If a managing director of a company makes payments after a substantive insolvency, they may be liable for damages under the Statute on Limited Liability Companies. Managing a company in a crisis situation requires special diligence and care. In order to avoid unpleasant surprises later on, where possible, the admissibility of envisaged future payments should be checked in advance.
The Insolvency Code was recently amended in response to the introduction of the EU Insolvency Regulation, creating – for the first time – specific rules for the insolvency of corporate groups in Austria. From a practical standpoint, this approach is welcome, as it may lead to faster and more efficient insolvency proceedings. It remains to be seen how the new rules will affect insolvency practice and whether coordination proceedings according to the EU regulation will be applied in practice.
In some cases of insolvency, it may be necessary to take special measures which affect the debtor or third parties in order to prevent the insolvent assets from diminishing. These cases are governed by Section 78 of the Insolvency Code, which offers the possibility of ordering individual protective measures with regard to the debtor and third parties. In particular, recent case law has extended the scope of application of these protective measures.
One of the Bankruptcy Code's aims is to allow trustworthy debtors the right to be discharged from debts that remain unpaid after insolvency proceedings. However, in practice, low-income debtors cannot always avail of residual debt relief. As such, the government recently introduced an amendment to the personal bankruptcy process in its 2017/2018 Modern Insolvency Law Culture of Failure working programme.
Recent changes to the Insolvency Code have considerably expanded the obligations of shareholders in insolvency situations. For example, a new obligation has been introduced which requires majority shareholders in so-called 'companies without management' to file for insolvency. The language of these new provisions remains vague and provides significant flexibility in interpretation, which inevitably results in a number of legal uncertainties.
The digitisation of different insolvency proceedings (ie, bankruptcies, judicial reorganisations and company voluntary agreements) recently reached a new milestone. All new insolvency files must now be commenced through the Central Solvency Register (Regsol) and followed up on the same system. Regsol offers a number of new features, including the electronic storage of insolvency files and a new declaration of debt form.
If reorganisation proceedings are unsuccessful and lead to bankruptcy proceedings, creditors with new claims resulting from services performed during the reorganisation proceedings often find it difficult to receive payment of their privileged claims when they are in competition with a general pledge on the debtor's estate that is held by a bank. The Supreme Court's recent judgment in this regard will help such privileged creditors to receive payment from the bankrupt estate.
The legislature recently took steps to improve the follow-up monitoring of companies in financial difficulty and strengthen the fight against inactive companies. Companies that fail to pay their social security or value added tax debts, file their annual accounts or fulfil other administrative obligations on time will now appear on the radar of the Commercial Court's Investigative Services much earlier. The services' recently extended powers of action could lead to unfortunate surprises for some companies.
Parliament recently voted into law the federal government's proposal to introduce a new chapter on insolvency into the Code of Economic Law. Among other things, the new chapter concerns the potential liability of former directors of a bankrupt company. Some of the new principles already partially existed in Belgian law, but have been amended by the new chapter, which also broadens certain concepts which will thus apply to a wider range of entities.
The Business Continuity Act aims to enable debtors in difficulty to continue their activities by restructuring their debts. One of the proceedings that the act introduced is the reorganisation of debt pursuant to a restructuring plan. The restructuring plan may consist of several measures, including the waiver of certain debts. However, none of these measures (with the exception of a temporary stay on the enforcement of claims) may be imposed on secured creditors, unless they expressly agree to it.
In the latest judgment regarding the DPH liquidation, the BVI Court of Appeal upheld the appointment of BVI provisional liquidators in respect of a Swiss company and clarified that evidence of dissipation of assets (in the Mareva sense) may not be a pre-condition to the appointment of provisional liquidators.
Claims of passing off are rare in the British Virgin Islands and a recent attempt to bring a BVI action in relation to goodwill held outside the jurisdiction has failed. The court examined the law and relevant English authorities on the tort of passing off. It opined that goodwill is governed by territoriality and that in order to succeed, the claimant must prove that it has goodwill in the form of customers in the jurisdiction in which the suit is undertaken.
'Forum shopping' is the practice of choosing the most favourable jurisdiction in which to bring a claim. In principle, there is nothing wrong in seeking to have a case heard in the forum which is most favourable to the client. However, it can lead to some fierce jurisdictional battles, particularly in insolvency, where the choice between debtor and creditor-friendly procedures can be stark. The Commercial Court has been wrestling with this situation over the past 10 months.
The BVI Commercial Court recently clarified whether the BVI Insolvency Act 2003 provides a basis for liquidators to draw fees on account before having formal approval from either a creditors' committee or the court. The court also specifically provided that newly appointed liquidators can draw payments of up to 80% on account of their reasonable remuneration and expenses on an interim basis without the need to obtain prior approval from the creditors' committee or the court.
The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal has held that a liquidator cannot use his or her statutory power pursuant to Section 112(2) of the Companies Law to rectify the register of members where the effect would be to override investors' proprietary rights. It held that the section does not aim to provide for substitution of incorrect net asset value if, despite its incorrectness, it has been calculated in accordance with a member's contractual rights.
The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal recently provided some clarity on the ranking of priority in the liquidation of amounts owing to shareholders and former shareholders of a company operating as an open-ended investment fund. The decision has confirmed that Section 37(7)(a) of the Cayman Islands Companies Law applies where a shareholder has merely accrued the right to redeem his or her shares, but has not yet completed the redemption process prescribed by the company's articles.
A recent decision by the Supreme Court of New York Appellate Division has affirmed that the law of the Cayman Islands applied on the question of the law applicable to derivative claims brought by a shareholder of a Cayman Islands company in the New York jurisdiction. Any shareholder of a Cayman Islands company that wishes to bring a derivative action must commence the action in the Cayman Islands.
Members of Parliament have proposed legal reforms with the aim of regulating the procedure for the appointment of receivers by debenture holders. The issues under scrutiny are that borrowers have no say during the procedure for the appointment of a receiver, and that issues with the impartiality of the receiver can arise on many occasions. However, the proposal has encountered the resistance of financial institutions.
A district court recently sentenced a company in liquidation that had once been Cyprus's biggest grocery retail company. The sentence concerned the issuance of a cheque with insufficient funds. According to the court, the fact that the company was under liquidation did not negate the fact that a sentence should be proportionate to the offence and act as a deterrent. The case is a useful illustration of how companies in liquidation should be treated when it comes to the imposition of fines.
The annual creditors' meeting of former state-owned air carrier Cyprus Airways recently took place. The state stepped in following the company's collapse and paid the majority of employees the money owed to them. Due to this payment, and by virtue of Section 300 of the Companies Law, the state became a preferential creditor, having made a payment that was owed to preferential creditors as a third party on behalf of the company.
The Supreme Court recently examined the correct application of Rule 56 of the Companies (Winding-up) Rules, which regulates the procedure to be followed by the chair at a creditors' meeting in the case of an objection by a creditor regarding whether a proof of debt by another creditor must be accepted in order to determine the creditor's voting rights.