General

Could you be a shadow director?

Shadow directors

The term ‘director’ is defined in s.9 of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (Act) to mean:

(a)          a person who:

(i)            is appointed to the position of a director; or

(ii)           is appointed to the position of an alternate director and is acting in that capacity;

regardless of the name that is given to their position; and

(b)          unless the contrary intention appears, a person who is not validly appointed as a director if:

(i)            they act in the position of a director; or

(ii)           the directors of the company or body are accustomed to act in accordance with the person’s instructions or wishes.

That is, (a) refers to directors notified to ASIC and (b) covers those who are de facto directors or shadow directors.

Consequently, a person who has not been validly appointed as a director of a company (and whose details are not therefore recorded in ASIC’s registers) may nonetheless be deemed a director of that company if they have influence to the extent that the directors of the company are accustomed to acting in accordance with the person’s instructions or wishes or if they act as if they are a director.

Indicators of being a shadow director

Examples of being a de facto or shadow director can include:

  • having independent authority to negotiate and manage executive matters on behalf of the company (like negotiation of important contracts or the managing employment)
  • promotion of the person to the public as having power to bind the company.
  • having unfettered control of the company’s bank accounts
  • being involved in setting up the company

Subparagraph (b)(ii) does not generally apply to advice given by the person in the proper performance of functions attaching to the person’s professional capacity (such as an external accountant, lawyer or professional adviser), but can include employees and spouses of directors (who may own assets as part of a risk minimization/asset protection strategy implemented by their director spouse).

Those that sit on so called “advisory boards” should pay particular attention to the way in which they carry out their roles and the way in which the company follows (or questions or considers) their recommendations or suggestions.

Consequences

A shadow director will be required to comply with director duties under the Act and can become liable for things like insolvent trading under section 588G.

If you are determined to be a shadow director, penalties can include:

  • a fine of up to $200,000, imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both;
  • personal liability for any loss or damage incurred; and
  • permanent or temporary orders prohibiting you from taking part in the management of a company.

How to help prevent being a shadow director

Steps that can be taken to help minimize the risk of being deemed a director of a company or the consequences of it include:

  • documenting the authorities of key personnel, including limits on authorities, autonomy and decision making (including in employment contracts, workplace policies etc)
  • putting in place robust internal procedures for decision making and approvals
  • ensuring ASIC registers are accurate and up to date
  • limiting advice provided to that which is within your professional qualifications
  • advisors, key staff and ‘advisory boards’ presenting any advice as a recommendation for a company’s consideration, rather than being a direction or instruction to the company or its board
  • otherwise, properly documenting communications
  • consider appropriate insurances

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information in relation to any business related or company matters, please contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au 

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Can Bankrupts be Company Directors?

The Corporations Act provides that undischarged bankrupts or those who have entered into personal insolvency agreements under Part X of the Bankruptcy Act (whether in Australia or another country) cannot act as a director of, or take part in the management of, a company.

Court can grant leave

The Court can however grant leave to an undischarged bankrupt to take part in management of a company and such leave can be granted either with or without conditions. Australian Securities and Investments Commission must be notified of any such application (so ASIC can intervene if required).

The applicant will bear the onus of establishing that the Court should make an exception to the legislative policy behind the prohibition (to protect the public). The court will not easily be convinced that the usual prohibition should not apply and will exercise its discretion with a view to balancing the considerations relevant to the bankrupt and the underlying public policy.

Leave will not be granted where the disqualification was imposed by ASIC (as opposed to an automatic disqualification due to the operation of the Corporations Act).

What is considered?

Hardship to the proposed director is not of itself a persuasive ground for the granting of leave however, it is one of many factors which may be considered by the court in exercising its discretion including the reason for the disqualification, the nature of the bankrupt’s involvement, the general character and conduct of the applicant in the intervening period since being removed from or prevented from being in office, the structure of the company, its business and the interests of shareholders, creditors and employees.

Although such applications are not commonplace, an undischarged bankrupt may be granted leave to take part in the management of companies generally or, more frequently, in the management of a particular company.

Penalties

The disqualification imposed by the Act continues despite the Court granting leave and care must be taken to ensure that any conditions on the leave are complied with as failure to do so can result in the leave being revoked and an offence then being committed and the penalty can include a significant 50 penalty unit fine and/or imprisonment for 12 months.

Bankruptcies generally last 3 years. You can check if someone is an undischarged bankrupt by checking the Australian Financial Security Authority’s Bankruptcy Register 

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information in relation to bankruptcy, insolvency or company matters, please contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au 

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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New laws for casual employees

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (Act) has been amended with effect from 27 March 2021 in relation to casual employees.

Here are the 4 practical steps that most employers should take to help ensure compliance with the Act and prevent disputes from arising with their casual employees:

1.            Casual Employment Information Statement

The Fair Work Ombudsman has now made available a new Casual Employment Information Statement (CEIS). Both new and existing casual employees must be given a CEIS.

From 27 March 2021, all employers must give every new casual employee a CEIS before, or as soon as possible after, they commence their employment.

Small business employers (those with less than 15 employees) must give their existing casual employees (those employed before 27 March 2021) a copy of the CEIS as soon as possible after 27 March 2021.   All other employers must give their existing casual employees a copy of the CEIS as soon as possible after 27 September 2021.

Note that the CEIS does not replace the Fair Work Information Statement (FWIS). The FWIS is still required to be provided to every new employee (casual employees should receive both the FWIS and the new CEIS).

2.            Update casual employment contracts

The Act now includes a definition of ‘casual’ employee. Under the new definition, a person is a casual employee if they accept a job offer from an employer knowing that there is no firm advance commitment to ongoing work with an agreed pattern of work.

With retrospective effect, the question of whether an employee is a casual is now assessed based on what was agreed when the employment was offered and accepted, not on the pattern of hours later worked or some other subsequent conduct occurring during the course of their employment.

Employment contracts for casuals, if they don’t already, should:

  • state that the employment is casual;
  • specify that the employer can elect to offer work and that the employee can elect to accept or reject it; and
  • confirm that there is no guarantee of ongoing or regular work and that the employee will only work as required.

3.            Specify the casual loading in employment contracts and payroll documentation

The changes to the Act also remove the ability (which arose from several recent cases such as Workpac v Rossato) for employees to “double-dip” and receive entitlements as permanent staff as well as retaining the casual loading already paid to them (in lieu of such other entitlements).

The amounts actually paid to the employee as casual loading operate as a reduction to, or are set off against, of any amount that may later be determined to be payable by the employer for permanent employee entitlements.

Casual employment contracts thus should:

  • clarify that the employee is paid a casual loading (usually 25%) and that the loading is paid on the basis that the employee is not entitled to relevant permanent employment entitlements such as annual leave, paid personal leave, redundancy pay and the like; and
  • identify the dollar amount of the loading from the base hourly rate where possible.

Further, payroll documentation (including payslips) should separately identify the dollar value of the casual loading paid in each pay period.

4.            Identify eligibility for casual conversions

Once employed as a casual, an employee will continue to be a casual until they either:

a)       become a permanent employee through:

(i)            casual conversion, or

(ii)           are offered (and accept the offer of) full-time or part-time employment, or

b)      stop being employed by the employer.

Although many employers had pre-existing casual conversion obligations in relevant Modern Awards or enterprise agreements, these casual conversion provisions are now included in the National Employment Standards (NES), which means that now employers that were not historically subject to such conversion obligations are subject to the casual conversion pathway regime. Small business employers (with fewer than 15 employees) are not subject to these rules.

The new provisions require employers to offer permanent employment to any casual employee who has:

  • been employed for 12 months; and
  • worked a regular pattern of hours on an ongoing basis for at least the last 6 months of that period; and
  • the employee could continue working those hours as a permanent employee without significant change.

An employer need not make an offer of casual conversion if there are “reasonable grounds” not to, based on facts that are known or reasonably foreseeable (such as where the employee’s position will cease to exist within 12 months, the hours of work that employee is required to perform in the following 12 months will be significantly reduced or the employee’s availability cannot accommodate the significant change in the employees’ hours/days required to be worked).

During the 6-month transition period ending 27 September 2021 and from then on, employers should identify any employees that may meet the criteria for conversion and make an offer of casual conversion to an eligible employee within 21 days of the employee attaining 12 months of employment. There is a form and process relating to the offer (and its acceptance).

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to any employment related issue or any business/commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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New rules for resigning directors

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Combatting Illegal Phoenixing) Act 2020 (Cth), which came into effect from 17 February 2021, changed the process and timing relating to director resignations and the resignation of last remaining directors, as well as granting additional powers to ASIC, the ATO and liquidators.

The Act made changes to the Corporations Act 2000 (Cth) as well as taxation administration and GST legislation in an attempt to help prevent illegal phoenixing activities (when a new company is incorporated with the intention to continue the business of a failed company, using the same controllers and assets) including preventing the disposal of assets for less than market value and would prevents or hinders the property being available for creditors (known as ’creditor defeating dispositions’).

The regulations made seek to prevent backdating of resignations and having companies left with no directors at all.

Late notification of resignations

If ASIC is notified of a director’s resignation more than 28 days after the actual resignation date, ASIC will treat the date ASIC receives the notice as the ‘effective date’ of the resignation. Late lodgment fees will still apply.

Practically, this will mean that even if a company director had resigned, that director will remain responsible for the conduct of the company as a director until the later ‘effective date’.

Administrative oversight will not be an excuse even if a third party such as an accountant was responsible for notification.

Last remaining director

Any notices to ASIC that have the effect that a company is left without at least one director will be rejected (or member resolutions of a company to that effect are void).

Some exceptions to this rule exist, including if the last director passes away, the company is being wound up and if the director never consented to their appointment.

Practical approach to resigning

If you are a resigning director (or are removed as a director by resolution), not only should the company notify ASIC of the change in directorship using the standard form 484, you should also take steps yourself to notify ASIC using the form 370.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information in relation to any business related or company matters, please contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au 

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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What is a lien?

A lien is the right of a person or business to hold or retain possession of an item as security for performance of an obligation owed by another, such as the payment of monies owed.

Liens only apply to physically transferable items of personal property and effectively act as an informal or unregistered form of security for payment.

Liens only arise if the item was given to the lien holder with the express or implied authority of the owner (such as the owner or driver of a vehicle) and generally won’t arise over stolen property.

A lien does not arise simply by simply performing work.  There must be a basis for a lien to arise such as a contractual right, a piece of legislation or operation of the law.

There are 4 types of liens, each of which we discuss briefly below:

  1. statutory;
  2. contractual;
  3. common law (or possessory); and
  4. equitable.

In all but the latter of the categories, maintaining actual possession of the property in question is crucial as the rights afforded to the lien holder are only applicable while the lien holder is in possession of such property.

Statutory liens

Statutory liens arise through the operation of specific pieces of legislation such as those in Part 5 of the Sale of Goods Act 1923 (NSW), the Storer’s Liens Act 1935 (NSW) etc.

The relevant Acts describe the terms of the liens created by those statutes.

Contractual liens

If the terms of agreement, terms and conditions of trade or similar document that governs the rights and obligations of the parties to a contract provide for a lien, then such a lien is a ‘contractual lien’.

The operation of the lien is the same however – there must be money or some obligation owed and an item of the other party held pending payment or performance of that obligation.

Common law liens

At common law, liens can either be ‘particular’ or ‘general’ (also known as ‘specific’) and arise by implication of law.

A ‘specific lien’ secures obligations that are incurred in respect of the particular goods that are held.  A common example of a specific lien is the ‘mechanic’s lien’ – the right to hold your car until you have paid for the work performed or a repairer’s lien for payment in respect of improvement work done on a chattel.

A ‘general lien’ however is more favourable, although far less common and more difficult to establish. A general lien allows a person to retain possession of any goods held (but not sell or otherwise deal with that property) until all sums payable by the owner of the goods are satisfied, not just the amount payable in respect of work performed on the specific goods held hostage.

General liens must be established by strict proof of custom or usage such as a ‘solicitors’ lien’ or an ‘accountant’s lien’ which allows a solicitor or accountant to assert a lien over and thus retain a client’s documents (or the fruits of a court action) until payment of all debts owed by the client. It is effectively an implied term of the relevant contract.

Equitable liens

Equitable liens are created on a case by case basis by the law of equity as determined by the Courts. Judges may declare such liens so as to uphold or preserve fairness or justice to a situation having regard to the parties’ dealings and conduct.

An example is where a party spends money improving the item for another where there was either express or implied agreement that the performing party should have an interest in the enhanced property. The party who performed the work and is owed the debt may then acquire an equitable interest in the property proportionate to the value of the enhancement.

Unlike the other types of liens, ‘equitable liens’ do not require actual possession of the article in question. Such liens can be voided by the express or implied agreement of the parties.

Consideration often needs to be given to the value of the lien compared to the substantial time and monetary cost of seeking judicial intervention.

How does a lien end?

Any right to assert a lien (other than an equitable lien) expires upon performance of the outstanding obligation (such as payment) or upon release if the item over which the lien is maintained as without possession, there is no lien.

How does the PPSA affect a lien?

Statutory liens and common law liens can be exempted from the operation of the Personal Properties Securities Act 2009 (Cth) (PPSA).

In some circumstanced, the party asserting the lien can have priority over any security interests registered on the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) held by other creditors of owner of the item if:

  • the materials/services were provided in the ordinary course of business by the person asserting the lien;
  • no other Act prevents the lien from having priority; and
  • the holder of the lien did not have knowledge of any security agreement under the PPSR relating to those goods (that prohibited the creation of the lien).

Security interests registered on the PPSR under the PPSA will usually defeat any contractual lien.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For more information, please contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au to discuss your needs.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice.

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Enforcing judgments overseas (and vice versa)

The success of enforcing judgments overseas will largely depend on the laws of country where the judgment is sought to be enforced. Sometimes the common law or a treaty allows enforcement but often it relies on a statutory arrangement.

Australia has reciprocal arrangements with various countries but as a general rule, to be enforceable in another jurisdiction, the judgment must be:

  • for a fixed sum;
  • consistent with the laws or public policies of the relevant country; and
  • final and conclusive, and

you must provide a verified copy of the original Australian judgment, a translation of the judgment into the relevant language, an affidavit or similar providing at least details of the Australian proceedings, the relevant debt, details of the overseas debtor. There may be some other local matters to tend to as well.

Enforcing a foreign judgment in Australia

The Foreign Judgments Act 1991 (Cth) provides for the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in Australia.

To be enforceable, the foreign judgment must generally:

  • be less than 6 years old;
  • require the payment of money;
  • be final and conclusive (even if subject to or likely subject to an appeal); and
  • not have already been satisfied in the foreign jurisdiction.

Which countries have reciprocal arrangements?

The statutory schemes only apply to countries that have entered into reciprocal arrangements with Australia for the enforcement of each other’s judgments (See Schedule to Foreign Judgments Regulation 1992).

This includes British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Fiji, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, Korea, Japan, Korea, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

It does not include China (although technically Hong Kong is included), India, Russia or the United States of America.

New Zealand has special arrangements as set out below.

New Zealand arrangements

Part 7 of the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 (Cth) allows New Zealand judgments of a broader nature to be enforced in Australia including some judgments that don’t solely relate to the payment of money.

This excludes things like probate, guardianship, and the welfare of minors.

Enforcement

Registration of the foreign judgment can be as simple as filing  an application in a Supreme Court, where a judge will process the application (assuming it meets the requirements) in chambers in the absence of the other party and register it as a judgment in that court. The judgment debtor must be served with notice of the registration when the judgment is registered.

The registered foreign judgment can then be enforced like any other judgment such as by way of:

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information in relation to enforcing a judgement, debt recovery, litigation or any other commercial law matter, contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Merry Christmas from McKillop Legal

Our office will be closed from 1pm on 23 December 2020 and will re-open on in late January 2021.

We wish our clients, referrers, friends and family a very merry Christmas and a happy, prosperous (and hopefully COVID free) New Year ahead in 2021.

Do you have any Unclaimed Money?

In New South Wales, any unclaimed money is generally held by the Revenue NSW.

Unclaimed money is generally any amount in excess of $100 held for at least 6 years without any activity on an account. This may be because the owner moved, changed their name or simply forgot about it.

Types of unclaimed money held by Revenue NSW include dividends, unpresented cheques, distributions, sale proceeds, commissions, royalties and the like.

Generally, enterprises that operate in NSW and hold unclaimed money as at 30 June in any year must submit the money to Revenue NSW by 31 October of that year, after having made reasonable attempts to contact the rightful owner and return the money to them.

Other thresholds and timeframes apply to specific industries such as real estate agents, law firms and trustee companies that operate trust accounts.

You can search for money held by Revenue NSW here.

Unpaid wages

Sometimes an employer owes wages to an employee who has left their business or where wages have found to be underpaid following a workplace audit.

Where the employee can’t be contacted, the unpaid wages are generally held by the Fair Work Ombudsman and can be searched for here.

Superannuation

Superannuation funds that cannot locate beneficiaries of superannuation monies place the details on the Superannuation Lost Members Register, which can be searched through the MyGov portal via Australian Taxation Office’s website here.

Banks and life insurers

Banks, credit unions and life insurance companies also have unclaimed money issues where a bank account is inactive (has no deposits or withdrawals) for 7 years or where the proceeds of a life insurance policy is unclaimed for 7 years after the policy matures.

Where they can’t locate an owner of funds held, they must lodge their unclaimed monies with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission.

Unclaimed money received by ASIC is transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia Consolidated Revenue Fund and it is available to be claimed at any time by the rightful owner and there is no time limit on claims. ASIC’s unclaimed money search is located at ASIC’s MoneySmart website here.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information in relation to unclaimed money or any business related legal issues, please contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au 

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Does marriage, separation or divorce affect my Will?

This blogpost is limited to New South Wales as the laws in each State and Territory differ in relation to these matters.

Marriage

If you get married after you sign a Will, the Will is revoked unless it is specifically stated to have been made in contemplation of that particular marriage taking place.

Marriage will not affect a gift to the person who is your spouse at your date of death or their appointment as your executor.

Entering into a defacto relationship does not have the same impact on a Will as a marriage, but this can give rise to other rights as regards the property of the relationship whilst the parties are alive (and claims in relation to the division of the estate on their deaths).

Divorce

Subject to the contrary intention being expressed in a Will, if you divorce after you make your Will, it only revokes or cancels any gift to a former spouse and their appointment as executor.

It will not however cancel their appointment as trustee of property left on trust for beneficiaries that include children of both you and your former spouse.

Separation

If you don’t update your Will after you separate, your spouse may inherit any property you left to them and they can still be the executor of your estate if named as such in theWill.

The take away

If any time your circumstances change (such as a birth or death in the family, a marriage, separation or divorce or a material change in finances for the better or the worse) you should consider whether your estate planning documents require any updates. It may be that no change is necessary, but it at least should be considered.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information in relation to Wills and estate planning, contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au 

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Am I entitled to a copy of a Will?

At a very emotional time, often there is confusion as to what rights and obligations exist in relation to obtaining a copy of someone’s Will.

Many clients ask us “Am I entitled to a copy of a Will?” or “Do I really need to give them a copy of the Will?

It should go without saying that no-one is entitled to see the Will of a person who is still alive! After death however, the Succession Act 2006 (NSW) provides that any person who has possession or control of a Will of a deceased person must allow any one or more of the following persons to inspect or to be given copies of the will (at their own expense):

“(a) any person named or referred to in the Will, whether as a beneficiary or not,
(b) any person named or referred to in an earlier Will as a beneficiary of the deceased person,
(c) the surviving spouse, de facto partner or issue of the deceased person,
(d) a parent or guardian of the deceased person,
(e) any person who would be entitled to a share of the estate of the deceased person if the deceased person had died intestate,
(f) any parent or guardian of a minor referred to in the Will or who would be entitled to a share of the estate of the testator if the testator had died intestate,
(g) any person (including a creditor) who has or may have a claim at law or in equity against the estate of the deceased person,
(h) any person committed with the management of the deceased person’s estate under the NSW Trustee and Guardian Act 2009 immediately before the death of the deceased person,
(i) any attorney under an enduring power of attorney made by the deceased person,
(j) any person belonging to a class of persons prescribed by the Regulations.”

As you can see:

  • there are a number of persons that have a right to a inspect or to be given a copy of the Will; and
  • the executor or person with possession or control of a Will (which could include a lawyer or firm that holds it in safe custody) have an obligation to provide a copy on request.

Of course, there needs to be proof provided that the person who made the Will has in fact died – ie, provide the death certificate (which usually happens via the executor or next of kin).

The purpose of this access to the Will is partly to allow an persons with a claim on a deceased estate to know if they have been provided for in the Will, that it is the deceased person’s latest Will and who the executor is.

There is sometimes also confusion as to the effect of clauses in Wills that provide for the appointment of a particular person or firm as the estate’s lawyers for the purposes of obtaining probate. The executor is free to choose whichever lawyer or firm they wish to act for them in obtaining probate and assisting with the administration of a deceased estate.

The Probate and Administration Act 1898 provides that the Will of the deceased, once admitted to probate, is a public document and that anybody is entitled to apply for a copy of it from the Supreme Court of New South Wales  (and paying the relevant fee) however, it is generally best to contact the person in possession of the document for a copy, before approaching the Supreme Court.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information in relation to Wills, Probate, estate planning or even International Wills, please contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au 

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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