Insolvency Oracle

Developments in UK insolvency by Michelle Butler


1 Comment

Standing on the Shoulders: a summary of reported court decisions

0430 Brown & Viv

I think it’s great that summaries of court decisions are more freely-available now than ever before.  I’ve wondered whether I should just drift back into the shadows and leave it to the pros… but then I remember that, even if no one reads them, authoring my own summaries helps get them fixed in my own mind.  Therefore, I shall continue:

  • Sands v Layne – should the court consider all creditors’ interests when considering whether to dismiss a petition because the debtor has reached an agreement with the petitioner alone?
  • Re Business Environment Fleet Street – as statute allows an administrator to take control of property to which he thinks the company is entitled, can he sell it?
  • Parkwell Investments v HMRC – should provisional liquidators be appointed if there is a tax assessment appeal outstanding?
  • Bear Scotland v Fulton – should non-guaranteed overtime be included in holiday pay?
  • Connaught Income Fund v Capita Financial Managers – does a liquidator have a statutory power to get in post-appointment assets?
  • Day v Tiuta International – if the charge under which receivers are appointed is invalid, can they remain in office by reason of the appointor’s subrogated rights under another charge?

Trustee fails to overturn a debtor’s deal with the petitioner

Sands v Layne & Anor (12 November 2014) ([2014] EWHC 3665 (Ch))http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2014/3665.html

Mr Layne originally sought to avoid bankruptcy by offering security over his home and payment by instalments to the petitioning creditor.  However, given the time that the debtor would have needed to pay off the debt, the judge rejected his defence that the creditor had unreasonably refused the offer and made a bankruptcy order in July 2011.  In June 2012, the parties came to an agreement as regards payment and security and, by means of a consent order, the bankruptcy order was set aside.  In June 2013, the Trustee in Bankruptcy applied for the consent order to be rescinded pursuant to S375 of the IA86, the thrust of his submission being that the debtor and creditor had sought to deal with the matter between themselves without taking into account any obligations to him or to other unsecured creditors.

The deputy judge expressed a wavering view over the conclusion leading from the decision in Appleyard v Wewelwala that S375 reviews and rescissions by first instance courts can deal with only decisions made by those courts, not also decisions emanating from appellate courts, and thus the Trustee’s application failed.  However, given the deputy judge’s “diffidence”, he considered further questions arising from the application.

How should the interests of other unsecured creditors impact on the court’s consideration of whether a petition should be dismissed under S271(3)(a), i.e. where “the debtor has made an offer to secure or compound for” the petition debt?  The deputy judge concluded that, as the first ground for dismissal under S271 involves the court being satisfied that the debtor is able to pay all his debts, “the second ground – involving an offer to secure or compound – must therefore be intended to apply even where the debtor is not so able” (paragraph 20).

The deputy judge listed the other unsecured creditors’ potential remedies, including seeking to be substituted as petitioner and challenging the security as a preference (albeit that they would need to establish a desire to prefer the original petitioner).  “In short, in so far as other unsecured creditors may be affected by the provision of the security to the petitioner, the statute provides a targeted remedy in what it considers suitable cases, and it is neither necessary nor appropriate for their interests to be addressed in the context of the bilateral dispute between the petitioning creditor and the debtor and in particular the issue whether, where security is offered and rejected, a bankruptcy order should be made or refused” (paragraph 22).

The deputy judge also observed that the Trustee’s argument “suffered from a serious dose of circularity” (paragraph 24) in that the Trustee could not have been joined as a respondent to the original appeal, which “was to decide whether the bankruptcy order should stand. If the order fell and there was no bankruptcy, all consequences dependent on it – the trusteeship and the vesting – disappeared with it” and thus he had no standing to bring the application in the first place.

Moon Beever published an article examining the role of the Trustee as illustrated by this decision: http://goo.gl/Fu62LU.

 

Court rejects Administrators’ attempts to sell third party assets

Re Business Environment Fleet Street Limited; Edwards & Anor v Business Environment Limited & Ors (28 October 2014) ([2014] EWHC 3540 (Ch))http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2014/3540.html

Administrators applied under Para 72 of Schedule B1 for leave to dispose of assets, including properties subject to subleases and equipment located at the properties, which one of the respondents claimed to own.  Under Para 72, the court can authorise administrators to dispose of “goods which are in the possession of the company under a hire-purchase agreement”, which under Para 111 extends to chattel leasing agreements.

The deputy judge examined the agreement between the Company and the respondent and concluded that the Company had not been granted possession of the assets, which remained either with the respondent or had transferred to the subtenants.  Thus, the agreement did not comprise a chattel leasing agreement, as it did not involve the bailment of goods.

The Administrators pursued an alternative ground, arguing that Paras 67 and 68 combined entitled them to manage – which would include disposal of – property to which they think the Company is entitled.  The deputy judge rejected the argument that “property” in the two paragraphs has the same meaning: it may be appropriate for an administrator to take control of assets in a hurry on his appointment, but disposal would be a step too far.  “It would confer an exorbitant jurisdiction on the administrator to convert property belonging to third parties, simply because this happened to be desirable on the balance of convenience” (paragraph 19.3).  The deputy judge also saw no support in S234, which relieves an administrator from liability for converting third party assets where he acted reasonably.

But what if the sale sought by the Administrators appeared to make sense commercially?  The Administrators’ case here was that there was considerable “marriage” value in disposing of the assets together with the properties, enhancing the purchase price by some £7m.  In this particular case, the deputy judge saw the marriage value in the proposed sale, but did not see that a delay in a sale would be detrimental and thus was not satisfied that the balance of convenience lay in ordering an immediate sale (even if he had been satisfied that the court had jurisdiction to order it).

For an alternative – and far more authoritative – analysis, you might like to read the article by Stephen Atherton QC (via Lexis Nexis) at http://goo.gl/VYFblM.

 

Attempts to “see-saw” between courts does not avoid the appointment of provisional liquidators

Parkwell Investments Limited v Wilson & HMRC (16 October 2014) ([2014] EWHC 3381 (Ch))http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2014/3381.html

This case has received some attention due to the judge’s statement that he was unable to accept the reasoning of the deputy judge in Enta Technologies Limited v HMRC (http://wp.me/p2FU2Z-6W), which if it were correct would lead to a “very undesirable consequence… namely the inability of the court to appoint anyone a provisional liquidator to a company where the company has an outstanding appeal against the assessment” (paragraph 21).

In this case, the Company had applied for the termination of the provisional liquidation and the dismissal of HMRC’s winding-up petition on the basis that the First Tax Tribunal was the place to determine its VAT position and that, as there were appeals against assessments still outstanding, it was inappropriate that the Companies Court should pre-empt the process by appointing a provisional liquidator.  Sir William Blackburne stated: “There is to my mind something highly artificial in the notion that this court has jurisdiction to entertain a winding-up petition brought by HMRC against a company founded on the non-payment of a VAT assessment… for so long as the company has taken no steps to appeal the assessment to the FTT… only to find that that jurisdiction is lost the moment the company files its notice of appeal to the tribunal or, if not lost, is no longer exercisable, irrespective of the merits of the appeal…   I cannot think that this approach is right. Jurisdiction in this court cannot arise and disappear (or be exercisable and then suddenly cease to be) in this see-saw fashion” (paragraphs 19 and 20).

The judge believed that the true question was whether the appeal to the FTT has any merit. If it has none, then the assessment continues to constitute a basis for a winding-up petition.  However, “if the court, on a review of the evidence before it, considers that the company has a good arguable appeal which will lead either to the cancellation of the assessment or to its reduction to below the winding-up debt threshold, it will dismiss the petition” (paragraph 20).  In this case, the judge concluded that the Company had failed to produce sufficient evidence to demonstrate a good arguable case and thus the provisional liquidator was allowed to continue in office.

For a more practical look at the implications of this decision, you might like to look at an article by Mike Pavitt, Paris Smith LLP, at http://goo.gl/0lZyrO.

 

Holiday pay to include non-guaranteed compulsory overtime

Bear Scotland Limited & Ors v Fulton & Ors (4 November 2014) (UKEATS/0047/13) (heard with Hertel (UK) Limited v Woods & Ors and Amec Group Limited v Law & Ors (UKEAT/0161/14)http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2014/0047_13_0411.html

None of these cases involved insolvencies, but I can see how their impact on holiday pay calculations could have consequences for IPs.  However, permission to appeal has been granted and the government has set up a taskforce to assess the possible impact of this decision (see http://goo.gl/8jmV53).

The conclusions of the Companies’ appeals against several elements of previous tribunal decisions were as follows:

  1. Normal remuneration – in relation to which holiday pay is calculated –included overtime that employees were required to work, even though the employer was not obliged to offer it as a minimum.
  2. An employer’s failure to pay holiday pay on this basis could be claimed as unlawful deductions from pay under the ERA1996, but not where a period of more than three months had elapsed between each such unlawful deduction (i.e., I think, if, say, holiday was paid short in March, August, and October of this year, only August and October could be claimed; March would not be able to be claimed, as it occurred more than three months before the August short payment).
  3. Pay in lieu of notice is not required to be calculated under the same basis, i.e. it does not include the overtime described in (1) above. This differs from the position as regards holiday pay, because it was felt that the parties’ view of what hours were “normal” at the time the contract was entered into would not have been informed by the experience of working under that contract, which described overtime as not guaranteed and not forming part of normal working hours.
  4. In two of the cases concerned, time spent travelling to work (which was paid during working times as a Radius Allowance and Travelling Time Payment) also fell within “normal remuneration” for the purpose of calculating holiday pay.

There has been some comment (e.g. Moon Beever’s article at http://goo.gl/Etay9A) that overtime other than compulsory overtime is also likely to be comprised in “normal remuneration”.  Whilst this was not dealt with by the Appeal Tribunal, the judge did highlight the principle that “‘normal pay’ is that which is normally received” (paragraph 44) and thus I can see why that conclusion might be drawn.

 

A liquidator’s power to get in post-appointment assets

The Connaught Income Fund, Series 1 v Capita Financial Managers Limited (5 November 2014) ([2014] EWHC 3619 (Comm))http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Comm/2014/3619.html

The key points – and quotes – that I’d extracted from the judgment were the same as those highlighted by Pinsent Masons (http://goo.gl/QU8o9i).

The liquidators of the Fund (which was an unregulated collective investment scheme set up as a limited partnership) took an assignment of the investors’ claims, but these were resisted under a number of arguments including a challenge that the liquidators acted outside their statutory powers in taking the assignments.

The judge decided that the assignments were allowed under the liquidators’ Schedule 4 power “to do all such things as may be necessary for winding up the company’s affairs and distributing its assets”, including those that had not been assets of the partnership when it traded.

 

Receivers’ appointment sound notwithstanding that their appointor’s charge could be invalid

Day v Tiuta International Limited & Ors (30 September 2014) ([2014] EWCA Civ 1246)http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2014/1246.html

This is a complicated case, which I think has been successfully summarised by Taylor Wessing LLP (http://goo.gl/YhN2ga).

Tiuta International Limited (“TIL”) agreed to lend money to Day to enable him to repay a loan provided by Standard Chartered (“SC”) and to discharge the charge to SC.  Later, due to Day’s non-payment, TIL appointed receivers under the powers of its new charge, but Day claimed damages against TIL that, if set off against the loan, would release TIL’s charge and invalidate the receivers’ appointment.  TIL argued that, even if Day were successful in escaping from its charge, TIL was still entitled to appoint receivers because it was subrogated to the SC charge by reason of its payment settling SC’s loan and charge.  Day contended that, even if this were so, TIL would need to appoint receivers again but this time in express reliance on the SC charge.

Lady Justice Gloster stated: “it is important to bear in mind that the correct analysis of the right of subrogation is that a party who discharges a creditor’s security interest and who is regarded as having acquired that interest by subrogation, does not actually acquire the creditor’s interest, but rather obtains a new and independent equitable security interest which prima facie replicates the creditor’s old interest. Subrogation does not effect an actual assignment of the discharged creditor’s rights to the subrogated creditor. What subrogation means in this context is that the subrogated creditor’s legal relations with a defendant, who would otherwise be unjustly enriched, are regulated as if the benefit of the charge had been assigned to him” (paragraph 43).

“Thus whilst TIL did not purport to rely on the SC Charge when appointing the Receivers… and purported to rely only on the TIL Charge to make the appointment, that in my judgment was immaterial…  Subrogation is a means by which the court regulates the legal relationships between parties in order to avoid unjust enrichment and the precise manner in which it operates may vary according to the circumstances of the case. In the present case, on the hypothesis that the TIL Charge was voidable, the doctrine of subrogation, in conferring a new equitable proprietary right on TIL, would have operated to entitle TIL to the notional benefit of the SC Charge for the purposes of securing repayment of the TIL Loan made under the terms of the TIL Loan Facility” (paragraph 44).  She continued that TIL was not required to follow the payment demand process as required by the SC charge, which would be “nonsensical” since SC’s liabilities had been discharged, but it was entitled to follow the process set down in the TIL loan facility and charge leading to the appointment of receivers.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Hats Off

0520 Goblins

Having recently spent a week or so in Somerset enjoying the unseasonal blue skies (but yes, you’re right, the photo is not Somerset!), I’ve managed to accumulate quite a pile of BAILII reports. I don’t want to skip them entirely, as one day I do want to create a searchable index of my posts, so I’ve tried to give credit where I can to other write-ups of the judgments. Much is old news, therefore, but if you missed them the first time around…

Olympic Airlines – failure to meet “establishment” test of European Insolvency Regulation rules out secondary insolvency proceedings.
Jetivia v Bilta – argument that the company, by its liquidators, could not pursue claims based on a fraud to which it was party failed.
Tchenguiz v SFO – liquidators’ reports not subject to litigation privilege, as litigation was not the dominant purpose for their production.
Southern Pacific Personal Loans – liquidators were not data controllers for data processed by company pre-liquidation and, subject to certain conditions, they could destroy the data.
JSC BTA Bank v Usarel Investments – useful comments regarding the absence of inevitable bias of court-appointed receivers when faced with prospect of taking action against party that sought their appointment.
Bestrustees v Kaupthing Singer – reversal of administrators’ part-rejection of pension scheme claim, as changes in assets and liabilities after the actuary’s certificate “irrelevant”.
Wood & Hellard v Gorbunova – receivers’ indemnity out of assets restricted, as respondent’s costs increased due to receivers’ “inappropriate conduct of the application”.
JSC BTA Bank v Ablyazov – subject’s drawing down of £40m loans not “assets” for the purposes of a freezing order.

The Trustees of the Olympic Airlines SA Pension & Life Insurance Scheme v Olympic Airlines SA (6 June 2013) ([2013] EWCA Civ 643)

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/643.html

A successful appeal against a secondary winding-up in England provides clarification of the meaning of “establishment” of the European Insolvency Regulation, but makes it difficult to call on the PPF where a scheme is exposed to an insolvency with main proceedings in another EU/EEA state.

A couple of good summaries (although with differing views on how things may change on the revision of the EIR) are provided by Malti Shah of Taylor Wessing (http://goo.gl/0m0aDZ), and Justin Briggs & Charles Crowne of Burges Salmon (http://goo.gl/P0I3G4).

(UPDATE 07/08/14: The enactment of the Pension Protection Fund (Entry Rules) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 have opened the way for this scheme to access the PPF. The Regulations cease to have effect on 21 July 2017 and set down such specific criteria that it seems unlikely that it will help many more schemes access the PPF. For a more detailed analysis, see Mayer Brown’s article at: http://goo.gl/Xzyx5q)

(UPDATE 21/05/15: the Supreme Court considered an appeal and swiftly dismissed it, endorsing the Court of Appeal’s earlier decision that having three employees in the country involved only in winding up the company’s affairs did not amount to “economic activity”.  The judgment, given on 29 April 2015, can be found at: http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2015/27.html)

Jetivia SA & Anor v Bilta UK Limited (in liquidation) & Ors (31 July 2013) ([2013] EWCA Civ 968)

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/968.html

Bilta, by its liquidators, brought claims for conspiracy and dishonest assistance against the appellants, who sought to defeat the claims on the basis that, as Bilta was party to the illegal act, it could not bring the claims (the ex turpi causa principle). The appeals were dismissed.

Tom Henderson of Herbert Smith Freehills LLP has produced a good summary of the case, I think: http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=ead603c4-454c-4d19-ae54-4ed2196ec771

Tchenguiz & Ors v Director of the Serious Fraud Office & Ors (26 July 2013) ([2013] EWHC 2297 (QB))

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2013/2297.html

The court found that the joint liquidators’ reports were not subject to litigation privilege, as the judge was not convinced that the dominant purpose for which the reports were originally produced was for obtaining information or advice in connection with pending or contemplated litigation, or for conducting or aiding in the conduct of such litigation.

Timothy Wright and Nicholas Greenwood of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP – http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=c1be8860-2d7d-466b-a1b7-3d3be7b93431 – have produced a pretty good summary of the case.

(UPDATE 15/10/13: this decision is subject to an appeal by the liquidators.)
(UPDATE 16/03/14: the liquidators’ appeal, heard on 20/02/14, was dismissed: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2014/136.html. As in the first instance, the judge emphasised “the need to establish which of dual or even multiple purposes was dominant if a plausible claim to privilege was to be made out” (paragraph 22), and felt that the appellants had not demonstrated that the dominant purpose of the communications was for use in actual or anticipated litigation. He agreed with Counsel for the respondents that, even with liquidations of this nature, it cannot be right to assume that everything that a liquidator does is in contemplation of litigation.)

Re. Southern Pacific Personal Loans Limited (8 August 2013) ([2013] EWHC 2485 (Ch))

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2013/2485.html

Liquidators estimated that the costs of responding to data subject access requests (“DSARs”) on a case amounted to £40,000 per month. Thus, they sought directions on whether there was a way of avoiding this ongoing expense.

Mr Justice David Richards concluded that the rights to control the data remained vested in the company and the company remained under a statutory obligation to deal with the DSARs. He stated that, as the liquidators acted as agents of the company, they were not data controllers in respect of the data processed by the company prior to liquidation.

In considering application of the fifth data protection principle – that personal data should not be kept for longer than is necessary for the purposes for which it was processed – David Richards J directed that the liquidators might dispose of all personal data in respect of which the company is the data controller subject to two qualifications: (i) that the company retained sufficient data to enable it to respond to DSARs made before the disposal of data; and (ii) that the liquidators retained sufficient data to enable them to deal with any claims that might be made in the liquidation.

JSC BTA Bank v Usarel Investments Limited (24 June 2013) ([2013] EWHC 1780 (Ch))

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2013/1780.html

The circumstances of this case – involving a litigation receiver seeking a ruling that his appointment to defend an action gave him power to conduct an appeal (which was not granted) – are unlikely to arise often, if at all, but I thought that Mr Justice Warren’s comments on the integrity of court-appointed receivers were worth repeating.

Warren J felt that the receivers and managers (who were appointed after the litigation receiver) were just as competent to decide on whether an appeal should be pursued as the litigation receiver. He stated: “I do not consider that it can be said that, whenever the Court appoints a receiver and manager nominated by an applicant for such an appointment, there is inevitably a justified perception of bias if the appointed nominee needs to consider whether to pursue litigation against the person who applied for his appointment. His position, as an officer of the Court, is different from that of a receiver or manager appointed for instance by the holder of a charge over the company’s assets. A perhaps justified perception of bias in relation to a receiver or manager appointed out of Court should not be allowed to infect the perception of an officer of the court” (paragraph 37).

Bestrustees Plc v Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander Limited (in Administration) (31 July 2013) ([2013] EWHC 2407 (Ch))

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2013/2407.html

Bestrustees appealed against the Administrators’ decision to reduce its proof of debt by £2 million. The Administrators’ reason for reducing the proof was because the actuary had certified that the deficit of the occupational pension scheme (“the section 75 debt”) was £74,652,000, but they had attributed no value to the £2 million deposited by the scheme with the company in a trust account, which at that time was subject to legal proceedings but the funds were paid to the scheme later.

The Administrators were ordered to reverse the £2 million reduction to the proof, primarily because they had not challenged the amount of the section 75 debt, as certified by the actuary, and they had not challenged the nil value attributed to the deposit subject to pending litigation at that time. The Chancellor of the High Court, Sir Terence Etherton, observed: “the Employer Debt Regulations require the assets and liabilities of a pension scheme to be valued, for the purposes of ascertaining the section 75 debt, in a notional exercise immediately before the trigger event, here KSF entering into administration on 8 October 2008. Changes in the value of assets or the extent of liabilities after that time are irrelevant. In the present case, just as the value of the £2 million deposit increased after 8 October 2008 as litigation progressively clarified the rights of those, including the Trustee, entitled to the money in the trust account, so the evidence also shows that the scheme’s ‘buy out’ liabilities, that is to say the notional cost of going into the market to purchase the annuities which would match the scheme’s liabilities to its pensioners and members, also increased substantially after that date” (paragraph 35).

Wood & Hellard v Gorbunova & Ors (5 July 2013) ([2013] EWHC 1935 (Ch))

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2013/1935.html

Receivers were indemnified out of the assets only to the extent of two thirds of the costs of one respondent (and 85% of another’s) on the basis that the respondent’s costs “increased by reason of the inappropriate conduct of the application by the receivers” (paragraph 66).

Mr Justice Morgan acknowledged the “difficulties the receivers found themselves in and their proper desire to get the receivership moving” (paragraph 68), but he felt that the receivers had been unwise in seeking wide-ranging orders, some elements of which were dropped later by the receivers, and that they had persuaded themselves that the respondent was being recalcitrant when the judge felt that the respondent had behaved properly throughout and simply had been subject to legitimate constraints in delivering up papers.

JSC BTA Bank v Ablyazov (25 July 2013) ([2013] EWCA Civ 928)

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/928.html

A freezing order was drafted in a standard form to prohibit Mr Ablyazov from in any way disposing of, dealing with, or diminishing the value of his assets. The bank sought to persuade the court that the loan facility agreements entered into by Mr Ablyazov, which enabled him to instruct the lenders to pay £40 million direct to third parties, were “assets” for the purposes of the freezing order.

The court at first instance agreed that they were choses in action, but its decision that not all choses in action were assets was appealed by the bank. Lord Justice Beatson agreed with the earlier judgment: “a man who is entitled to borrow and does so ‘is not ordinarily to be described as disposing of or dealing with an asset’. As Sir Roy Goode has stated, albeit in the context of section 127 of the Insolvency Act 1986, ‘[i]f there is one thing that is still clear in the increasingly complex financial scene … it is that a liability is not an asset and that an increase in a liability is not by itself a disposition of an asset’” (paragraph 72).


Leave a comment

(1) Court-appointed receiver entitled to payment as officer of the court after discharge; (2) Mothballing business not an ETO reason for dismissals; (3) Wife’s statutory demand set aside as potentially viable defence that she was not properly advised; and (4) A VAT decision survives appeal

0618 Fazenda
Still catching up post-holiday, some court decisions…

Glatt & Ors v Sinclair: Court-appointed receiver continued as officer of the court after discharge and thus was entitled to be paid from receivership assets
Kavanagh & Ors v Crystal Palace FC (2000) Ltd & Ors: Tribunal decision reversed: redundancies made to mothball a business with a view to a going concern sale (whether sooner or much later) did not constitute an ETO reason [UPDATE 26/11/2013: see the more recent post – http://wp.me/p2FU2Z-4I – for a summary of the Court of Appeal’s decision reversing this judgment]
Welsh v Bank of Ireland (UK) Plc: a Northern Ireland case acting as a reminder to lenders seeking PGs from spouses
HMRC & Ford Motor Co Ltd v Brunel Motor Co Ltd: an appeal against a VAT Tribunal decision is dismissed

Court-appointed receiver entitled to payment as officer of the court after discharge

Glatt & Ors v Sinclair [2013] EWCA Civ 241 (26 March 2013)

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/241.html

Summary: Although a receiver appointed by the court under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 was discharged in 2006, he was entitled to be paid from the receivership assets his remuneration and expenses (subject to the court’s approval of the quantum) incurred after discharge on the basis that “he continues to be an officer of the court (and subject to the supervision of the court) to the extent that he still has functions to perform with a view to a final conclusion of the administration of the receivership.”

The Detail: In 2006, Mr Glatt successfully appealed against a confiscation order, which was set aside; this was swiftly followed by the discharge of a 2001 receivership order made under the Criminal Justice Act 1988. There followed a number of disputes between Mr Glatt and the former receiver, in particular regarding the Receiver’s entitlement to exercise a lien over the assets covered by the receivership order to meet his remuneration and costs. In December 2010, an order found in favour of the receiver for his costs plus interest and, after further consideration by a costs judge, another order was granted in June 2012 confirming that the 2010 order did extend to the receiver’s post-discharge remuneration, expenses and disbursements, and that the receiver was entitled to payment out of the receivership assets.

In this appeal, the appellants sought to argue that the court had no power to order payment of post-discharge remuneration and expenses.

Firstly, Lord Justice Davis did not believe it would be just to allow the appellants to argue this point. He felt that the appellants could have been in no doubt that the receiver had proceeded on the basis that he was entitled to claim post-discharge remuneration and expenses; they had had an earlier opportunity to debate the point, but had not. Nevertheless, Davis LJ proceeded to consider the question of the receiver’s entitlement.

The judge noted that there may be a number of tasks required of a receiver post-discharge, for example the preparation and filing of closing accounts, and it was his view that: “Where a receivership order made under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 is discharged, the receiver continues to be an officer of the court (and subject to the supervision of the court) to the extent that he still has functions to perform with a view to a final conclusion of the administration of the receivership. It would be a wholly unsatisfactory and arbitrary state of affairs were it to be otherwise” (paragraph 41). In this case, the significant post-discharge work of the receiver had been substantially in dealing with the appellants’ challenges on issues such as ownership of assets and the extent of the lien. “In my view, therefore, the general principle being that the receiver looks to payment from assets under the control of the court (not from the parties), the receiver here continued, after discharge, to act as an officer of the court and to be subject to its supervision in and about the enforcement of his lien” (paragraph 44), although the asset-owner was not left entirely without remedy, as the receiver’s remuneration and expenses were still subject to the court’s approval.

“Mothballing” for future going concern sale not an ETO reason for dismissals

Kavanagh & Ors v Crystal Palace FC (2000) Limited & Ors [2012] UKEAT 0354 (20 November 2012)

http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2012/0354_12_2011.html

Summary: The appeal judge decided that the Tribunal had erred in law in misapplying the facts it had found to the statutory regime. Following Spaceright v Baillavoine, an economic, technical or organisational (“ETO”) reason must be an intention to change the workforce and to continue to conduct the business, as distinct from the purpose of selling it. In this case, an intention to mothball the club with a view to selling it as a going concern – whether to purchasers already on the scene or others later – should have led the Tribunal to a conclusion that there was no ETO reason and thus the liabilities should have passed from the transferor to the transferee.

The Detail: Although an apparently old decision, it has only recently appeared on BAILII. The company’s administration began in January 2010 and over the next few months the administrator attempted to sell the club, but it proved difficult mainly because the sale was dependent upon the purchasers also acquiring the stadium, the sale of which was not in the administrator’s control.

When the sale had not been completed at the end of the football season, the administrator decided to “mothball” the club. He prepared to make the majority of the staff redundant and the potential purchasers were warned of the plan and invited to avoid this eventuality by providing ongoing funding and finalising a purchase of the stadium. In response, the potential purchasers suggested that it might be best for them to withdraw their bid in the hope that someone else might come forward in the short time left. The Honourable Mr Justice Wilkie at this appeal said: “It is clear that what was going on, to some extent, was by way of brinkmanship” (paragraph 8). The administrator explained to the press that due to lack of funds there was no alternative but to make staff redundant and that the players would have to be next, which likely would result in the potential purchasers withdrawing. The first Tribunal commented that the growing media and public pressure had the “desired effect and an agreement for sale of the stadium was made within a few days” (paragraph 11), with the club’s sale and the CVA approval following thereafter.

The first Tribunal had concluded that the administrator’s primary reason for the redundancies was to mothball the club in the hope that it could be sold some time in the future and that it was not in the administrator’s contemplation that publicity of the redundancies might lead to the swift sale of the stadium and consequently the club. Wilkie J commented that this “is a wholly surprising conclusion” that “flies in the face of the evidence” (paragraphs 29 and 30). However, he continued that this divergence in opinions between himself and the Tribunal judge made no real difference, because, either way, the administrator still intended to sell the club as a going concern, whether to the existing potential purchasers or to others some time in the future. “It is very clear from all the findings of fact that the Tribunal made that the only possible conclusion that they could draw was that the dismissal of the Claimants was for the purpose of selling the business, albeit it was not at that stage certain that there would be a sale, nor necessarily to whom the sale would be, but, in our judgment, by reason of the authorities to which we have been referred, that is not relevant for the purposes of the application of Regulations 4 and 7” (paragraph 31).

The key authority to which Wilkie J referred was the case of Spaceright Europe Ltd v Baillavoine and Anor, which concluded that “for an ETO reason to be available, there must be an intention to change the workforce and to continue to conduct the business, as distinct from the purpose of selling it”. However, in this case the administrator had no intention to continue to conduct the business as such “but to preserve it so that it could, in new hands, if that came about, resume the conduct of business” (paragraph 30). Thus the judge concluded that the Tribunal had erred in law in misapplying the facts to the statutory regime; it should have concluded that the dismissals were not for an ETO reason but with a view to sale or liquidation; and therefore the liability for the various claims should have passed from the transferor to the transferee.

[UPDATE 26/11/2013: The Court of Appeal reversed this decision on 13/11/2013 (http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/1410.html), which is the subject of a more recent post: http://wp.me/p2FU2Z-4I. The appeal judges distinguished between the facts of Spaceright and this case, in relation to which they were satisfied that the dismissals were for an ETO reason; the dismissals had been necessary to reduce the wage bill in order to continue running the business.]

A knowledge of case law helps when giving advice!

Welsh v Bank of Ireland (UK) Plc [2013] NIMaster 6 (11 March 2013)

http://www.bailii.org/nie/cases/NIHC/Master/2013/6.html

Summary: In this Northern Ireland case, Ms Welsh succeeded in her application to have set aside a statutory demand in pursuit of monies owed under a personal guarantee of a loan to her husband. As the Bank had not evidenced that all of the core minimum requirements described in Etridge with regard to obtaining proper legal advice had been met, the judge felt that Ms Welsh had a potentially viable defence, which was sufficient cause to order the setting aside of the statutory demand.

The Detail: Ms Welsh applied to have the Bank’s statutory demand against her set aside on the ground that the Bank had constructive notice of alleged undue influence and/or misrepresentation by her husband and that she did not receive proper legal advice prior to signing the personal guarantee, which was the subject of the statutory demand.

Master Kelly noted that “an applicant debtor need only demonstrate a genuine arguable case, or a potentially viable defence to the dispute requiring investigation, to succeed in preventing legal proceedings issuing by way of insolvency proceedings. It follows therefore, that in the case of an application to set aside a statutory demand, the hearing is not for the purposes of a trial of the dispute; rather it is for the court to determine whether the applicant’s grounds for disputing the debt constitute a potentially viable defence” (paragraph 16). The judge looked to the case of The Royal Bank of Scotland v Etridge (No 2) for the core minimum requirements of a lender when a wife offers to guarantee her husband’s debts. In this case, the Bank had not evidenced any direct communication with Ms Welsh and the solicitor’s confirmation of advice in a letter after the guarantee had been signed was not sufficient evidence to prove that all the core minimum requirements had been met (it also cannot have helped that the solicitor admitted that he was not familiar with the Etridge case). Consequently, the judge felt that Ms Welsh had an arguable case that would require a full trial. As she had demonstrated a potentially viable defence, the judge ordered that the statutory demand be set aside.

And finally… briefly… a VAT case

HMRC & Ford Motor Company Limited v Brunel Motor Company Limited (in administrative receivership) [2013] UKUT 006 (TCC) (19 March 2013)

http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKUT/TCC/2013/6.html

Summary: The Upper Tribunal dismissed an appeal to a First Tier Tribunal decision of September 2011 that Ford’s actions to re-possess vehicles subject to a supply agreement (which had terminated automatically due to the receivership) and issue credit notes were unilateral acts and thus there had been no agreed rescission of the agreement with the consequence that the credit notes had no effect for VAT purposes.


Leave a comment

Three cases: (1) Marketing failures did not amount to breach of duty to take reasonable care; (2) CVA no protection for persistent non-payer of rent; and (3) marshalling across two debtors

Kayrul Meah v GE Home Finance Ltd – the court decided that the best price reasonably achievable for a property was obtained, despite flaws in the marketing process
Shah Din & Sons Ltd (CVA) v Dargan Properties Management Ltd – a Northern Ireland case, which I think demonstrates the need to consider the context of a company’s activity before presenting a CVA proposal
Highbury Pension Fund Management Company & Anor v Zirfin Investments Ltd & Ors – a case for insolvency geeks: an example of marshalling security over a second debtor

Shortcomings in marketing a property not considered fatal to discharging duty to take reasonable care to obtain the best price reasonably achievable

Kayrul Meah v GE Money Home Finance Limited ([2013] EWHC 20 (Ch)) (18 January 2013)

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2013/20.html

Summary: The claimant sought compensation from his mortgagee for allegedly selling a property at an undervalue. Whilst there was no formal insolvency or IP involved – the sale was conducted by the mortgagee in possession – I thought it provided some useful pointers on how the court views the duty to take reasonable care to obtain the best price reasonably achievable for a property. The judge levelled some criticisms at the marketing process, but ultimately decided that the property had been sufficiently exposed to the market.

The Detail: The property was put on the market at the beginning of 2006 for £185,000 through a local agent who had valued the property between £165,000 and £185,000. Within a matter of days, offers were received at and then above this asking price. Meah complained that the asking price had been set too low and in February 2006 GE consulted another agent who valued the property at £235,000 and suggested raising the asking price to £245,000. The local agent reluctantly did this and the property was sold in March 2006 to a developer for £221,500. Based on the value of the property post-development, Meah’s expert assessed the “true market value” of the property at the time of the sale having regard to the obvious development potential at £325,000.

The claimant’s counsel argued that the low asking price depressed offers from potential purchasers and that the low asking price had been set because the agents had failed to appreciate the property’s development potential. GE’s agent argued that the asking prices needed to be set to attract a good level of interest and that many of the recipients of the sales particulars were property developers to whom the development potential would have been obvious. The judge was not wholly convinced that putting a grossly inadequate asking price on a property to generate interest was sensible and he observed that the agent had valued the property at less than the asking price, so clearly the agent had been mistaken as to the value. Neither was the judge entirely convinced that it was sensible not even to mention the development potential in the sales particulars, although he also was not convinced that, as the claimant had argued, the agent should have gone to the length of commissioning a residual development assessment, noting that potential purchasers would carry out their own assessments. GE’s agent also came in for criticism when the court learned that he had expressed to the then front-runners who had offered £218,500 his view that the revised asking price, which he had been instructed by his clients to seek, was unrealistic. The judge referred to the principle in Raja v Austin Gray that, if the valuers were negligent, the borrower had a good claim against the receiver who did not discharge his duty of care to the borrower by entrusting the sale to apparently competent professionals.

However, notwithstanding these shortcomings, the judge concluded that the property had been sufficiently exposed to the market to enable all potential purchasers to bid for it if they so wished. With regard to the expert’s valuation of £325,000, the judge stated: “unless a bidding war developed between two or more such developers who had made similar calculations, this sum cannot be said to represent the best price reasonably achievable for the Property at that time” (paragraph 23). The judge used a phrase that IPs know well: “The market value of a property is the price which a willing purchaser is prepared to pay for the property to a willing vendor after the property has been exposed to the market for a reasonable period of time”.

It should be noted that the accepted practice of sales by mortgagee involves the advertising by so-called “public notice” in a local newspaper inviting further offers above the price accepted subject to contract. It appears that GE’s agent relied on this process to flush out the best offer, rather than seeking sealed bids.

N Ireland: CVA no protection for persistent non-payer of rent

Shah Din & Sons Limited (CVA) v Dargan Properties Management Limited ([2012] NICh 34) (5 December 2012)

http://www.bailii.org/nie/cases/NIHC/Ch/2012/34.html

Summary: Although this is a Northern Ireland case, I feel that it serves as a reminder to take care to consider the context of a company’s pursuit of a CVA, whether it is fair and whether the company’s past behaviour supports the case for its protection.

In refusing to grant relief from forfeiture in this case, the court considered “the backdrop of culpable and wilful non observance of [the company’s] obligations” (paragraph 22).

The Detail: The company in CVA applied for relief from forfeiture. The only asset in the CVA was a lease on a property that the company had vacated some six years earlier, but which the landlord had only re-entered and recovered possession of shortly before the proposal was put together. After exploring the chronology of events, the court found that the company had wilfully failed to pay rent over a number of years; Burgess J stated that the company had “to all intents and purposes taken a free ride from the outset” (paragraph 21) and he found that “the plaintiff’s attitude towards its responsibilities in the face of legal proceedings and warnings has been culpable to the highest degree” (paragraph 22). The judge also had difficulty with the terms of the arrangement, which introduced an uncertainty as to what would happen if the lease had not been assigned in the CVA’s 18-month period, noting that the landlord would continue to have to meet its obligations to the Council and to maintain the property during that time. Relief from forfeiture was refused.

A case for insolvency geeks: marshalling across two debtors

Highbury Pension Fund Management Company & Anor v Zirfin Investments Limited & Ors ([2013] EWHC 238 (Ch)) (14 February 2013)

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2013/238.html

Summary: This is a complex case, with which, to be honest, I only persevered out of a sense of stubbornness that I would not be beaten! It demonstrates the exception to the general rule that there must be a single debtor for marshalling. If marshalling holds no interest for you, then you might want to stop reading now… but if ever you do want to explore the principles of marshalling, this summary might come in handy.

The Detail: Barclays Bank Plc loaned monies to Zirfin Investments Limited and to four associated companies, “the Affiliates”. The loans were secured by means of legal charges over a property owned by Zirfin, “No. 31”, and properties owned by the Affiliates. As additional security for the loans to the Affiliates, Barclays also had the benefit of a guarantee from Zirfin, secured by means of the same charge over No. 31. Subsequent to Barclays’ charge, two other charges were granted over No. 31, in favour of Highbury Pension Fund Management Company and Cezanne Trading (described collectively as “Highbury”).

When Zirfin and the Affiliates defaulted on the loans, receivers were appointed over No. 31 and the eventual sale proceeds were applied to settle Zirfin’s debt to Barclays and to settle in part the Affiliates’ debt to Barclays by reason of Zirfin’s guarantee. The immediate consequence, therefore, appeared to be that Highbury had lost the benefit of their charges over No. 31 and sat as unsecured creditors in relation to the monies owed to them by Zirfin. However, this would not have been the case had Barclays looked to the Affiliates’ properties to discharge their debt, rather than calling on Zirfin’s guarantee.

To further complicate matters, the Serious Fraud Office obtained a Restraint Order over the assets of Mr Kallakis (consultant to a shareholder of Zirfin and the Affiliates) and the SFO regarded the assets held by Zirfin (including No. 31) and the Affiliates as subject to the Restraint Order.

The questions for the court were: (i) is a creditor of a guarantor entitled to marshal (or be subrogated to) securities which have been granted to another creditor of the guarantor by the primary debtor liable under the guaranteed debt and (ii) does any such claim to marshalling or subrogation take precedence over prohibitions contained in the Restraint Order?

The principle of marshalling “operates where a debtor (D) owes money to two creditors (C1 and C2), and where C1 has security over two properties (or some other call on two funds) (S1 and S2) but C2 has security over (or a right of resort to) only one (S1). In those circumstances C1 has a choice of recovering his money out of either S1 or S2. If C1 chooses to enforce the security over (or resort to) S2, then that leaves S1 available for C2. But if C1 chooses to enforce security over (or resort to) S1, then C2 has nothing to look to, and the security over S2 is not relied on at all, and becomes available to unsecured creditors (amongst whom C2 is now numbered). In that situation, in order to do justice equity applies a principle of maximum distribution and by a process akin to subrogation in effect gives C2 the benefit of C1’s unused security over S2, thereby ensuring that both C1 and C2 are paid by D as far as possible” (paragraph 15).

In this usual application of the principle, the debtor, D, is common to both creditors, C1 and C2. However, in this case, the Affiliates were debtors only to Barclays, not also to Highbury. Counsel for Highbury submitted that “although the general rule is that two or more creditors must be able to resort to two funds belonging to the debtor, this general rule is subject to an exception where… there is a common debtor who owes money to both creditors and he has a right, as between himself and a debtor who owes money to only one creditor, to ensure that the latter bears the ultimate liability” (paragraph 25). Counsel for Highbury acknowledged that there was no decided case in England and Wales that applied this principle, but relied on statements in text books and decisions in other jurisdictions.

In Norris J’s view, the doctrine of marshalling applied in this case: “Barclays has a claim against Zirfin as surety. It can look to two funds to satisfy that indebtedness. The first is the Zirfin Charge. The second is the Affiliates’ Charge. As regards Highbury’s claim to marshal, the Affiliates’ Charges can be bought into account (even though they are not over property belonging to Zirfin) because in equity Zirfin could call on the Affiliates to bear the burden of the debt and the Affiliates had the Affiliates’ Properties to enable them to do so” (paragraph 45). A limitation that Norris J noted regarding the rights acquired by Highbury on marshalling was that, “if Zirfin would not be subrogated to Barclays’ rights until such time as the Barclays debt had been entirely repaid, then Highbury cannot by a process akin to subrogation become entitled to any greater right” (paragraph 50).

Then the judge considered the SFO’s argument that Highbury has no “interest” in the Affiliates’ properties subject to the Restraint Order. Norris J did not believe that the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 should be construed so as to “enrich the Crown by depriving Highbury of the right it otherwise would have had to marshal the securities” (paragraph 68). He therefore held “that the actions of Barclays have not deprived Highbury of the ‘interest’ which was previously recognised by the Restraint Order, and that if Highbury were to seek to bring itself within paragraph 25 of the Restraint Order or to seek a variation of the Restraint Order so as to make clear that it (rather than Barclays) was now contingently entitled to enforce the Affiliates’ Charges, the discretion given to the court ought to be exercised to permit that variation” (paragraph 70).

[UPDATE 26/11/2013: On 03/10/2013, Highbury’s appeal was allowed in relation to an element of the earlier decision that Highbury was not entitled to realise the securities until Barclays had been paid out in full (http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/1283.html). In a more recent post, http://wp.me/p2FU2Z-4I, I summarise the appeal decision, which highlighted the difference between rights of subrogation and equity of exoneration.]


1 Comment

Three pre-Christmas judgments: (1) Bankrupt refused suspension of discharge to pursue IVA; (2) Another failed attempt to prove England COMI; and (3) Receiver refused payment of costs after restraining order set aside

Below, I catch up on some pre-Christmas judgments:

• Bramston v Haut – reverses earlier judgment and decides that the bankrupt’s attempt to suspend his automatic discharge in order to propose an IVA fails (and includes a warning about the statutory requirements for Nominees’ reports)
• The O’Donnells v The Bank of Ireland – decision on COMI sends away Irish couple from obtaining E&W Bankruptcy Orders
• CPS v The Eastenders Group – upholds decision that Court-appointed Receiver was not entitled to be paid from third party assets, but also decides that, at least under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, neither should the CPS pay. Note: this is subject to a Supreme Court appeal. (UPDATE 08/05/14: The Supreme Court has allowed the Receiver’s appeal that his fees be paid by the CPS (but has maintained that the third party assets are out of his reach). For a more detailed summary, see http://wp.me/p2FU2Z-6S.)

Appeal Court sees sense in Trustee objecting to bankrupt who sought suspension of discharge to pursue IVA

Bramston v Haut [2012] EWCA Civ 1637 (14 December 2012)
http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2012/1637.html

Summary: The appeal was allowed; the judge’s view was that the earlier order suspending the debtor’s discharge from bankruptcy ought to have been set aside. Lord Justice Kitchin believed that the discharge was suspended, not because of the debtor’s failure to comply with his obligations or for any other purpose that might be within S279(3), but to give the debtor time to put forward an IVA proposal. The judge stated that, it seemed to him, this was “impermissible and outside the scope of the jurisdiction conferred by S279(3)” (paragraph 52).

The judgment includes a reminder on the necessary wording of Nominees’ reports, which, although it surprised me that an IP could have slipped up on this, may serve as a warning to IPs to double-check that their own reports meet the statutory criteria.

The Detail: A good summary of the pre-appeal position is given on page 18 of Lawrence Graham’s August 2012 edition of The Angle. In brief, the debtor had applied under S279(3) for the suspension of his discharge from bankruptcy so that he could put forward an IVA proposal, but the Trustee had opposed the suspension as he had concerns about various aspects of the proposal. The previous judge had dismissed the Trustee’s challenge on the basis that approval of the IVA proposal was a matter for the creditors and he viewed the Trustee as unreasonable for refusing to make the S279(3) application himself in order to block the IVA proposal.

The judge on appeal considered that the purpose of the power conferred by S279 is to extend the bankruptcy to ensure that the bankrupt continues to suffer the disabilities of an undischarged bankrupt until he complies with his obligations. At the time that this debtor had applied for the discharge suspension, his position was that he had complied with all of the Trustee’s demands, albeit that later the Trustee contended the opposite when he sought to have the order set aside.

Kitchin LJ suggested that the debtor could have applied for an interim order under S253, which could, via S255(4), include suspension of the automatic discharge. He pointed out that, to do so, the debtor would have to have given notice of the application both to the OR and the Trustee, which he did not do.

Such an application also would have required the submission of the Nominee’s report on the IVA proposal. In this case, although a Nominee’s report was submitted, it did not comply with S256A or S256(1) as it stated merely that the debtor, not the Nominee, was satisfied that the IVA had a reasonable prospect of being approved and implemented. As I mentioned above, perhaps we should all make doubly-sure that Nominees’ reports are compliant in this regard.

Consequently, the judge concluded that, even if the debtor had applied for an interim order under S253, “it would inevitably have foundered” and thus “the judge fell into error concluding that the court had jurisdiction” to make the order suspending the discharge (paragraphs 64 and 65).
In considering whether the Trustee had been unreasonable to refuse to make an application himself under S279, Kitchin LJ stated: “I do not understand it to be one of the duties of a trustee that he must respond affirmatively to a bankrupt’s request that he co-operate in the promotion of a proposal for an IVA. Furthermore, in the circumstances of this case, the Trustee believed that Mr Haut was in continuing default of his obligations and that the Second Proposal was defective, prejudicial to the interests of the creditors who had no personal connection to Mr Haut and appeared to be designed to thwart his efforts to carry out a proper investigation into Mr Haut’s affairs. Yet the order Mr Haut invited the Trustee to seek was intended to give Mr Haut an opportunity to put the Second Proposal before his creditors and thereafter secure the annulment of his bankruptcy with all the consequences the Trustee was anxious to avoid” (paragraph 73) and he thus concluded that this was far from a case where the Trustee had acted perversely.

Another case of a failed attempt to prove an England COMI

O’Donnell & Anor v The Bank of Ireland [2012] EWHC 3749 (Ch) (21 December 2012)
http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2011/3749.html

Summary: An apparent permanent move to London prior to the presentation of bankruptcy petitions was insufficient to prove that the debtors’ COMI had moved to England, because it was not ascertainable to third parties.

The Detail: The Bank opposed petitions by Mr and Dr O’Donnell for English bankruptcy orders, presented in March 2012, alleging that the debtors’ COMI had always been Ireland, where its own petitions had been adjourned awaiting outcome of the EWHC case.

The O’Donnells maintained that they had left Ireland permanently in December 2011. Dr O’Donnell said that “she did not wish to live in a ‘bankocracy’”, “‘the onslaught and negative publicity, et cetera, that the Bank of Ireland have generated against us in the media has created such an atmosphere of hate and nastiness that I think we no longer wish to live in Ireland’” (paragraph 50).

Although the judge accepted that the O’Donnells intended to stay in London, he considered that the O’Donnells’ COMI was still in Ireland when the petitions were presented, largely because that is what it seemed an objective observer would have concluded by reason of information held on the Irish Companies Registration Office, the UK Companies House, and on the website of one of the O’Donnells’ companies. Consequently, the O’Donnells’ bankruptcy petitions were dismissed.

(10/10/13 Update: The O’Donnells’ application for a review of the above decision was dismissed on 06/03/13 – see http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2013/489.html – and on 28/08/13 they were adjudicated bankrupt in the High Court in Ireland – see http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IEHC/2013/H395.html.)

Court-appointed Receiver left out of pocket after court decides third party assets no longer caught by order

Crown Prosecution Service v The Eastenders Group & Anor [2012] EWCA Crim 2436 (23 November 2012)
http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/2012/2436.html

Summary: Receivership and restraining orders enabled the Receiver to realise assets of a number of companies, but later the orders were set aside and, although the court was sympathetic to the Receiver, it concluded that to allow the Receiver to discharge his costs from the third party’s asset realisations would violate that third party’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. The judges also concluded that the court had no power to order the Crown Prosecution Service to settle the Receiver’s costs, although it left the door open to the Receiver to seek a common law remedy. (UPDATE 08/01/2014: this is subject to a Supreme Court appeal.)

The Detail: A good summary of this case was published in Accountancy Age on 13 December 2012 (“Receivers’ remuneration not in the bag following High Court battle”), but for the sake of completeness, I thought that I would add my own version here.

Orders were granted appointing a Receiver and restraining two individuals from dealing with their assets or the assets of a number of their companies, “Eastenders”. On appeal, the orders were set aside and the court held that Eastenders’ assets were not realisable property held by the individuals. The Receiver applied for an order that his costs be paid from Eastenders’ assets, but the judge declined to grant such an order on the basis that it would violate Eastenders’ rights under Article 1 Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“A1P1”). At a second hearing, the court concluded that it was unacceptable to deny the Receiver payment of his costs and thus it ordered that the CPS pay the Receiver’s costs – this was the subject of this appeal.

In order to review the CPS’ liability to pay the Receiver’s costs, the judge first re-considered the basis under which it had been decided that the Receiver was not entitled to payment from Eastenders’ assets. Lord Justice Laws considered that, although the previous appeal court had decided that Eastenders’ assets were not “realisable property”, the Receiver was entitled to rely on the original order up to the point that it was set aside and thus he felt that the Receiver could recover his costs from what had been considered receivership property.

Laws LJ did not view the result in this case as a violation of Eastenders’ rights under A1P1, but this is where his view differed from the other two appeal court judges. For assets to be subject to a receivership order, there must be “reasonable cause to believe that the alleged offender has benefitted from his criminal conduct” (S40(2)(b) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 “POCA”) and, on the documents presented to court, there must be “a good arguable case… for treating particular assets as the realisable property of the defendant” (CPS v Compton, as quoted in paragraph 78 of this judgment), but in this case the appeal that resulted in the setting aside of the receivership and restraint orders concluded that neither of these two conditions were met and thus the appointment of the Receiver over Eastenders’ property had been unlawful. A1P1 states that “no one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law”; in this case, the Receiver’s claim to Eastenders’ property did not meet the exception, as the Receiver’s appointment had been unlawful.

But was the Receiver entitled to payment from the CPS? The court decided that it had no power under POCA so to order, although Laws LJ noted that the Receiver had not appealed the discharge of his lien and commented that in his opinion the lien was good. In conclusion, the other two appeal judges stated: “We acknowledge that the outcome of this appeal will be clearly unsatisfactory to a receiver who has undertaken work and incurred expenses in the expectation that he would be both rewarded and recompensed out of assets identified for him by the CPS. Our judgment does not exclude the possibility that he may have a common law remedy against those who sought his appointment. All that it does is to establish that he cannot be paid out of the companies’ assets in circumstances in which the legal basis for such provision is absent” (paragraph 72).

(UPDATE 08/01/2014: an appeal lodged by the Receiver is scheduled to appear before the Supreme Court on 24 February 2014. UPDATE 08/05/2014: the Supreme Court allowed the Receiver’s appeal that his fees be paid by the CPS. For a more detailed summary, see http://wp.me/p2FU2Z-6S.)