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Voluntary Administration

Voluntary administration: a guide for creditors

If a company is in financial difficulty, it can be put into voluntary administration.

This information sheet provides general information for unsecured creditors of companies in voluntary administration.

Who is a creditor?

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You are a creditor of a company if the company owes you money. Usually, a creditor is owed money because they have provided goods or services, or made loans to the company. Employee owed money for unpaid wages and other entitlement is also a creditor.

A person who may be owed money by the company if a certain event occurs (e.g. if they succeed in a legal claim against the company) is also a creditor, and is sometimes referred to as a ‘contingent’ creditor. There are generally two categories of creditor: secured and unsecured.

A secured creditor is someone who has a ‘charge’, such as a mortgage, over some or all of the company’s assets, to secure a debt owed by the company. Lenders usually require a charge over company assets when they provide a loan.

An unsecured creditor is a creditor who does not have a charge over the company’s assets.

Employees are a special class of unsecured creditors. Their outstanding entitlements are usually paid in priority to the claims of other unsecured creditors. If you are an employee, see our related information sheet ‘Voluntary administration: a guide for employees’.

The purpose of voluntary administration

Voluntary administration is designed to resolve a company’s future direction. An independent and suitably qualified person (the voluntary administrator) takes full control of the company to try to work out a way to save either the company or its business.

If it isn’t possible to save the company or its business, the aim is to administer the affairs of the company in a way that results in a better return to creditors than they would have received if the company had instead been placed straight into liquidation. A mechanism for achieving these aims is a deed of company arrangement.

A voluntary administrator is usually appointed by a company’s directors, after they decide that the company is insolvent or likely to become insolvent. Less commonly, a voluntary administrator may be appointed by a liquidator, provisional liquidator, or a secured creditor.

A company in voluntary administration may also be in receivership.

The voluntary administrator’s role

After taking control of the company, the voluntary administrator investigates and reports to creditors on the company’s business, property, affairs and financial circumstances, and on the three options available to creditors. These are:

  1. end the voluntary administration and return the company to the directors’ control
  2. approve a deed of company arrangement through which the company will pay all or part of its debts and then be free of those debts, or
  3. wind up the company and appoint a liquidator.
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The voluntary administrator must give an opinion on each option and recommend which option is in the best interests of creditors.

In doing so, the voluntary administrator tries to work out the best solution to the company’s problems, assesses any proposals put forward by others for the company’s future, and compares the possible outcomes of the proposals with the likely outcome in liquidation.

A creditors’ meeting is usually held about 5 weeks after the company goes into voluntary administration to decide on the best option. In complex administrations, this meeting may be held later if the court consents.

The voluntary administrator has all the powers of the company and its directors. This includes the power to sell or close down the company’s business or sell individual assets in the lead up to the creditors’ decision on the company’s future.

Another responsibility of the voluntary administrator is to report to ASIC on possible offences by people involved with the company. Although the voluntary administrator may be appointed by the directors, they must act fairly and impartially.

Effect of appointment

The effect of the appointment of a voluntary administrator is to provide the company with breathing space while the company’s future is resolved. While the company is in voluntary administration:

  • unsecured creditors can’t begin, continue or enforce their claims against the company without the administrator’s consent or the court’s permission
  • owners of property (other than perishable property) used or occupied by the company, or people who lease such property to the company, can’t recover their property
  • except in limited circumstances, secured creditors can’t enforce their charge over company property
  • a court application to put the company in liquidation can’t be commenced, and
  • a creditor holding a personal guarantee from the company’s director or other person can’t act under the personal guarantee without the court’s consent.

Sourced from Information Sheet 74