What a difference a day makes…

Notice punctuality is much more than a virtue for IPs.

Many actions by office-holders (or directors in respect of prospective appointments) require the delivery of a notice to categories of persons (typically creditors), providing certain specified notice periods.

The Insolvency (England and Wales) Rules 2016 formalised the rules around notice, deemed date of delivery and calculation of time periods. The Scottish equivalents of these rules came into force in April of this year, and the issues discussed below are of equal application to appointments in Scotland.

Working in the world of compliance, we are frequently invited to review clients’ case files. On a number of occasions in recent months, we’ve seen files where insufficient notice has been given to persons entitled to receive it. The legal effects of short notice are debatable, but what is certain is that any doubt about the validity of a resolution will be extremely unwelcome.

In many cases, we are talking about simple and avoidable calculation errors resulting in short notice by a single day. In this article we will examine what difference a day can make. The criteria are all clearly set out, so why are we seeing so many instances of short notice?

Deemed date of delivery – day zero

One area of confusion seems to be that delivery is itself subject to rules around when it is deemed to have taken place. The deemed date of delivery is calculated with reference to the delivery mechanism employed and is based on business days. It does not, therefore, include weekends and UK Bank Holidays.

The deemed date of delivery is not included within the calculation of the notice period, so is effectively day zero, not day one. By way of example, if you mail by first-class post on the Friday before a Bank Holiday weekend, the deemed date of delivery is not until the following Wednesday and day one of the notice period does not commence until the Thursday.

Notice periods

Notice periods in excess of five days are based on calendar days, not business days, and the default position for notice periods is 14 clear days, unless specified to the contrary. Clear days means including neither the day of delivery, nor the day of the event. So, when fixing a decision date, you must typically add 15 days to the date of deemed delivery, not 14 (as we frequently see).

The administration conundrum

It’s well known that proposals must be sent to creditors within eight weeks of appointment and, where a decision on those proposals is sought, for the initial decision date to be within ten weeks.

However, the rules require 14 days’ notice of the decision date to be given. So, if you exclude the date of the decision itself, the date of delivery and the deemed delivery period, sending out proposals on the last day of the eight weeks necessarily means the initial decision date will not fall within the ten weeks and an extension will be required. We’ve seen a number of cases where practitioners have sent their proposals out on the last day of week eight, seeking to hold the decision on the last day of week ten, with the effect that creditors have received short notice of the decision.

Effect of short notice

The legal effect of short notice is debatable. Some comfort can certainly be drawn from rule 12.64 – ‘Formal defects’ (Scottish equivalent: rule 1.56), which provides that

‘No insolvency proceedings will be invalidated by any formal defect or any irregularity unless the court before which objection is made considers that substantial injustice has been caused by the defect or irregularity and that the injustice cannot be remedied by any order of the court.’

But that comfort might be rather cold if the defect is in the appointment process. In Pui-Kwan v. Kam-Ho it was held that the predecessor of this rule (r7.55) was only available once there was a valid insolvency appointment (and not in that case, to cure a defect in an inquorate board meeting at the inception), and in Minmar we saw an administrator’s appointment held to be invalid for a lack of notice to the company. Although in a recent and more encouraging decision, Cash Generator Ltd v. Fortune and others, the liquidators’ appointment was held valid despite a failure to give all creditors notice of a deemed consent procedure.

Short notice will necessarily give rise to rights of challenge by those affected, even if not the automatic invalidity of the process. The consistent message from regulators is that they expect any defects on the approval of remuneration to be remedied (and remuneration to be repaid in the meantime).

Practical tips:

  • Make sure your teams are clear on the calculation of delivery times and notice periods.
  • Why not add the ‘deemed date of delivery’ to your Certificates of Delivery template? It will act as a helpful aide-memoir and instantly flag the earliest date a proposed decision date can be held.
  • If you realise that you’ve provided short notice of a decision on remuneration, consider whether you need a fresh resolution or some form of ratification. Your RPB may expect you to do so.
  • We provide compliance review and in-house training services and can assist with any aspect of your compliance needs.

For further information about how we may assist you, please contact: [email protected]

First published in the June 2019 edition of RECOVERY News and reproduced with the permission of R3 and GTI Media.

 

Alison Curry to speak at R3 Personal Insolvency Forum

Insolvency Support Services director Alison Curry will be speaking about “Compliance around the edge” at the R3 Personal Insolvency Forum in Birmingham on 18 June and Huddersfield on 25 June.

We’re looking forward to a wide-ranging discussion at the event on the key issues and challenges facing insolvency practitioners in the personal insolvency market in the coming years.

For more information and to book: https://www.r3.org.uk/personal_insolvency