I INSOLVENCY LAW, POLICY AND PROCEDURE
i Statutory framework and substantive law
The legislative framework underpinning UK insolvency law2 is principally provided by the Insolvency Act 1986 (IA 1986) and the Insolvency Rules 2016 (IR 2016),3 which apply to both companies and individuals. They also apply in modified form to certain forms of partnership. Elsewhere, ‘special insolvency regimes’ apply to certain regulated entities, including credit institutions, insurance undertakings and utility companies (see Section I.vi).
The IA 1986 and IR 2016 are supplemented by other legislation, such as the Companies Act 2006 (including the statutory provisions relating to schemes of arrangement used in restructurings) (CA 2006), the Company Directors’ Disqualification Act 1986 and the Law of Property Act 1925 (which, in some cases, governs the ability of a secured creditor to enforce its security).
While European Union law has only a limited effect on the domestic insolvency framework,4 it governs jurisdiction and recognition in many EU cross-border cases. On 23 June 2016, a referendum was held in which the British public voted to leave the EU, and on 29 March 2017 the prime minister gave formal notice of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw, in accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, triggering the two-year period for negotiating the terms on which the UK will leave (which could be extended by mutual consent). It is not yet clear what form the exit will take, or what the legal consequences will be. The existing legal framework is expected to remain in place until the UK leaves (and it is possible that transitional arrangements may preserve some or all of it for a longer period), and is, therefore, still discussed in detail in this chapter. The implications for the cross-border insolvency framework are discussed further in Section V.iv.
In the restructuring and insolvency context, the most significant piece of EU legislation is the EC Regulation on Insolvency Proceedings (recast) (No. 2015/848) (the Recast ECIR), which limits the jurisdiction of the English courts to open main insolvency proceedings. The Recast ECIR is directly applicable in all EU Member States except Denmark,5 in cases where the debtor’s centre of main interests (COMI) is situated in an EU Member State. It imposes a framework of jurisdictional rules governing the opening of all proceedings that fall within its scope and will override the national law of EU Member States where necessary. Certain types of debtor are excluded from the Recast ECIR, the key examples being credit institutions and insurance undertakings, which are subject to separate regulations. Most provisions of the Recast ECIR came into force on 26 June 2017, following an extensive review and subsequent revision of the EC Regulation on Insolvency Proceedings (No. 1346/2000) (Original ECIR). The Original ECIR continues to govern insolvency proceedings that were opened before that date.6 Throughout this chapter, we use the umbrella term ‘ECIR’ where the position under the Original ECIR and the Recast ECIR is the same.
Where the ECIR applies, main proceedings7 may only be opened in the UK if the debtor company has its COMI (which is presumed, in the absence of proof to the contrary, to be where the debtor’s registered office is located)8 in the UK. The company does not have to have been incorporated in an EU Member State. If the company’s COMI is in another EU Member State, secondary proceedings can be opened in the UK if the company has an establishment in the UK.9 Insolvency proceedings opened in an EU Member State under the ECIR will be automatically recognised without any formality in all EU Member States, including the UK, from the time the judgment opening the proceedings becomes effective in the EU Member State in which the proceedings are opened.
If the company’s COMI is outside the EU, the ECIR will not apply and the UK, in common with other EU Member States, will be free to act in accordance with its existing laws and practice when exercising jurisdiction, opening proceedings and recognising and enforcing proceedings opened within and outside the EU.
Changes to insolvency legislation were introduced under the Enterprise Act 2002 to facilitate corporate rescue. Key amendments included the streamlining of the administration regime and the limiting of the circumstances in which the holder of a qualifying floating charge10 (QFC holder) can appoint an administrative receiver to realise its security. These changes reflect the shift in policy voiced by successive UK governments over recent years in an attempt to make the UK a more rescue-orientated, debtor-friendly jurisdiction, where entrepreneurship is to be encouraged and where there should be no stigma attached to business failures in the absence of wrongdoing by the directors of the company. However, when compared with certain other jurisdictions, such as the United States, the UK still appears to be a creditor-friendly jurisdiction. The most recent government initiative was a consultation launched in May 2016 on options for the reform of the corporate insolvency framework, which put forward further proposals intended to facilitate restructurings and business rescue. As discussed further in Section V.v, it is not clear at present whether these reforms will be pursued.
In the UK, the prevailing approach to treatment of businesses in financial difficulties was traditionally to attempt to achieve a consensual solution to keep businesses going. However, the complexity of capital structures, diverse views of different stakeholders and the flexibility of tools such as schemes of arrangement, company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) and pre-packaged administrations (discussed in subsection iii) have meant that solutions that are not fully consensual have become more commonplace. Often these are used as either a ‘stick’ to encourage consensual negotiations, or to assist with the implementation of a restructuring strategy agreed as part of a broadly consensual process.
iii Insolvency procedures
Introduction – insolvency and rescue procedures
Subject to the applicability of any special insolvency regimes (see Section I.vi) or any jurisdictional limitations imposed by the ECIR, the processes described below can be used to wind up or rescue a company in the UK. In brief, a company (including an overseas company if its COMI is in England or if the company is otherwise found to have sufficient connection with this jurisdiction)11 may be placed into voluntary or compulsory liquidation, unless it is subject to a special insolvency regime. Alternatively, it may be made subject to any of three alternative statutory procedures: administration, CVA or receivership. In addition, a company may have its debts rescheduled or compromised by way of a creditors’ scheme of arrangement (scheme). Unlike liquidation, administrations, CVAs and schemes can be used to rescue a company and may form part of a restructuring plan. The IA 1986 also provides for receivership (including administrative receivership),12 which is a self-help remedy enabling a creditor to recover what it is owed through the realisation of charged assets.
A company may be wound up by way of a ‘members’ voluntary liquidation’ (MVL), which is a solvent liquidation, or a ‘creditors’ voluntary liquidation’ (CVL), which is an insolvent liquidation. A CVL can also be used as an exit route from administration. In a CVL, the creditors will have a greater say than in an MVL and are also able to appoint a liquidation committee to supervise certain aspects of the winding up. A company can also be wound up by the courts as a compulsory liquidation.
In both a voluntary and a compulsory liquidation, the liquidator is under a duty to collect in and realise the assets of the company for distribution to the creditors. There is no prescribed time limit within which to complete this process. The company will then be dissolved. If the liquidator believes that he or she could achieve a better result for the creditors were the company to be placed in administration, then he or she may apply to the courts for himself or herself or another person to be appointed as administrator. If main proceedings are pending in another EU Member State, and the company’s COMI is located in that Member State, it will still be possible to commence a CVL in the UK, provided the company has an establishment in the UK. If, however, main proceedings have already been opened in another EU Member State, the English courts must stay the secondary proceedings in whole or in part if requested to do so by the liquidator in the main proceedings.13 The English courts have the power, however, to request the liquidator in the main proceedings to take any suitable measure to guarantee the interests of the creditors in the secondary proceedings and of individual classes of creditors. Such a request may only be rejected if it is manifestly of no interest to the creditors in the main proceedings.
If a company is incorporated outside the UK and the ECIR does not apply (i.e., the company’s COMI is not located in an EU Member State), it may be wound up as an ‘unregistered company’ under the IA 1986 in certain circumstances, including where it is unable to pay its debts or if a court is of the opinion that it is just and equitable to wind it up. There is no statutory guidance as to the criteria that will justify an English court assuming jurisdiction, but case law has identified the following further requirements that must be satisfied before the courts will exercise their discretion to make a winding-up order: (1) there must be a sufficient connection with England; (2) there must be a reasonable possibility, if a winding-up order is made, of benefit to those applying for the winding-up order; and (3) one or more persons interested in the distribution of assets of the company must be persons over whom the courts can exercise jurisdiction. The sufficient connection test may be satisfied by, for example, the presence of assets within the jurisdiction or finance documents that are governed by English law. The courts may also assume jurisdiction where the insolvency procedures in the relevant foreign jurisdiction have been found to be unsuitable or outmoded.14
An administrator can be appointed in cases where a company is, or is likely to become, unable to pay its debts and the purpose of the administration is likely to be achieved. The purpose is set out as a hierarchy of three objectives. The primary objective is to rescue the company as a going concern, failing which the administrator must seek a better result for the company’s creditors as a whole than would be likely in a winding up. If the second objective is not achievable, the third objective is to realise the company’s property for distribution to secured or preferential creditors.
The second objective may be achieved by disposing of the company’s business or its assets by way of a pre-packaged sale (pre-pack), agreed before an administrator is appointed. The sale will then be effected immediately (or soon after) he or she takes the appointment (the administrator is not required to notify the unsecured creditors in advance or obtain their consent). This has proved to be a useful, if at times controversial, restructuring tool and, in one notable case, has been used by a foreign company, with court approval, after migrating its COMI to England15 (see Section I.vii). The court held that the industry guidance on the use of pre-packs provided by SIP 1616 had been complied with and expressly gave the administrators liberty to proceed with the pre-pack as, on the evidence, there was no realistic alternative to realising better value for creditors.17 Since November 2015, there has been an independent ‘pre-pack pool’ of experienced business people available to scrutinise proposed deals involving connected parties. Use of the pre-pack pool is voluntary but strongly encouraged. It was set up to address concerns about the fairness and transparency of pre-packs involving connected parties, but has not been extensively used to date.
Administration is a ‘collective insolvency proceeding’ for the purposes of Annex A to the Recast ECIR.18
An administrator cannot be appointed to a company whose COMI is located outside the EU unless it is registered under the CA 2006 or is incorporated in an European Economic Area state other than the UK.19 In this respect, the English courts’ jurisdiction is narrower than that for liquidations where an overseas company can be wound up if it has sufficient connection with this jurisdiction (as discussed earlier in this Section).
The administration will end automatically after one year unless extended by court order or with the consent of the creditors. Extensions are often required in complex cases.
A CVA is an informal but binding agreement between a company and its unsecured creditors to compromise the company’s debts, made with the aim of allowing companies in financial difficulties to avoid liquidation. If the CVA proposal is approved by three-quarters or more (in value) of the company’s creditors, it will bind all creditors who were entitled to vote in the decision-making process, regardless of whether they were in fact notified about it.20 Dissenting creditors and creditors whose votes are required to be left out of account are therefore bound by a resolution of the requisite majority. Secured and preferential creditors will not be bound unless they have given their consent and, therefore, CVAs are less commonly used by companies that have a large amount of secured debt.
A CVA may be used to avoid or supplement other insolvency procedures, such as administration or liquidation, where it can take advantage of the moratorium against creditor action. An optional moratorium is otherwise available for certain small companies. It has the advantage of being a flexible restructuring tool, which can often be swiftly implemented21 and requires minimal court involvement. It enjoyed some degree of success in the retail sector at the height of the global financial crisis as a way for a company to reach agreement with its landlords and other unsecured creditors.
A CVA is listed as a collective insolvency proceeding in Annex A to the Recast ECIR, which means that it can be proposed by any company, wherever incorporated, provided its COMI is situated in the UK. If the CVA is approved then it will be binding throughout the EU and will have the same effect in any other EU Member State as it does under English law.22
Creditors’ scheme of arrangement
A scheme of arrangement is not an insolvency process but falls instead within the ambit of the CA 2006.23 It is a court-approved compromise or arrangement between a company and its creditors, or any class of them, to reorganise or reschedule the company’s debts. It does not benefit from a moratorium on creditor actions24 but can be implemented in conjunction with formal insolvency proceedings (administration or liquidation), both of which include a statutory moratorium. In its simplest form, a scheme may be used to vary the rights of a class of creditors and can bind dissentient creditors if the requisite majority or majorities vote in favour of the proposal. It can also be used by companies to amend and extend outstanding loans and implement debt-for-equity swaps, where they have failed to obtain the requisite level of consent under the underlying loan facility. It is also sometimes used to provide a breathing space ahead of a wider restructuring,25 or strategically as a ‘stick’ or ‘plan B’ in the context of restructuring negotiations to help achieve a consensual deal.
The scheme process takes time, although once the proposal document has been finalised and circulated, it may be possible to complete the procedure in approximately six weeks, subject to court availability. Unlike in a CVA (where the creditors effectively vote as a single class), it may be difficult to achieve a consensus among affected creditors as to the composition of the various creditor classes. Class composition will be considered at the convening hearing if there are outstanding issues as to fairness. The fact, however, that it is binding on all members of the relevant class (or classes) of creditors, once it has been approved by the appropriate majorities, sanctioned by the courts and delivered to the Registrar of Companies, gives it an important advantage over a CVA.
Schemes are sometimes used by overseas companies,26 often in circumstances where such companies are unable to obtain the requisite level of approval for the compromise in their own jurisdiction. Sufficient connection has been found in a number of cases on the basis of the underlying facility agreement being subject to English governing law and jurisdiction clauses,27 including where the relevant clauses have been changed to English law in anticipation of the scheme.28 The courts will be influenced by whether there is a procedure that is equivalent to a scheme available in the relevant overseas jurisdiction and will also want to be satisfied that the effects of the scheme will be recognised in other jurisdictions. The concern is greater where there are local creditors, opposed to the scheme, who may attempt to ignore its terms and bring claims against the debtor or its assets on the basis of the original (pre-scheme) finance documents (see Section I.vii for further details).
The fact that a scheme is neither a purely informal out-of-court procedure nor a formal court-based procedure, and that it falls outside the scope of the ECIR, has led to some difficulties in relation to its recognition by the courts of certain EU Member States.
The Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters (No. 1215/2012) (Judgments Regulation) provides one avenue for recognition, although it has not been conclusively determined whether schemes fall within its scope (see Section I.vii for further details). In cases where recognition under the Judgments Regulation is refused by an overseas court (or recognition is sought in jurisdictions where that regulation does not apply), that court may be able, with the benefit of expert evidence where necessary, to recognise the scheme under private international law. The recognition of schemes remains a controversial topic and, usually, it will be necessary for there to be robust expert evidence on recognition if, for example, there are foreign borrowers or guarantors or if some or all of the debt is foreign-law governed.
The effectiveness of a scheme may, however, be recognised outside the EU in countries that have implemented the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency in a form that allows for recognition of such processes.29
iv Starting proceedings
A voluntary liquidation, whether an MVL or a CVL, is initiated by the company’s members passing a resolution (requiring a three-quarters majority vote) that must state either that they are in favour of a voluntary liquidation, in the case of an MVL, or that the company cannot, by reason of its liabilities, continue its business and that it is advisable to wind it up, in the case of a CVL. The directors of the company must give prior notice to any QFC holder and to the appropriate regulator under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA 2000), if the company is an authorised deposit taker under the Banking Act 2009, of their intention to propose a resolution for voluntary liquidation. The liquidation will commence on the date the resolution is passed. In an MVL, the members appoint the liquidator, while in a CVL, the creditors appoint him or her. If, during the course of an MVL, the liquidator forms the opinion that the company will be unable to pay its debts in full, together with any interest, the liquidation will be converted to a CVL.
A compulsory liquidation is usually initiated by the presentation of a winding-up petition to the court. This will usually be done by the company, the directors or (more often) a creditor. The grounds on which a court can make a winding-up order include where the company is unable to pay its debts or where a court believes it is just and equitable that the company be wound up. The petition must be advertised, either by publication in the London Gazette or in another manner deemed suitable by the court, at least seven days before the hearing. This will provide notice to creditors and other interested parties who may then attend the hearing and bring to the attention of the court material relevant to whether the winding-up order should be made.
If the relevant court is satisfied that the grounds for winding up are met, it will make a winding-up order. The official receiver (an officer of the court) will then automatically assume the role of liquidator until another liquidator is appointed. Receivers and administrators are also able to present petitions and any QFC holder who is entitled to appoint an administrator may apply to the court to have the winding-up order discharged and an administrator appointed.
The court may also appoint a provisional liquidator after the presentation of the winding-up petition but before a winding-up order is made. Provisional liquidation is similar in effect to compulsory liquidation (though the court can limit the provisional liquidator’s powers). Provisional liquidation remains relatively uncommon but may be useful in certain circumstances, for instance if there are concerns that the directors will dissipate the company’s assets between the presentation of the winding-up petition and the making of the winding-up order.
A company is placed in administration by either making a filing with the court to document an out-of-court appointment or making an application to the court for a court-based appointment. An out-of-court appointment may be made by the company or its directors. It may also be made by a QFC holder although, for reputational reasons, a QFC holder might prefer the application to be made by the directors. This also has the advantage of placing the QFC holder in the position of being able to influence the selection of the administrator. An application for a court-based appointment may be made by the company, its directors or any creditor. This form of application might be the only route available if a creditor has presented a winding-up petition against the company.
In some cases, it may be expedient to seek a court-based appointment: for example, where the proposed administrator wishes to secure court approval for a proposed pre-pack sale of the company or its assets that might otherwise be at risk of being challenged or, in certain circumstances, where there is a cross-border element and there is a concern that the documentation evidencing an out-of-court appointment might not readily be recognised by a foreign court. A court-based application might also be used to avoid the risk of a subsequent challenge as to the validity of an out-of-court appointment on the basis of a procedural irregularity.
A QFC holder is able to seek a court-based or out-of-court appointment if an event has occurred that would allow it to enforce its security. This will typically be a default under a loan agreement or loan notes. This right of appointment may well arise when the company is not insolvent. In all other circumstances, it will be necessary to show that the company is or is likely to become unable to pay its debts and to provide an opinion from the administrator that the purpose of the administration is capable of being achieved.
Where an administrative receiver is in office, the appointment of an administrator must be made by an application to the court. A court will only make an appointment where the appointor of the administrative receiver consents or where the court thinks that the security under which the administrative receiver was appointed is liable to be released or discharged as a preference or a transaction at an undervalue or that the floating charge is voidable for want of new consideration at the time of its creation.
Where a secured creditor retains the right to appoint an administrative receiver, it may use this right to block the appointment of an administrator by appointing an administrative receiver before the appointment of an administrator. A person appointing an administrator must give notice of his or her intention to appoint an administrator to certain persons, including a QFC holder. During the notice period, a secured creditor who retains the right to appoint an administrative receiver may do so or may instead substitute his or her choice of insolvency practitioner as administrator. A QFC holder who does not have the power to appoint an administrative receiver may substitute its choice of insolvency practitioner as administrator even though it cannot block the appointment of an administrator.
An interim moratorium on creditor action arises to protect the company where there is a delay between the applicant filing for administration and the order taking effect (where the court-based procedure is used) or where the applicant is required to give advance notice of their notice of intention to appoint an administrator (where the out-of-court procedure is used). A full moratorium will arise when the appointment takes effect. As previously mentioned, in some cases, a pre-pack sale will be agreed before an administrator is appointed and will be effected on, or soon after, he or she takes up the appointment.
To enter into a CVA, the directors (or, if the company is in administration or liquidation, the administrator or liquidator), after proposing the CVA to the members and unsecured creditors, will appoint an insolvency specialist (normally an accountant) to act as the nominee.30 The nominee will report to the court whether, in his or her opinion, the proposal should be put to members and creditors31 and, if he or she believes it should, seek the approval of the members at a meeting, and of the creditors by way of a qualifying decision procedure.
The CVA can be challenged in court by a creditor or member on the grounds of unfair prejudice or material irregularity (or both). This must be done within 28 days of the filing of the notice of approval with the courts or, if the applicant did not receive notice, within 28 days of the day on which he or she became aware that the qualifying decision procedure had taken place. If there is any uncertainty as regards identifying all the company’s creditors, the CVA process is unlikely to be favoured as it may carry the risk of a late challenge from ‘hidden creditors’.
Creditors’ scheme of arrangement
The scheme process is usually initiated by the company (or an administrator or liquidator if the company is in administration or liquidation). The company must first apply to the court for an order giving permission for a meeting (or meetings) of the affected creditors to be convened to vote on the scheme, although this is generally preceded by the issuance of a creditors’ issues letter or ‘practice statement’ letter to outline the key terms of the scheme and set out the company’s views on class and other issues.32 Any creditors unaffected by the scheme (e.g., those that are to be paid in full or whose debts are not required to be compromised) can be excluded from the scheme. Dissentient creditors whose rights are affected by the scheme will be entitled to vote on it along with other creditors in their class, but if the requisite majority has been achieved that class will be bound and the minority view can be disregarded. If the voting majorities are achieved, a further application is made to the court for an order sanctioning the scheme. The scheme will become effective and binding on affected creditors when it is delivered to the Registrar of Companies.
Affected creditors will have an opportunity to challenge the composition of a class and raise other creditor issues at the convening hearing.33 In the case of a scheme of an overseas company, the court may also give preliminary consideration as to whether it will ultimately have jurisdiction to sanction the scheme. Any jurisdiction issues will then be considered more fully at the sanction hearing.
If objections to the scheme are later raised by a scheme creditor at the sanction hearing, the court may reject them and refuse to grant leave to appeal. If, however, the court considers that an appeal against a decision to sanction the scheme has a reasonable prospect of success, it may grant a short-term stay before making the sanction order (i.e., so that the order cannot be given efficacy by being delivered to the Registrar of Companies for registration).34 The stay then gives the dissentient creditor time to seek permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal. However, in practice it is unusual for a scheme decision to be appealed. If the order sanctioning the scheme has already been granted, and has been given statutory effect through registration, it cannot be altered or terminated otherwise than as provided for by the scheme itself or by a further scheme. The court may set aside a sanction order in cases where it was obtained by fraud, although it will not do so if it is satisfied that the result would be the same had the fraud not been perpetrated.
v Control of insolvency proceedings
The proceedings will be managed by the insolvency office holder appointed to the company in relation to the insolvency process. In most cases this will be a qualified insolvency practitioner, as required by the IA 1986, who will be subject to the regulatory regime governing their professional conduct.35
As regards the duties of directors in connection with insolvency proceedings, in the UK, while a company is solvent, the duties are owed to the company for the benefit of present and future shareholders and there is no duty to consider creditors’ interests. However, once there is doubt as to the company’s solvency, or it becomes insolvent, the directors must consider the interests of the company’s creditors to minimise the potential loss to them. If a director continues to trade a business after the point at which he or she has realised, or ought to have concluded, that the company had no reasonable prospect of avoiding insolvent liquidation or administration, and he or she does not take every step to minimise losses to creditors, he or she may be liable for wrongful trading. Similarly, a director may be liable for fraudulent trading if he or she allowed a company to incur debt when he or she knew there was no good reason for thinking that funds would be available to repay the amount owed at the time, or shortly after, it became due and payable.
Directors of companies that operate overseas may also be required to act in accordance with the laws of the relevant foreign state, particularly if secondary proceedings are opened in that jurisdiction.
The IA 1986 confers on the liquidator or administrator the power to seek a court order against directors for a contribution to the company’s assets if his or her investigations reveal instances of wrongful or fraudulent trading and to set aside transactions at an undervalue, preferences and transactions defrauding creditors. Alternatively, he or she is able to assign certain of these claims to third parties, including creditors. In addition, he or she is required, under the Company Directors’ Disqualification Act 1986, to submit a report to the relevant secretary of state on the conduct of the directors and former directors of the company that may lead to their disqualification from acting as directors, or being involved in the management of the company, for a specified period. A director who is disqualified may also be required to pay compensation.
As regards the role of the court, its involvement in a voluntary liquidation is minimal, while in a compulsory liquidation it will hear the application for a winding-up order. In an administration, on the other hand, the court’s involvement varies according to whether the process is commenced by way of a court-based or out-of-court application and whether the complexity of the company’s affairs is likely to require the administrator to seek directions. In an out-of-court appointment, the court’s involvement is likely to be limited, in an uncomplicated case, to receiving and processing the documents that must be filed at court.
In a CVA, court involvement is limited to receiving a report from the nominee whether, in his or her opinion, the proposed CVA has a reasonable prospect of being approved and implemented and whether it should be put to the creditors and members. Notification of the approval (or rejection) of the proposal must then be filed at court within four business days of the members’ meeting.
vi Special regimes
Certain entities are excluded from the general insolvency regimes because of the nature of their businesses. They are subject instead to special insolvency regimes that, in some cases, are based on the administration procedure found in Schedule B1 to the IA 1986.
Banks and analogous bodies may be placed into administration without a court order so long as the consent of the appropriate regulator under the FSMA 2000 is obtained and filed at court. The regulator is also able to participate in the administration proceedings. In addition, the Banking Act 2009 introduced a special administration regime for failing banks and building societies where government intervention is required.36 More recently, a special administration regime and certain other resolution tools were introduced for investment banks.37 The Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013 amended the Banking Act 2009 and introduced a modified bail-in tool to the special resolution regime, and further amendments were made by the Bank Recovery and Resolution Order 2014 (SI 2014 No. 3329), which came into force on 1 January 2015.38 Bail-in enables the Bank of England to recapitalise a failed institution by allocating losses to its shareholders and unsecured creditors by writing down or converting their claims to equity in a manner that respects the hierarchy of claims in liquidation.39 It is part of the UK’s response to the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD), which came into force on 2 July 2014. The BRRD is designed to ensure that EU Member States have a harmonised toolkit to effectively deal with an unsound or failing credit institution and requires banks to draw up recovery and resolution plans that set out how they will deal with certain scenarios that could lead to failure. It also gives national authorities additional powers to enable them to intervene when an institution faces financial difficulty. In addition to the bail-in mechanism, these include resolution tools to allow the bank to sell or merge the business with another bank, set up a temporary bridge bank to operate critical functions and to separate good assets from bad ones.
Special regimes also exist for insurance companies,40 postal services, water or sewerage companies, certain railway companies, air traffic control companies, London Underground public-private partnership companies, building societies, bodies licensed under the Energy Act 2004, and operators of systemically important interbank payment systems and securities settlement systems.41
There are no special insolvency rules in English law relating to corporate groups. Instead, each company is treated as a separate legal entity.42 The Original ECIR did not contain a framework to deal with the insolvency of corporate groups. Instead, in cases where the COMIs of some or all of the individual group companies were located in the same jurisdiction,43 it was sometimes possible to achieve procedural consolidation of the insolvency proceedings of those companies by placing each of them in an insolvency process in the same jurisdiction (usually that of the parent company’s COMI), where the proceedings were managed by the same insolvency office holder.
The Recast ECIR has expanded the framework for the coordination of insolvency proceedings concerning different members of the same group by obliging the insolvency practitioners and courts involved in the different proceedings to cooperate and communicate with each other. In addition, it gives the insolvency practitioners involved in such proceedings the procedural tools to request a stay of the various other proceedings and to apply for the opening of group coordination proceedings. ‘Group coordination proceedings’ are a new concept introduced by the Recast ECIR, which involve the appointment of an insolvency practitioner to act as ‘group coordinator’ to propose a coordination plan setting out an integrated solution for the group companies subject to relevant insolvency or restructuring processes. Group companies do not have to participate, however, and participating insolvency practitioners are not obliged to follow the group coordinator’s recommendations or the group coordination plan. It is too early to assess how effective these provisions will prove in practice and how frequently corporate groups will take advantage of the group coordination tools.
Under the Original ECIR, it was also sometimes possible to streamline the insolvencies of corporate groups by opening main proceedings in one jurisdiction and effectively preventing the opening of secondary proceedings in other EU Member States by agreeing to respect local priorities (thereby achieving the same outcome for local creditors)44 or by postponing the opening of secondary proceedings until a global sale has been completed.45 The Recast ECIR formalises this practice, including provisions enabling insolvency practitioners to give an undertaking to creditors to respect local priorities, and allowing the courts to postpone or refuse the opening of secondary proceedings in some circumstances if they are not necessary to protect the interests of local creditors.
The group coordination provisions broadly received the endorsement of UNCITRAL, which has itself produced a framework for legislation in relation to the insolvency of enterprise groups.46 Another initiative encouraged by UNCITRAL is the use of cross-border protocols to facilitate cooperation between courts and practitioners.47 An early example of this approach was seen in the Maxwell Communications Corporation case, where the UK administrators entered into a protocol with the examiners in the US Chapter 11 proceedings. More recently, attempts have been made to use cross-border protocols (which, rather than being legally enforceable, provide guidelines for cooperation) in certain insolvency situations, such as the Lehmans and Madoff insolvencies, with mixed success.
vii Cross-border issues
This section considers the framework for cross-border cooperation and recognition as at the time of writing. The UK’s exit from the EU, which may have a significant impact on this framework, is discussed in Section V. The English courts’ jurisdiction in cross-border insolvency cases derives mainly from one of four key sources: the ECIR, the Cross-Border Insolvency Regulations 2006 (CBIR), Section 426 of the IA 1986 and the common law.48
As mentioned in Section I.i, their jurisdiction may be fettered by the ECIR if the company’s COMI is situated in an EU Member State, in which case the court of that state will have jurisdiction to open insolvency proceedings. Before the entry into force of the Original ECIR, if a foreign company was found to have sufficient connection with England, a court could exercise its discretion to wind up that company as an unregistered company under Section 221 of the IA 1986 (see Section I.iii). That jurisdiction is now precluded by the ECIR, although the test remains in place for companies that fall outside its scope. In Re Arena Corporation Ltd,49 for example, the English court found that a company incorporated in the Isle of Man but with its COMI in Denmark50 had sufficient connection with England (in the form of assets located in England) to enable it to exercise its jurisdiction under Section 221 of the IA 1986 to wind up the company. Cases such as these, which do not meet the ECIR’s jurisdictional requirements, will be subject to the relevant national law and will be recognised by EU Member States and non-Member States alike in accordance with the rules of private international law.
If the debtor’s COMI is outside the EU, the ECIR will not apply and the UK, like other EU Member States, will be free to act in accordance with its existing laws and practice when exercising jurisdiction, opening proceedings and recognising and enforcing proceedings opened within and outside the EU. It will not be possible, however, to take advantage of the associated provisions under the ECIR, such as automatic recognition in all EU Member States, which are available where main proceedings are opened. This may prove to be a hurdle in group restructurings if some of the debtor companies have substantial connections with one or more EU Member States but fall outside the scope of the ECIR because their COMIs are not situated in an EU Member State.
The English courts may otherwise be required to recognise foreign main proceedings and foreign non-main proceedings (the equivalent of main and secondary proceedings under the ECIR) under the CBIR. The CBIR implement the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency, regardless of whether that country has enacted the Model Law.51 Upon recognition, relief by way of a moratorium on creditor action is automatically granted while other appropriate relief may be obtained at the court’s discretion. There is also a requirement for judicial cooperation on the part of the English courts ‘to the maximum extent possible’, where recognition is granted.52
Alternatively, the English courts may offer relief and assistance under Section 426 of the IA 1986, which provides for cooperation both between jurisdictions within the UK and between the UK and other designated jurisdictions, which mainly include Commonwealth countries.
In circumstances where the ECIR, the CBIR and Section 426 of the IA 1986 are not applicable, the English courts have an inherent jurisdiction to cooperate with foreign insolvency representatives and recognise foreign proceedings. The granting of recognition will depend on whether the foreign office holder has satisfied the common law principles developed by the English courts. This area was considered in detail by the Supreme Court in Rubin v. Eurofinance53 where an attempt was made to extend the circumstances in which recognition and assistance would be granted by the English courts.
In a number of cases, foreign companies have migrated their COMIs to the UK in order to take advantage of the UK’s established insolvency and restructuring processes. This kind of forum shopping has received judicial support at EU level,54 with a clear distinction being made between its use to ensure that the COMI is located in the best place to reorganise the company and its group for the benefit of creditors and, possibly, other stakeholders (‘good’ forum shopping),55 as opposed to its use where the company acts for selfish motives to benefit itself or its shareholders or directors at the expense of creditors (‘bad’ forum shopping).
The decision in Hellas Telecommunications (Luxembourg) II SCA,56 where a Luxembourg entity moved its COMI to England three months before entering administration, is significant for its consideration of what is required to effect a successful migration.57 The court heard that, at the same time as moving its head office, the company also informed creditors of the change of address to London, made a press announcement that its activities were moving to London, opened a London bank account, registered at Companies House as a foreign company and appointed UK-resident individuals as directors of the English company that became its general partner. The court found that, on the evidence presented to it, the presumption in the Original ECIR that the company’s COMI was in Luxembourg was rebutted.58 It noted that the purpose of the COMI was to enable creditors in particular to know where the company was located and where they would be dealing with it, finding ‘one of the most important features of the evidence’ to be that all negotiations between the company and its creditors had taken place in London.
A cross-border issue also arises in situations where foreign companies, without migrating their COMIs to the UK, make use of an English law scheme of arrangement to compromise or amend the terms of their debt documents. The key issues to be considered include whether the English courts have jurisdiction over the foreign company and whether the scheme will be recognised in the foreign jurisdiction. For example, in such cases, there remains some uncertainty as to the extent to which the EC Judgments Regulation may affect the English courts’ jurisdiction to sanction the scheme. Judges have generally avoided reaching a firm conclusion as to whether that regulation applies to schemes, instead getting comfortable that, on the facts of each case, even if the regulation were to apply, one or more of the exceptions to the general rule that persons should be sued in the Member State in which they are domiciled would apply so that the English courts have jurisdiction. In many cases, the relevant finance documents have contained a clause conferring jurisdiction on the English courts (most were one-way exclusive jurisdiction clauses but a non-exclusive jurisdiction clause has also been found to be sufficient). In a more recent case concerning the Van Gansewinkel Group,59 Snowden J took the view that if the jurisdiction provisions of the Judgments Regulation apply to schemes (a point that was not decided) then, in that particular case, it would not limit the court’s jurisdiction to sanction the scheme. If they did apply, he was entitled to regard all scheme creditors as coming within the jurisdiction of the English court under Article 8(1) of Chapter II, which provides that a party may be made a party to proceedings in another EU Member State if one or more of the co-defendants are domiciled in that Member State and it is expedient to hear the claims against all the defendants in a single court.60 However, he noted that a one-sided exclusive jurisdiction clause for the benefit of the scheme creditors did not amount to submission by those creditors to the jurisdiction of the English court. Therefore, if the jurisdiction provisions of the Judgments Regulation apply to schemes, these schemes could not be brought within the jurisdiction of the English court by virtue of Article 25(1) of Chapter II.
Finally, there is some ongoing debate over the meaning of the term ‘judgment’ in Article 32 of that regulation in relation to schemes. Despite the wide scope that the term is given by Article 32, some commentators have argued that the procedure for implementing an English scheme is not adversarial in nature and that the sanction order is not therefore a judgment and should not be granted recognition under that regulation. There is likely to be further English and European case law on this topic as schemes remain a popular restructuring tool.
II INSOLVENCY METRICS
The UK economy continues to be affected by uncertainty following the vote to leave the EU, and the ongoing lack of clarity over the form that exit might take. UK gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated to have increased by 0.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, the slowest rate of growth since the first quarter of 2016. The slowdown was mainly driven by a slower rate of growth in the services sector. Growth in several important consumer-facing industries fell, such as retail sales and accommodation, and household spending slowed, in part because of rising prices. Growth in construction and manufacturing was also slow, but business services and finance continued to grow strongly.61 The preliminary estimate for the second quarter shows GDP growth rising slightly to 0.3 per cent, driven by the services sector, which grew by 0.5 per cent compared with 0.1 per cent in the first quarter. Construction and manufacturing exerted the largest downward pulls, following two quarters of growth.62 The July average of independent forecasts for GDP growth (as compiled by HM Treasury) was 1.6 per cent for 2017, decreasing to 1.4 per cent for 2018.63 The labour market statistics for March to May 2017 indicated that the unemployment rate was 4.5 per cent, down from 4.9 per cent for a year earlier, and the lowest it has been since 1975. In similar vein, the employment rate was 74.9 per cent, the highest since comparable records began in 1971.64
The 12-month inflation rate was 2.6 per cent in June 2017, down from 2.7 per cent in the year to April 2017. This is the first fall in the rate since April 2016, although it remains higher than in previous years, and had been previously increasing steadily following a period of relatively low inflation in 2015. The fall in the rate was mainly caused by a decrease in the prices for motor fuels and certain recreational and cultural goods and services.65 It remains to be seen whether the drop, which took many commentators by surprise, is an anomaly or the start of a trend. The minutes of the Bank of England (BoE)’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting from June 2017 (before the latest inflation figures were available) note that last year’s sterling depreciation has affected the prices of consumer goods and services, pushing consumer price index inflation above the 2 per cent inflation target. The MPC believes that it could rise above 3 per cent by the autumn, and is likely to remain above the target for an extended period as sterling’s depreciation continues to feed through.66
The MPC also noted the marked decline in GDP growth in the first quarter, and that it remains to be seen how persistent the slow-down in consumption will prove to be: there have been signs of the housing market slowing in recent months, and new car registrations have fallen sharply, but consumer confidence has remained relatively resilient, employment has continued to rise and export indicators have strengthened. The MPC was clear in its view that monetary policy cannot prevent the necessary real adjustment as the United Kingdom moves towards new international trading arrangements, or the weaker real income growth that is likely to accompany that adjustment over the next few years. It highlighted the evolution of inflationary pressures, as well as the persistence of weaker consumption and the degree to which it is offset by other components of demand, as the key factors in judging the appropriate direction of monetary policy. Five of the MPC’s members thought that the current policy stance remained appropriate and that the bank rate should remain at its historic low of 0.25 per cent, whereas as three members thought it should be increased by 25 basis points. All members agreed that any increases would be gradual and limited in extent. While the outcome is that the rate remains unchanged at present, it suggests that the MPC is closer to tightening policy than at its previous meeting in May 2017 (when it voted 7-1 to maintain the rate), and indeed than at any time since 2011.67 This may suggest that a rate rise is more likely in the short to medium term, although most economists still think that it is some distance off.68
The BoE reports that household credit conditions were little changed in the first quarter of 2017, although the availability of unsecured credit decreased slightly, mainly because of tighter credit scoring criteria. Lenders expect this trend to continue.69 Lending to businesses has continued to grow, although the pace has moderated recently. The reduction in the growth rate was initially spread across the major industrial sectors and broad based across business sizes, but the most recent fall seems to have been among larger businesses. There was mixed evidence on business’ demand for credit in the first quarter, but it appears likely that decreased demand has contributed to the slowing growth rate. Lenders noted that reduced capital investment was having a knock-on effect on demand for credit. Major UK lenders also indicated that demand for lending has exceeded expectations following the vote to leave the EU. On the credit supply side, a range of indicators and intelligence suggests that the cost of credit has remained broadly unchanged in recent months. Loan performance has remained strong and the write-off rate on banks’ corporate lending was little changed in the year to quarter four 2016.70
It is estimated that 3,967 companies entered insolvency in the first quarter of 2017. The number of companies entering insolvency rose by 5.3 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2016, and, adjusting to exclude anomalous data, 4.5 per cent compared to the previous quarter (the adjustment was made because 1,796 connected personal service companies entered CVLs in the fourth quarter of 2016. This was a one-off event driven by changes to claimable expense rules. Excluding these companies from the data gives a more accurate picture of the underlying trends).71 The main driver of the increase was a rise in the number of companies entering CVLs, up 5.4 per cent on the same quarter in 2016, and 5.3 per cent on the adjusted data for the previous quarter. Compulsory liquidations also increased slightly, up 2.8 per cent on the same quarter in 2016 and 3.3 per cent on the previous quarter.72 The number of companies entering administration rose slightly, but broadly speaking has been on a fairly stable trend since 2014, and the number of CVAs decreased slightly, but again continues to follow a relatively stable trend.73
Taking a longer view, in the 12 months ending first quarter 2017, the estimated liquidation rate was 0.47 per cent of all active registered companies. This is up slightly from the 12-month period ending in the previous quarter and the same quarter in 2016, but the increase is largely explained by the one-off increase in CVLs in the fourth quarter of 2016. Until the third quarter of 2016, there had been a downward trend since 2011.74
In the 12 months ending fourth quarter 2016, the highest number of new company insolvencies was in the administrative and support services sector (3,220, up 91.6 per cent from the 12 months ending third quarter 2016), but this large rise was primarily caused by the personal service companies that entered liquidation in the fourth quarter of 2016. The second highest number of new company insolvencies was in the construction sector (2,554, an increase of 4.5 per cent compared to the 12 months ending third quarter 2016). The third highest number was in the wholesale and retail trade (including repair of vehicles) sector (2,060, an increase of 0.4 per cent compared to the 12 months ending third quarter 2016). These three sectors accounted for 47 per cent of all company insolvencies.75 As the personal service company insolvencies are understood to be a one-off event, the latter two figures may be a more useful indication of underlying trends.
III PLENARY INSOLVENCY PROCEEDINGS
There have been a small number of high-profile insolvencies in the UK during the past 12 months, but most large companies have been able to refinance themselves successfully or agree amendments to their finance arrangements without the need for the protection of an insolvency process.
In April 2017, British high street fashion retailer Jaeger announced that the Jaeger Company’s Shops Limited, Jaeger London Limited, Jaeger Holdings Limited and the Jaeger Company Limited (the Companies) were entering administration. Jaeger was founded over 100 years ago, and its business had grown to include 46 stores, 63 concessions and an online presence, but had struggled with challenging conditions, falling customer numbers and sales.
The Companies engaged in a short marketing process for the business in 2015, but it did not result in a sale. Subsequently, the group’s ultimate parent company injected further funding, which was used to close underperforming stores, refurbish existing stores and roll out new ones, continue IT and website development and fund working capital. However, despite these attempts to turn around the business, trading conditions remained challenging and sales continued to decline. The group was dependent on its ultimate parent company for working capital funds, and the directors acknowledged that there was no certainty that the support would continue in the foreseeable future. An accelerated sales process for the whole business was, therefore, commenced in February 2017, and contingency planning undertaken in case it was not possible to achieve a sale.
The sales process did not generate a viable offer for the whole business, so an offer was accepted under which the purchaser acquired the loan notes and security held by the parent company, along with the intellectual property held by the Companies. The directors concluded that the offer to purchase the IP represented the best offer in the sales process because it reduced the group’s secured debt and enabled it to explore alternative funding arrangements with the purchaser. The IP was sold on 30 March 2017, and the purchasers granted the Companies a licence to use the Jaeger brand while it assessed their financial position and worked with the directors to develop plans for the group.
However, the directors did not succeed in agreeing terms for the provision of new funding, without which they concluded the Companies would be unable to meet their liabilities as they fell due. In consequence, administrators were appointed to the Companies on 10 April 2017.
The administrators concluded that it was not possible to achieve the first objective of administration – rescuing the Companies as a going concern – because of their significant funding requirements, which would have rendered it impossible, among other things, for them to continue to trade during a rescue process. The administrators are, therefore, pursuing the second objective – that of achieving a better result for the Companies’ creditors as a whole than would be likely if they were wound up (without first being in administration). To this end, they have been continuing to trade the business while trying to find a viable purchaser for the Companies’ remaining assets. As the Companies no longer own the IP, the administrators required consent of the purchaser to continue to trade. They were granted a licence to trade, which is not transferable in the absence of consent. In light of the non-transferable licence and the failure of the earlier sales process to generate a viable offer for the whole business, the administrators concluded that a further formal marketing campaign for the whole business would not generate any additional viable offers.
Sales generated within the first weeks of post-administration trading were profitable and exceeded initial expectations. Ongoing terms were agreed with key suppliers to ensure that the business has sufficient stock during the trading period. The administrators also entered into negotiations to try to agree more favourable rental terms for the course of the administrations. Following unsuccessful negotiations with some landlords, seven stores were closed. Some redundancies have already been made. The administrators have also received and are evaluating a number of retention of title claims from suppliers.
The administrators’ initial assessment was that there would be a distribution to preferential creditors76 and a dividend to the unsecured creditors of the Jaeger Company’s Shops Limited by virtue of the prescribed part,77 but that funds were unlikely to be available to permit a dividend to the preferential and unsecured creditors of Jaeger London Limited and the unsecured creditors of the Jaeger Company Limited and Jaeger Holdings Limited.
Press reports78 have indicated that the purchaser of the Jaeger IP is the Edinburgh Woollen Mill group, which had previously purchased the Austin Reed brand after it entered administration in 2016. Reports also suggest that some of Jaeger’s suppliers are considering the possibility of legal action over the sale of the brand name before administration.79
ii Premier Oil
Premier Oil plc, an international oil and gas exploration and production company, has entered into schemes of arrangement in order to restructure its US$4 billion of debt, after more than a year of detailed negotiations with key lender representatives. Premier Oil has a complex debt structure that involves senior bank debt, US private placement notes, Schuldschein loans, retail notes and a convertible bond. The restructuring will put the Premier Oil group’s finances on a more sustainable footing.
Because of the nature of its business, Premier Oil’s financial performance is heavily dependent on oil prices. The prices for crude oil and related products have been low since late 2014, and prices have remained volatile since. This has affected Premier Oil’s revenues and cash flow and the value of its underlying assets. Premier Oil has undertaken several cost-saving initiatives, including optimising work programmes, reducing discretionary spend, sharing services with other operators and re-negotiating supplier contracts, which have led to significant savings in operating costs and capital commitments in 2015 and 2016. The Premier Oil group has also historically benefited from hedging arrangements, which cover 43 per cent of its budgeted 2017 oil entitlement production, and this has provided some protection from the impact of the low oil prices.
However, there has also been an increase in the leverage of the Premier Oil group, with the result that a number of its financial covenants were in danger of being breached. From June 2016 until February 2017, Premier Oil had to obtain a new deferral from creditors in respect of such financial covenants each month. Premier Oil also entered into a number of supplemental agreements in order to allow the group to enter into discussions with its creditors on the terms of the restructuring.
On 15 March 2016, Premier Oil convened a meeting with its bank lenders to give notice of its financial difficulties, including its potential inability to comply with its financial covenants, and its requirement for continued access to its loan facilities. From November 2016, Premier Oil also entered into negotiations with an ad hoc committee of bondholders regarding amendments proposed to the bonds as part of the restructuring.
By February 2017, Premier Oil had agreed terms of the restructuring with its bank lenders, and on 9 March 2017 it announced that 87 per cent of its bank lenders had entered into a lock-up agreement. It also agreed key terms with the ad hoc committee of bondholders in March 2017, and on 25 April 2017 it announced that more than 75 per cent of bondholders had entered into a lock-up agreement.
The key terms of the restructuring involve preserving Premier Oil’s debt facilities, resetting financial covenants, and extending maturities to 2021. The restructuring will also provide Premier Oil’s creditors with improved creditor economics (by way of better interest rates or margins, for example), increased guarantor coverage and new security, as well as new covenants aimed at deleveraging Premier Oil and its group.
The restructuring is being implemented via schemes of arrangement in Scotland, but has been coordinated from London and is heavily based on English legal principles and expertise as most of the facility documents are English-law governed. The schemes of arrangement were launched on 15 May 2017, and at the scheme meetings on 26 June 2017 creditors voted overwhelmingly in favour of the schemes. The restructuring completed on 28 July 2017.
iii DTEK Finance Plc (DTEK Finance)
As discussed in Section V.iii, schemes of arrangement remain a popular restructuring tool for foreign companies and groups with a cross-European presence.
The DTEK group of companies is the largest privately owned energy business in Ukraine, responsible for the supply of electrical power and heat to a significant proportion of domestic and industrial end-users in Ukraine. The civil disturbances and political instability, the country’s strained relations with Russia, and the devaluation of the Ukrainian currency as against the US dollar, the euro and the rouble, have, among other factors, left the liquidity position of the group severely constrained. As described in the third edition of this book, DTEK Finance BV, a company within the group incorporated in the Netherlands, previously made use of a scheme of arrangement in 2015 to extend the maturity of its high-yield bonds. The governing law and jurisdiction clauses of the indenture relating to the bonds had been from New York to English law to help ensure that it had sufficient connection to the jurisdiction.
DTEK Finance Plc, another group company incorporated in England, had in issue two series of Notes, one due to mature in March 2018 and one in April 2018. In April 2016, it used a scheme of arrangement to impose a standstill period to give it time to negotiate a restructuring of the notes. That restructuring was implemented by a second scheme, sanctioned in December 2016,80 under which the notes were cancelled and exchanged for new notes with the maturity date extended to 2024, with the addition of some extra guarantees and protections.
The most recent scheme is of interest as an example of the way in which the court continues to consider the application of the Judgments Regulation to schemes. As discussed in Section I.vii, the court has generally avoided reaching a firm conclusion as to whether schemes fall within its ambit, but, while acknowledging that there remains scope for debate, proceeding on the basis that they do. However, deciding how its provisions apply in the context of a scheme is not always straightforward. Chapter II of the Judgments Regulation concerns jurisdiction. Article 4 sets out the general rule, which is that a person should be sued in the Member State where he is domiciled. In general, it is assumed that, if the Judgments Regulation in fact applies to schemes, the creditors should be treated by analogy as defendants. Thus the Judgments Regulation analysis is still extremely important in a case like this, where the company is incorporated in England, if (among other things) there are creditors domiciled in other Member States.
In that context, Article 8 provides an exception to the general rule in Article 4, to the effect that a person domiciled in a Member State may also be sued, if he is one of multiple defendants, in the courts for the place that any one of them is domiciled, provided the claims are so closely connected that it is expedient to hear and determine them together to avoid the risk of irreconcilable judgments resulting from separate proceedings. Article 8 is one of a number of potential avenues by which the court may get comfortable that it has jurisdiction over the scheme creditors and is able to sanction a scheme of arrangement. The approach to the ‘expediency’ proviso is still evolving and was considered in some detail in this instance.
The judge noted that there had been something of a ‘division of view’ among the judiciary on how to decide whether the proviso is engaged when considering the domicile of creditors in a scheme of arrangement. He was sceptical of the view expressed by some judges that Article 8 requires a consideration of the number and value of the creditors domiciled in the jurisdiction, instead focusing on the idea that ‘expediency’ requires an assessment of the significance of the risk of an irreconcilable judgment in the court of another Member State. He was persuaded that the very risk of an irreconcilable judgment elsewhere satisfied the proviso requirement that it be expedient to hear the claims together. In this instance, he noted that there were three noteholder companies and three individuals domiciled in England and Wales, but made clear that he believed that one noteholder would be enough to open the gateway to the Article 8 proviso.
He also noted that it would have been reasonable for noteholders to expect their rights to be adjusted in this jurisdiction as the notes were issued by an English company (or New York, as the notes were New York-law governed, but not in the courts of the various Member States where other creditors were domiciled), and that 108 noteholders, holding 83 per cent of the notes, had entered into lock-up agreements to support the scheme. He was satisfied on the evidence that the scheme would be recognised in New York, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Switzerland and the Ukraine.
iv Lehman Brothers International (Europe)
The UK courts continue to consider a range of issues arising from the Lehman Brothers International (Europe) (LBIE) administration.81 The surplus monies available for distribution after payment of ordinary unsecured claims have given rise to a number of novel and difficult legal questions about entitlement and the order of priority, which have been examined in the Waterfall cases.
These issues were first considered in what has become known as the Waterfall I application, which was brought by the administrators of three companies within the Lehman group (LB Holdings Intermediate 2 Ltd, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc and Lehman Brothers Limited). The Waterfall I case deals with the general principles regarding the priority of post-administration interest and the existence or otherwise of foreign currency claims as non-provable debts.
On 17 May 2017, the UK Supreme Court handed down judgment in Waterfall I. Its findings were as follows:
- a the claims of LB Holdings Intermediate 2 Ltd under certain subordinated debt agreements are provable but rank to be paid, on the proper construction of those agreements, after the payment in full of statutory interest and non-provable liabilities (upholding the Court of Appeal decision);
- b currency conversion claims (for the difference between the sterling value of the debt at the administration date and the sterling value of that debt when paid) do not rank as non-provable claims (reversing the Court of Appeal decision);
- c statutory interest accruing but not paid during an administration cannot be claimed in a subsequent liquidation (reversing the Court of Appeal decision);
- d the liability of a company’s members to contribute to the company’s assets extends to non-provable liabilities (upholding the Court of Appeal decision), but not to statutory interest (reversing the Court of Appeal decision);
- e a company in administration cannot prove in the insolvencies of its contributories for the amount of the contingent liability to contribute, nor can it set off the contingent liability to contribute against the contributories’ claims as creditors (reversing Court of Appeal decision); and
- f the contributory rule, which prevents a person from recovering in a liquidation as a creditor until it has fully discharged its liability as a contributory, can be applied in administration (reversing the Court of Appeal decision), so long as it can be effected in a way that is practical and accords with the existing legislative provisions and principles; the administrators should be able to calculate an appropriate amount to retain when making a distribution that would be kept safe and ready to pay out, if appropriate, when final accounts are drawn up, or handed over to a subsequent liquidator.
The details regarding how these claims might be calculated are examined in the Waterfall II decisions. The Waterfall II, Part A judgment resolves a number of issues in relation to creditors’ entitlement to interest on their debts for the period after the commencement of administration (under Rule 2.88 IR 1986), including in relation to currency conversion claims, while the Part B judgment considers the construction and effect of certain post-administration contracts, specifically claim resolution agreements and claim determination deeds, and the Part C judgment considers points including the interpretation of a number of provisions in the 1992 and 2002 ISDA Master Agreements concerning default interest on sums due following the close-out of transactions.
The decisions of the High Court in Waterfall II, Parts A and B were appealed and heard by the Court of Appeal in April 2017. Judgment has not yet been handed down, and a further hearing has been scheduled to consider arguments arising out of the Supreme Court judgment in Waterfall I. The administrators think that the judgment may be handed down in the autumn. The High Court handed down judgment in Waterfall II, Part C in October 2016. The administrators have appealed this decision. The hearing is scheduled for July 2018, but may be brought forward following the elimination of some of the issues under dispute.
The administrators also applied to court on 25 April 2016 (the Waterfall III application) seeking guidance as to the scope of any contribution claims LBIE may make against its members and related issues. The administrators have been working towards a settlement of these proceedings. The Supreme Court Waterfall I decision concerning the ability of a company in administration to prove in the insolvency of its contributories is highly relevant to this application, and the administrators announced on 12 July 2017 that an agreement in principle has been reached on the commercial terms of a revised settlement agreement that takes into account the Supreme Court decision.
Notwithstanding the unusual circumstances of the Waterfall cases, which have led to the examination of several obscure and technical areas of law, the decision should prove helpful when considering questions that arise in solvent liquidations. It also sounds a warning to those wishing to include a company with unlimited liability in a corporate structure.
IV ANCILLARY INSOLVENCY PROCEEDINGS
i Ronelp Marine Ltd and Ors v. STX Offshore Shipbuilding Co Ltd & Ors82
STX Offshore & Shipbuilding Co Ltd (STX) is a Korean shipbuilding company. In May 2016, its directors petitioned for the commencement of Korean rehabilitation proceedings (a rescue proceeding), which the Korean court granted in June 2016. The rehabilitation proceedings were recognised as foreign main proceedings under the CBIR.
Under the CBIR, an automatic stay arises when recognition is granted. The court is also able to grant certain types of discretionary relief, and when the foreign main proceeding is a restructuring procedure rather than a liquidating one, it has become its practice to grant a wider stay, equivalent to that arising under an English administration, as happened in this instance. This case provided useful guidance on the factors that will be taken into account when the English court is considering an application to lift this type of stay.
In January 2015, five Liberian companies (the claimants) had commenced proceedings against STX in the English court. The claim arose out of certain performance bonds under which STX had guaranteed the obligations of its wholly owned Chinese subsidiary under a series of shipbuilding contracts. The subsidiary had entered into a Chinese insolvency process before the ships were built. The claimants’ claim against the subsidiary was rejected by the Chinese office holder, and so the claimants had turned to STX as guarantor. However, STX did not acknowledge liability, and raised various points in its defence, including illegality. The claim was reasonably well advanced by the time CBIR recognition and the accompanying stay were granted. The claimants successfully applied to have the stay lifted so that they could continue the claim.
The court noted that a stay should only be lifted to allow an unsecured monetary claim to be continued in exceptional circumstances. However, the claim involved a complex point of English law, illegality, which was in some respects in a state of flux. The application of the law to the facts involved such exceptional uncertainty that the court considered it would be difficult for the Korean rehabilitation court to have to consider the point on the basis of expert evidence alone.
It was also a factor of significant weight that the guarantee claim proceedings were well advanced, and all parties had expended considerable sums in preparation for trial. The court noted that the nearer the outcome of the proceedings, the greater the weight to be attached to this factor.
The court was satisfied that lifting the stay would not constitute an interference with the Korean rehabilitation proceedings. The Korean court would ultimately decide itself whether to adopt or ignore the English court’s adjudication, but resolving a complex issue of English law would assist rather than impede the Korean process. It concluded that the factors in this case were sufficiently exceptional, and that allowing the English proceedings to continue would on balance be in the interests of the claimants, as well as the other creditors of STX.
i EU referendum and political uncertainty
As discussed in Section I.i, the British public voted to leave the EU on 23 June 2016, and on 29 March 2017 the Prime Minister, Theresa May, gave formal notice of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw, triggering the two-year period for negotiating the terms on which the UK will leave. It is not yet clear what will happen if negotiations are not concluded within that period: it is possible that the UK will leave without concluding a deal; alternatively an extension could be granted by mutual consent, which might be accompanied by transitional arrangements, possibly preserving elements of the status quo while negotiations continue.
To add to the uncertainty, in April 2017, Mrs May called a snap general election for 8 June. Her Conservative Party was governing with a slim majority of 17 seats, and Mrs May hoped to secure a larger majority ahead of the start of the Brexit negotiations. However, contrary to widespread initial expectations, the Conservative Party in fact lost seats, and while it remained the largest party, it did not secure an outright majority. At the time of writing, it remains in power as a minority government, supported by a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), under which the DUP has agreed to back the government in key parliamentary votes.
A number of different exit models have been floated in outline. Before the general election, Mrs May had indicated that she favoured a ‘hard’ Brexit arrangement, under which, broadly speaking, the UK would give up full access to the single market and the customs union and take full control over immigration policy. She had also indicated that she would be willing to allow the UK to leave without a deal in place if necessary. However, not all members of the Conservative government were in agreement with this position. Some commentators thought that an increased majority might strengthen the hand of those within the Conservative Party in favour of a ‘soft’ Brexit arrangement (under which the UK would seek to retain a closer relationship with the EU, for instance by keeping single market and customs union membership and retaining the ‘passporting’ rights that allow financial firms to operate across the EU), and in any event many expected to see a more detailed negotiating position emerging after the election one way or the other. However, the largely unexpected outcome, and the resulting hung parliament, have added further uncertainty, with some arguing that it represents a rejection by the public of the hard Brexit proposal and a mandate for a ‘softer’ position, and others questioning whether the DUP support will prove robust enough in practice or whether a further general election will be called. The one thing that is clear is that the uncertainty surrounding the process is going to continue for some time to come.
ii Insolvency activity
Market reactions to the Brexit process and the political uncertainty have been mixed. As discussed in Section II, sterling has depreciated markedly since the referendum. The sharp drop has helped exporters, and benefited some companies, particularly FTSE 100 companies, that earn much of their revenues overseas, but it has also increased the price of imports and had a knock-on effect on the spending power of consumers. The weak pound may continue to drive inflation higher, and it may prove difficult to rein in inflation without further depressing growth. It remains to be seen how persistent and severe the slowdown in GDP growth and household consumption will be, and whether it will have a knock-on effect on consumer confidence. Wage growth remains subdued, despite the robust employment statistics, which may also have an effect on consumers’ ability and willingness to spend.
The markets have at times reacted badly to political uncertainty, but not always so – for instance, the unexpected hung parliament did not have as much of a negative effect on the pound as some predicted, with some participants taking comfort from the belief that it might produce a softer Brexit.83
Overall, there is a broad consensus among economists and market commentators that there will be a necessary real adjustment as the UK economy adapts following exit from the EU, but it is too early to assess how severe that adjustment will be, and how gradually it will take place. It is also too early to say how much volatility we will see as the negotiations progress. Whether and when these drivers translate into increased insolvency activity will depend on a number of factors, including the progress and outcome of exit negotiations, the levels of market volatility, and also external factors such as the performance of the EU and global markets.
In the immediate aftermath of the referendum, there were fears that the retail sector might be significantly affected by a decline in consumer confidence and spending power. While consumer confidence has remained more resilient than many commentators expected, there have been some examples of financial distress (see Section III.i), primarily in certain parts of the middle market. While these failures seem to have been driven primarily by problems going back a number of years rather than the prevailing economic climate alone, the retail environment remains challenging, and the potential confluence of ongoing cost pressures and heavy competition, in particular from online outlets, with any increased decline in consumer confidence and spending power means that the sector remains vulnerable and we may see further business failures.
The problems in the oil and gas sectors look set to continue in the coming year. Prices remain low, and some companies that initially entered into ‘amend and extend’ arrangements when prices first fell may need to undergo more fundamental restructurings. The low-price environment has led to a reduction in offshore capital expenditure, which continues to have an effect on other sectors: conditions in the shipping and offshore sector remain difficult, for instance. Performance began to decline in 2015, and while it bottomed out in 2016, it has not yet recovered. In addition to the low oil price environment and the reduction in off-shore capex expenditure, issues such as overcapacity and poor investor returns have exacerbated the problems in some parts of the sector. Shipping sector restructurings are often particularly challenging, and involve navigating complex corporate and capital structures, with many different types of creditors. On the other hand, commodity prices have rallied to some extent, which has relieved some of the pressure on the mining sector; whether the rally continues remains to be seen. It continues to be difficult to generalise about sector trends with accuracy and some market commentators highlight other sectors such as healthcare and construction, although within these sectors there remain a number of companies that are continuing to perform well.
Some sectors are likely to be particularly focused on the Brexit negotiations and the UK government’s domestic plans regarding certain regulations and subsidies that are likely to fall away following the UK’s departure from the EU. Agriculture is one such sector, which is currently heavily dependent on EU subsidies. Banks and financial service companies, whose business models rely on the EU ‘passporting’ system, will also continue to watch the progress of negotiations closely, and contingency planning for the various exit scenarios is likely to become more detailed as negotiations progress.
iii Practical trends and legislative developments
When it comes to restructuring, corporate groups with a cross-border presence continue to stress-test a range of restructuring options across the jurisdictions they operate in before deciding how to proceed. Companies with a mixture of English and US law-governed debt in their capital structures continue to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of US Chapter 11 proceedings and English schemes of arrangement. In general, companies with mixed capital structures may potentially lean more towards Chapter 11 if they need to undergo a significant operational restructuring, particularly in light of the protections available for directors. However, schemes remain a go-to option for financial restructurings, including those involving both English and US law-governed debt.
Schemes of arrangement also remain a popular restructuring tool within Europe. Although there has been more interest in the reformed restructuring regimes in certain other European countries such as Spain, this has not yet translated into serious competition for the UK scheme. In the long term, we may see more restructurings taking place in their ‘home’ jurisdictions, particularly if further EU Member States introduce more effective restructuring procedures into their regimes in response to the EU harmonisation directive (see Section V.v), and a corresponding decrease in the use of schemes by foreign companies (particularly where complex engineering is required to bring the company within the jurisdiction of the English courts). However, in the short to medium term, we do not expect the reformed regimes to pose a significant challenge to the scheme’s popularity as it will be some time before they are entrenched (and, where they are introduced in response to the directive, designed and legislated for) and any teething problems and ambiguities addressed, and, in the interim, many creditors are likely to prefer the tried and tested appeal of the established scheme, in the absence of significant pull factors.
iv The future of cross-border restructuring and insolvency
As discussed in Section I.i, the domestic insolvency regime is largely unaffected by EU legislation, and we would not expect significant legal changes to be required when the UK leaves the EU. However, the framework of mutual recognition of proceedings and judgments provided by the ECIR is very significant for insolvencies and restructurings with an EU cross-border element. EU legislation also provides a framework for the recognition of bank resolutions and insolvency proceedings. The government may seek to agree an alternative framework for the recognition of insolvency proceedings and judgments, either with individual EU Member States or with the EU as a whole.
If an alternative framework is not agreed, domestic law would be applied to determine whether the UK courts could take jurisdiction over a company seeking to make use of an English procedure, and the likelihood of that procedure being recognised in other Member States would need to be determined jurisdiction by jurisdiction. As described in Section I.vii, other bases for bilateral recognition do exist, such as the UNCITRAL Model Law on Cross-Border Insolvency, though not many EU Member States have implemented legislation based on the Model Law. The need to approach each jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis would certainly add complexity to cross-border restructurings, but might also allow the English courts to take a more flexible approach when deciding whether they could take jurisdiction; this ability is one of the aspects of the scheme of arrangement procedure that makes it an attractive restructuring tool.
The direct impact on the scheme of arrangement procedure itself is likely to be less significant. As discussed in Section I.vii, schemes fall outside the ambit of the ECIR and English law is used to determine jurisdiction. However, it has not been decided whether schemes fall within the EC Judgments Regulation. If alternative arrangements are put in place that closely replicate this regulation, the ambiguity is likely to continue. If not, it would fall away. On the one hand, one route to recognition would have been removed, and recognition and enforcement would need to be considered on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis; on the other hand, concerns that the regulation might limit the English courts’ jurisdiction to sanction schemes in certain circumstances would also fall away (although they would still need to be satisfied that the scheme would be recognised by some other route in the relevant EU jurisdictions).
In the short term, we would not expect there to be any change to the existing framework during the two-year negotiating period. It is possible that it might stay in place for an extended period if the negotiating period is extended or transitional provisions are put in place while a more detailed agreement is concluded. It is far too early to say whether leaving the EU will have an adverse effect on the restructuring and insolvency market in this jurisdiction in the long term. If the UK does not continue to participate in the ECIR framework, or agree a similar replacement framework, cross-border procedures that were previously within its scope will increase in complexity, which might affect their attractiveness in a cross-border context. On the other hand, schemes of arrangement are extremely popular despite the need to consider recognition and jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis, and it is possible that if the English courts’ jurisdiction in other proceedings is unfettered, they might in fact increase in popularity in certain circumstances.
v Legislative developments
Modernisation of IR 1986
On 6 April 2017, the IR 2016 came into force, replacing the Insolvency Rules 1986 in their entirety (with the exception of some limited transitional and savings provisions, and exemptions for certain special regimes). The Insolvency Rules are often described as the procedural framework for the IA 1986, but they do also contain some provisions of substantive law (while the IA 1986 contains some procedural requirements). The new rules were introduced with three stated aims:
- a to consolidate the rules (28 amending instruments were made while the IR 1986 were in force);
- b to restructure the IR 1986 and update the language (including gender-neutral drafting); and
- c to reflect changes made to the IA 1986 by the Deregulation Act 2015 and the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 (in particular amendments enabling modern methods of communication and decision-making to be used in place of paper communications and physical meetings).
The length and breadth of the Insolvency Rules means that engaging with the changes has been a substantial task for practitioners. Although a lot of the changes are quite technical and administrative in nature – for instance the IR 1986 contained prescribed forms for use in many scenarios, whereas the IR 2016 only lists the content requirements – many of them affect day-to-day practice, and the familiarisation process will take some time. At the same time, the High Court in London has introduced an electronic filing service for court documents, use of which has been compulsory for insolvency filings since 25 April 2017. In general, the new system is quite straightforward, but as with any new system some unexpected questions have arisen, and practitioners have been engaging with the courts to ensure that the requirements of IR 2016 are capable of being satisfied in the context of e-filing.
At the European level, the final text of the Recast ECIR was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 5 June 2015 and entered into force on 25 June 2015. Most of its provisions have applied since 26 June 2017.
Key amendments included:
- a revising the definition of insolvency proceedings to include hybrid and pre-insolvency proceedings;
- b clarifying the jurisdiction rules and improving the procedural framework for determining jurisdiction, including by the addition of new language in relation to the determination of COMI;
- c enabling the courts to postpone or refuse the opening of secondary proceedings in some circumstances, if they are not necessary to protect the interests of local creditors;
- d abolishing the requirement that such proceedings must be winding-up proceedings;
- e extending the cooperation requirements by obliging courts of the main and secondary proceedings to cooperate between themselves and by obliging liquidators and courts to cooperate with each other;
- f including a new concept of ‘group coordination proceedings’ to facilitate the insolvency or restructuring of multinational groups of companies subject to collective insolvency procedures that fall within the Recast ECIR (but maintaining the entity-by-entity approach); and
- g requiring EU Member States to publish court decisions in cross-border insolvency cases in publicly accessible interconnected electronic registers (these provisions are not yet in force).
Amendments have been made to IA 1986 and IR 2016 where necessary to ensure that the provisions of the Recast Regulation dovetail with domestic legislation.
Draft harmonisation directive
In November 2016, the EU Commission published a draft ‘harmonisation directive’84 that sets out a framework for partial harmonisation of restructuring and insolvency frameworks across Europe. As currently drafted, each Member State would have two years from the time the directive entered into force to ensure that it has a ‘preventive restructuring framework’ in place meeting the criteria laid out in the directive. Member States would have some discretion as to how they brought their regimes in line with the Directive, and, as this is only a partial harmonisation drive, some matters remain outside its scope. Broadly speaking, compliant regimes would give viable companies in financial distress access to a restructuring framework that gives them the opportunity to avoid insolvency and emerge on a more sustainable footing, incorporating the following elements:
- a a moratorium to protect companies that are in the process of negotiating a restructuring plan with their creditors;
- b limitations on the circumstances in which counterparties can rely on ‘ipso facto’ clauses to terminate a contract solely because the company enters restructuring negotiations or seeks a moratorium;
- c a debtor-in-possession procedure, which does not always require the appointment of an insolvency practitioner;
- d class-based voting rights for all creditors who would be affected by the restructuring plan;
- e cross-class cramdown if the restructuring plan meets certain criteria; and
- f adequate protection for new and interim financing.
The draft directive needs to be approved by the European Council and Parliament. Various stakeholders have already suggested amendments, some of which may be reflected in the draft. The approval process is likely to take some time.
vi Future domestic legislative agenda
The UK may have left the EU before compliance with the requirements of the final version of the harmonisation directive becomes mandatory. It is not yet clear what approach the government will adopt if the UK is not required to comply with its requirements. It has so far taken some steps to seek stakeholders’ views on the draft directive, and it may be that it decides to adopt voluntarily certain elements of the proposals to ensure that the UK regime stays competitive.
In May 2016, the government published a consultation seeking views on whether the UK’s corporate insolvency and restructuring regime needed updating in light of international principles developed by the World Bank and UNCITRAL, recent large corporate failures and an increasing European focus on providing businesses with the tools to facilitate company rescue. The consultation focused on four proposals, which foreshadowed some of the key elements of the preventive restructuring framework envisaged by the draft harmonisation directive:
- a introducing a restructuring moratorium for distressed businesses to benefit from protection against legal action while considering their options for rescue;
- b widening the scope of existing legislation that places restrictions on the termination of contracts for essential supplies, with appropriate safeguards for suppliers, to assist distressed businesses;
- c introducing a new restructuring procedure, with the ability to bind creditors to a restructuring plan (including provision for cross-class cramdown), to increase the options available to rescue businesses; and
- d increasing the availability of rescue finance.
It remains to be seen whether the government will bring forth legislation based on these proposals. It had indicated that it was considering the responses to the consultation and would announce next steps, but that was before the general election was called, and a further update is awaited. It is possible that the government will evaluate the responses alongside the draft Harmonisation Directive, as the objectives of the Directive and the consultation are aligned in some key respects. If implemented broadly as set out in the consultation, the measures would represent the most significant reforms to the domestic insolvency framework since the Enterprise Act 2002, and the same is likely to be true if measures were to be adopted enacting the key elements of the draft Harmonisation Directive as it is currently drafted.
1 Ian Johnson is a partner at Slaughter and May. The author would like to thank Nicky Ellis, a professional support lawyer at Slaughter and May, for her assistance in preparing this chapter.
2 The term ‘UK insolvency law’ is used in this chapter to denote the insolvency laws applicable to England and Wales. Similar laws apply, with modifications, to Scotland and Northern Ireland.
3 These came into force on 6 April 2016, in most cases replacing the Insolvency Rules 1986 in their entirety.
4 With certain significant exceptions, such as the Financial Collateral Arrangements (No. 2) Regulations 2003 (implementing the EU Directive on Financial Collateral Arrangements, which aims to simplify the process of taking and enforcing financial collateral across the EU). The regulations disapply a number of provisions of the IA 1986, including the moratorium on enforcement of security in insolvency processes such as administration and company voluntary arrangements and the order of priority of claims in floating charge realisations.
5 References to ‘EU Member State’ in the remainder of this chapter should be taken to mean an EU Member State other than Denmark.
6 See Section V.v for an overview of the changes.
7 Main and secondary proceedings for the purposes of the Recast ECIR must be ‘collective insolvency proceedings’ and are listed in Annex A to the ECIR. Those relevant to corporate insolvencies in the UK are: winding up by or subject to the supervision of the court; creditors’ voluntary liquidation (with confirmation by the court); administration (including out-of-court appointments) and voluntary arrangements.
8 Under the Recast ECIR, the presumption does not arise if the registered office has been moved to another Member State in the three-month period before the request for the opening of insolvency proceedings.
9 Under the Original ECIR, such secondary proceedings had to be winding-up proceedings, and were listed in Annex B. The Recast ECIR has removed this restriction.
10 Broadly defined as a floating charge over the whole or substantially the whole of the company’s property.
11 See Sections 220 to 221 of the IA 1986, which allow for the winding up of foreign companies as unregistered companies.
12 It is not possible to appoint an administrative receiver in respect of a company incorporated outside the UK.
13 As discussed in Section I.v, the court may refuse to open secondary proceedings if an undertaking to respect local priorities is in place.
14 Re a company (No. 003102 of 1991) ex p Nyckeln Finance Co Ltd  BCLC 539.
15 Hellas Telecommunications (Luxembourg) II SCA  EWHC 3199 (Ch).
16 A Statement of Insolvency Practice (SIP 16 – Pre-packaged Sales in Administration) was introduced to ensure greater transparency of pre-packs. It sets out the required disclosures that an administrator must make to creditors of the details of any pre-pack agreement and sale.
17 A pre-pack administration can also be combined with a scheme, as seen in the IMO Carwash and McCarthy & Stone restructurings.
18 Under the Original ECIR, the circumstances in which administration could be used as a secondary proceeding were limited, as secondary proceedings are restricted to winding-up proceedings.
19 But note the exception provided by Section 426 of the IA 1986 that permits the English courts to assist courts having insolvency jurisdiction in other ‘relevant countries’: in Re Dallhold Estates (UK) Pty Ltd  BCC 394 the court acceded to the request of a Western Australian court to grant an administration order in respect of an Australian company with assets in this jurisdiction.
20 The IA 1986 and IR 2016 set out various ‘decision procedures’ that may be used when creditors are required to make a decision. Many of these decisions would previously have been made at physical creditors’ meetings, but since the IR 2016 came into force on 6 April 2017, such meetings are now permitted only if the requisite proportion of creditors so requests. Challenges on the grounds of unfair prejudice are possible in some circumstances – see further Section I.iv).
21 The CVA becomes effective immediately after the resolution to approve it has been passed (for which 14 days’ notice is required).
22 A CVA is not specifically listed as a winding-up proceeding for the purposes of Annex B to the Original ECIR. Arguably though, if it is not effected within a liquidation or administration, it can be proposed as a means of terminating secondary proceedings for the purposes of the Original ECIR on the basis that it amounts to a ‘composition’ (see Article 34). The Original ECIR provides that closure in this way requires the consent of the liquidator in the main proceedings but, in the absence of such consent, it may become final if the financial interests of the creditors in the main proceedings are not affected by the measure proposed. The scope of secondary proceedings under the Recast ECIR is no longer limited to winding-up proceedings.
23 Note that the English courts’ jurisdiction to sanction a scheme hinges on their jurisdiction to wind up the scheme company in question (the criteria for which is discussed earlier in this Section).
24 The court has, however, stayed proceedings for summary judgment in a case where steps to implement a scheme were well advanced and it had a reasonable prospect of success: Re Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group & Ors  EWHC (Comm) 1146.
25 For example, the scheme proposed by DTEK Finance Plc in April 2016, which provided the group with a moratorium in which to negotiate a restructuring.
26 Including those whose COMIs are located in another EU Member State. The English courts’ jurisdiction in relation to schemes of foreign companies has been found not to have been fettered by the ECIR: see Re Drax Holdings; Re Inpower  EWHC 2743 (convening hearing: 17 November 2003) and Re Dap Holding NV  EWHC 2092 (sanction hearing: 26 September 2005).
27 See, for example, the decisions relating to Tele Columbus, Rodenstock, PrimaCom, Seat Pagine, Vivacom, Cortefiel and Zlomrex.
28 E.g., Re Apcoa Parking Holdings GmbH & Ors  EWHC 1867 and DTEK Finance BV, Re  EWHC 1164 (Ch), where the governing law in an indenture relating to high-yield bonds was changed from New York law to English law prior to making a scheme application.
29 E.g., Chapter 15 of the US Bankruptcy Code, which implements the Model Law in the United States, amended the definition of ‘foreign proceedings’ to include ‘adjustment of debt’, which may include certain schemes of arrangement.
30 If the company is in administration or liquidation, the administrator or liquidator will usually act as the nominee.
31 Unless the liquidator or administrator is acting as nominee, in which case he or she does not need to report to the court, but proceeds straight to the decision-making stage.
32 See Practice Statement (Scheme of Arrangements with Creditors)  All ER (D) 57 (Apr), the purpose of which is to enable issues concerning the composition of classes of creditor and the summoning of meetings to be identified and, if appropriate, resolved early in the proceedings.
33 Practice Statement (Companies: Schemes of Arrangement)  1 WLR 1345.
34 Peninsula and Oriental Steam Navigation Company  EWHC 389.
35 An official receiver (appointed in a compulsory liquidation) is not subject to such a regime. He is an officer of the court and responsible directly to it and to the relevant secretary of state.
36 The procedure is to be used only where there has been a transfer of part of a failing bank’s business, assets or liabilities to a bridge bank or a private sector purchaser under the special resolution regime, leaving an insolvent residual entity. It is designed to ensure that essential services and facilities that cannot be immediately transferred to the bridge bank or private purchaser continue to be provided for a period of time.
37 The Investment Bank Special Administration Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/245). These regulations have been supplemented by the Investment Bank Special Administration (England and Wales) Rules 2011 (SI 2011/1301).
38 The bail-in mechanism included in the 2013 Act was closely modelled on the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive when it was in draft form, while the legislation introduced on 1 January 2015 included the amendments that were necessary to ensure that it was fully compliant with that Directive.
39 Section 17 of and Schedule 2 to the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013.
40 The Insurers (Reorganisation and Winding Up) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/353). Separate regulations apply to Lloyd’s insurers: see the Insurers (Reorganisation and Winding Up) (Lloyd’s) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005/1998).
41 The Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013.
42 Note, however, the existence of a number of statutes that provide for company groups to be considered as one entity in non-insolvency situations, for example, the CA 2006 with the concept of group accounting; and taxation legislation with concepts such as ‘controlling interests’ and group taxation and tax relief.
43 Typically, this will be where the COMI of the parent, provided it has ‘command and control’ of the group, is located. See, for example, Re Daisytek-ISA Ltd  BCC 562 and Re MG Rover España SA  BCC 599.
44 See, for example, Collins & Aikman  BCC 861 and Nortel Networks SA  BCC 343.
45 See MPOTEC (EMTEC) GmbH  BCC 681.
46 Legislative Guide on Insolvency Law, Part Three: Treatment of Enterprise Groups in Insolvency adopted by UNCITRAL on 5 July 2010 and published on 21 July 2010. Elsewhere, INSOL Europe has recommended the introduction of group proceedings.
47 See the UNCITRAL Practice Guide on Cross-Border Insolvency Cooperation (adopted 1 July 2009).
48 Note, too, the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1933, which provides for enforcement in England of civil and commercial judgments made in designated jurisdictions, provided that the judgment has been registered under that statute.
49 Re Arena Corporation Ltd  All ER (D) 277.
50 Recital (33) of the ECIR confirms that Denmark, which exercised its opt-out in relation to the ECIR, is not to be regarded as a ‘Member State’ for the purposes of the ECIR.
51 The English courts may also refuse to provide assistance under the CBIR if it would be manifestly contrary to public policy.
52 In cases of conflict between the obligations of the UK under the ECIR and the provisions of the CBIR, the ECIR will prevail. In essence, the CBIR provide an alternative basis for judicial cooperation where the ECIR does not apply, for example where the debtor’s COMI is not situated in an EU Member State or where the type of proceeding (or foreign representative) in question is not covered by the ECIR, or to the extent that they do not conflict with the ECIR.
53 Rubin & Anor v. Eurofinance SA & Ors  UKSC 46 (24 October 2012).
54 See the opinions of Advocate General Colomer, delivered to the European Court of Justice in Case C-1/04 Staubitz-Schreiber  ECR 1-701 and Case C-339/07 Seagon v. Deko Marty Belgium NV  ECR-1-767.
55 An early example of ‘good’ forum shopping can be seen in the Schefenacker restructuring, where the holding company of a German automotive supplier moved ownership of its assets and liabilities to a new, English-registered holding company so that it could enter into a CVA.
56 Hellas Telecommunications (Luxembourg) II SCA  EWHC 3199 (Ch).
57 A key reason for the COMI shift was to facilitate a pre-pack sale of the company’s main asset, its shares in the main trading telecoms company, to a new group company, leaving behind subordinated lenders as creditors of a company with no assets.
58 As discussed in Section V.v, the Recast ECIR, includes new language in relation to the determination of COMI, but the steps taken in this case are still likely to be relevant.
59 Van Gansewinkel Groep BV & Ors, Re  EWHC 2151 (Ch) (22 July 2015).
60 Snowden J found that the number of scheme creditors domiciled in England (15 of the 106 creditors, spread across the classes) and the size of their claims (€135 million in total) were sufficient to make it expedient for all scheme claims to be determined together.
61 ONS release, ‘Second estimate of GDP: Jan to Mar 2017’, 28 April 2017. The figures are estimates and are subject to revision. The ONS Quarterly National Accounts: Jan to Mar 2017, which include the third estimate of quarterly GDP, note that GDP and its components are little changed from the second estimate.
62 ONS release, ‘Gross domestic product, preliminary estimate: Apr to June 2017’, 26 July 2017. The figures are estimates and are subject to revision.
63 HM Treasury, ‘Forecasts for the UK economy: a comparison of independent forecasts’, July 2017.
64 ONS Statistical Bulletin, ‘UK Labour Market: July 2017’, 12 July 2017.
65 Using the ‘Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs’ measure. ONS Statistical Bulletin, ‘UK consumer price inflation: June 2017’, 18 July 2017.
66 Monetary Policy Summary and minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee meeting ending on 14 June 2017, 15 June 2017.
67 Financial Times ‘Haldane’s UK rates intervention likely to raise tensions with Carney’, 22 June 2017.
68 Financial Times ‘Bank of England came close to raising interest rates’, 15 June 2017.
69 BoE Credit Conditions Review, 2017 Q1, p. 7.
70 Ibid. pp. 7-8.
71 If they are not excluded, total company insolvencies in the first quarter of 2017 show a decrease of 29.1 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2016.
72 Insolvency Service, ‘Insolvency Statistics – January to March 2017’, 28 April 2016, p. 3. The latest quarter’s statistics are estimated.
73 Ibid., p. 3 and p. 9.
74 Ibid., p. 8.
75 Ibid., p. 10. These are the latest statistics available – the quarter lag allows time for more complete data to be collected.
76 Certain claims of some unsecured creditors have preferential status, for instance some employee claims.
77 The prescribed part is a capped percentage of the value of the company’s property subject to floating charges that is set aside for unsecured creditors and paid before realisations are distributed to the floating charge holder.
78 E.g., The Guardian, ‘Edinburgh Woollen Mill acquires Jaeger brand in plan for new chain’, 28 May 2017.
79 The Guardian, ‘Jaeger suppliers owed millions consider legal action against ex-owners’, 23 May 2017.
80 In the Matter of DTEK Finance Plc  EWHC 3563 (Ch) (21 December 2016).
81 LBIE, a company of unlimited liability, was the Lehman group’s main European broker-dealer and provided investment banking services on a global basis. It filed for administration on 15 September 2008.
82  EWHC 2228 (Ch), 7 September 2016.
83 See, e.g., Financial Times, ‘The Brexit vote and UK markets one year on’, 22 June 2017.
84 Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on preventive restructuring frameworks, second chance and measures to increase the efficiency of restructuring, insolvency and discharge procedures and amending Directive 2012/30/EU.