MVLs in Scotland – the law of unintended consequences?

Eileen Maclean has been hot on the heels of the new Insolvency (Scotland) Rules and suggests there could be risks for liquidators and members in MVLs.

Scotland’s new corporate insolvency Rules, the Insolvency (Scotland) (Company Voluntary Arrangement and Administration) Rules 2018 and the Insolvency (Scotland) (Receivership and Winding up) Rules 2018 (the new Scottish Rules) come into force on 6 April 2019.

Since their publication, we have been poring over them. We’ve had a good look at MVLs under the new Rules and highlight some potential issues in this article – not all of them necessarily intended by the Rules’ creators. No doubt as issues arise and are considered, practice and interpretation will develop. But as things stand, what are we faced with?

Transitional and savings procedures

The new Scottish Rules apply to cases open at 6 April 2019, save for any express transitional or savings provisions. Very few apply to MVLs.

Part 4 of the current 1986 Scottish Rules only applies to MVLs as specified in Schedule 2. Part 7 of the new Scottish Rules states that it ‘applies in winding up’. No definition of ‘winding up’ is given, but some Rules in Part 7 clearly refer to MVL, CVL or WUC. Generally, therefore, Part 7 applies to all processes, solvent or insolvent, voluntary or compulsory.

What does that mean in practice? Statutory interest will apply from 6 April onwards, when currently it doesn’t, to both existing and future cases. Statutory processes that previously did not apply to MVLs, eg accounting periods, will do so going forward and, in the absence of any savings provisions, for existing cases too.

Creditor claims

Where a liquidator in an MVL is dealing with creditor claims, the accounting period process specific to Scotland now applies, with all its attendant deadlines. The first accounting period is six months and cannot be shortened. Part 7, Chapter 4 Claims by Creditors now applies (which makes sense – why have a different basis of calculation in an MVL). R7.32 Payment of Dividends states that on the expiry of the appeal period (or the final determination of the last such appeal) the liquidator must pay to the creditors the dividends in accordance with the scheme of division. The small debts provisions at R.34 apply.

Any liquidator dealing with a claim now must do so within the context of the Rules. Claims by creditors must be submitted in terms of R7.16 not later than eight weeks before the end of an accounting period. The liquidator adjudicates per R7.19 and must, not later than four weeks before end of the period, accept or reject the claim. Creditors then have a right to appeal to the court not later than 14 days before the end of the period. These time limits can be varied by the court per R7.31(2)(c )(ii) (there won’t be a liquidation committee in an MVL). Alternatively, the liquidator could apply to court to set an earlier last date for claims per S153 of the Insolvency Act 1986.

The way the new Rules apply, it will in practice shift the onus onto the directors to make sure that creditors are paid pre-appointment.

While there might not be many MVLs where the liquidator is dealing with creditor claims, there will be some. And the way the new Rules apply, it will in practice shift the onus onto the directors to make sure that creditors are paid pre-appointment.

Statutory interest

R7.27 Order of Distribution imports statutory interest into MVLs where currently there is none, albeit the rate in Scotland drops to 8% from 15% on 6 April 2019. It makes sense that statutory interest applies consistently to MVLs UK-wide, and the approach to minimising statutory interest on corporation tax is back to being a UK one. Again, there are no savings provisions here, so interest now appears to apply in relation to MVLs open as at 6 April 2019. On the bright side, future debts provision for discounting at the official rate back to the date of liquidation is now included to all winding ups in R7.22.

What this potentially means in practice

  • Directors must ensure that all outstanding liabilities of the company are paid pre-appointment and, if not, members need to understand that there is a potential statutory interest liability (of up to six months).
  • Possible court application post-appointment per S153/R7.31 to deal with claims in shorter timescales than those set out in the Rules.
  • Unless there is active management of the timescales in R7.19, creditors will have to wait to get paid, assuming no appeal to an adjudication, until no earlier than 14 days before the end of the first accounting period. That entitles them to approximately 5.5 months of statutory interest as a result. That will be material in some cases, not in others. The cost of making an application to court may be worth it in some cases, but not in others.
  • Where you have a significant exposure to statutory interest in an ongoing MVL, consider paying creditors before 6 April 2019 (and use s153 accordingly).

What was previously a straightforward process now seems overly complicated, and rather goes against the spirit and intention of the new Rules.

All of this raises issues of risk for MVL liquidators and additional cost for members, where creditors have not been paid in advance of appointment. What was previously a straightforward process now seems overly complicated, and rather goes against the spirit and intention of the new Rules.

Insolvency Support Services have been examining the new legal requirements and their practical implications at a series of courses, which we can offer as bespoke in-house training, and will be providing document packs and compliance support.

For further information about how Insolvency Support Services can assist you in adjusting to these changes, contact: enquiries@insolvencysupportservices.com

 

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