be “notices of proposed dividend” (R1.39)… or perhaps even “notices of intention to declare a dividend” (R14.29)!
  • If you are taking on a consecutive insolvency proceeding, you will need to ask the predecessor for a list of opted-out creditors, as you must exclude them from the defined circulars.

Personally, I don’t expect many creditors to opt out – after all, if they are not engaged enough to be interested in future updates, then are they likely to be sufficiently engaged to sign and return an opting-out notice? However, this new section will add yet another page (no really – the prescribed contents do go on a bit) of information to first circulars, which we will need to take care to get right.

 

Wider website use

Finally, this is something in the new Rules that put a smile on my face! Again as Jo explained in her Update, under the new Rules office holders will be able to issue to creditors just one notice explaining that future communications will only be uploaded to a website, rather than issue such a notice every time a communication is uploaded as is currently the case.

I have heard some unrest about this provision. Many feel that it will simply help to distant creditors even further from the process. I agree, it will. However, I do not feel that this is sufficient reason to avoid taking advantage of this provision. The Insolvency Service seems to have been charged with the aims of increasing engagement and reducing costs – two aims that are clearly in opposition to one another, as demonstrated also by the new Rules’ abolition of office holder-convened physical meetings – but I wonder how much engagement really is achieved by progress reports that are necessarily unwieldy in order to comply with the plethora of SIPs and statutory requirements. On the other hand, I think that the new provision allowing for website use alone most certainly will reduce costs.

 

Part 1: just the beginning

As I hope I’ve demonstrated, there are plenty of revisions in Part 1 of the new Rules that will require some thoughtful planning… and that generate more than the odd furrowed brow. I am looking forward to posing a few questions on the Insolvency Service’s forum, which we expect to be launched in the next few weeks.

If you would like to listen to my webinar that explores this Part in more depth and that will be available in the next few days, please drop a line to info@thecompliancealliance.co.uk.

The second webinar in this series, which will review the new Rules on Reporting and Remuneration, will be presented by Jo Harris in a few weeks’ time.