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2019-11-doc4 Announcing a new layout for my blog

I am announcing a new layout for my website. The existing one started in 2006, so a fresh look is needed. The menu-structure needs to be aligned with my present positions and activities. From my present blog, a bold selection will be applied. A large portion of these blogs will be deleted. The renewed blog will start early January 2020. It will win in clearness with a more convenient structure and with a division between Dutch language and English language sources. For those who wish to download or print certain existing blogs, you are advised to do so between now (fourth week November 2019) and 22 December 2019. For questions, go to: info@bobwessels.nl.

Nieuwe layout voor mijn blog

Hierbij kondig ik een nieuwe layout voor mijn website aan. De bestaande site is in 2006 gestart, dus is er een nieuw uiterlijk nodig. De menustructuur moet worden afgestemd op mijn huidige posities en activiteiten. In mijn bestaande blog zal een strenge selectie worden toegepast. Een groot deel van de blogs wordt verwijderd. De vernieuwde blog wint aan duidelijkheid en overzichtelijkheid met een eenvoudiger structuur en een scheiding tussen Nederlands- en Engelstalige bronnen. Voor degenen die bepaalde blogs willen downloaden of printen, u wordt geadviseerd dat te doen tussen nu (vierde week november 2019) en 22 december 2019. Voor vragen, ga naar: info@bobwessels.nl.

2019-11-doc3 Faillissementsprocedure: meer r-c's en een 'toezichts'-deskundige

'Modernisering faillissementsprocedure: meerdere rechters-commissarissen en de ‘toezichts’-deskundige'. Dit is de titel van een artikel dat ik schreef en dat binnenkort wordt gepubliceerd in het Nederlands Tijdschrijf voor Handelsrecht (NTHR). Het gaat in op de op 1 januari 2019, als onderdeel van het project Herijking van de Faillissementswet, in de Faillissementswet geïncorpereerde Wet modernisering faillissementsprocedure. In deze bijdrage belicht ik twee vernieuwingen. De eerste is dat het vonnis tot faillietverklaring, naast de aanstelling van een of meer curatoren, ook de benoeming van een of meer leden van de rechtbank als rechter-commissaris kan inhouden, zie art. 14 lid 1 Fw. Art. 14b Fw bepaalt vervolgens droogjes: benoemt de rechtbank meerdere rechters-commissarissen, dan zijn zij zowel afzonderlijk als tezamen bevoegd om de in deze wet genoemde bevoegdheden uit te oefenen. De vraag rijst hoe de wetgever het werken met ‘meer leden van de rechtbank’ als rechter-commissaris voor zich ziet. Een andere vernieuwing schuilt bij de benoeming tot deskundige. Art. 66 Fw geeft de rechter-commissaris niet alleen de bevoegdheid om getuigen te horen, maar ook om een deskundigenonderzoek te gelasten. Voor het deskundigenonderzoek bij faillissement kent de Faillissementswet verder geen regels. Met ingang van 1 januari 2019 kan de rechter-commissaris ook een deskundige benoemen ‘(…) voor zover dit nodig is voor de goede en effectieve vervulling van het toezicht op het beheer en de vereffening van de failliete boedel’, zie art. 66 lid 1, tweede zin, Fw. Art. 66 lid 1 Fw kent nu dus twee typen van deskundigen. De (traditionele) in art. 66 lid 1 Fw bedoelde deskundige die een rol heeft bij de informatievoorziening van de rechter-commissaris, in het geval deze behoefte heeft aan ‘opheldering van alle omstandigheden, het faillissement betreffende’. De conform de nieuwe bepaling in art. 66 lid 1, tweede zin, Fw benoemde deskundige heeft echter een rol bij het toezicht op het beheer en de vereffening van de boedel. Er is wel een kostenregeling: de kosten van de benoeming van de deskundige komen ten laste van de boedel, zie art. 66 lid 1, derde zin, Fw. Laatstbedoelde deskundige noem ik hierna soms ook ‘toezichts’-deskundige.
In de bijdrage in NTHR plaats ik een aantal kanttekeningen bij beide regelingen. Met betrekking tot de rol van de R-C kan de idee bestaan dat in het gros van de gevallen beide vernieuwingen onbenut zullen blijven. De rechter-commissaris kan echter met honderden dossiers bemoeienis hebben en sommige zaken vergen meer kennis om adequaat te kunnen handelen. De wetgever is aan het voorsorteren: over enkele jaren zullen meer, ook lastige (grensoverschrijdende) onderhandse akkoorden en herstructureringen de R-C passeren, terwijl ook andere (elektronische) ontwikkelingen onverminderd voortgaan, op het terrein van opslag van bedrijfsinformatie, zoeken naar zekerheid (blockchain) of wijzen van betaling (cryptovaluta). De vraag rijst of er voor een adequaat functioneren van het rechterlijk apparaat in het insolventierecht met de aangebrachte bescheiden modernisering kan worden volstaan. Of er niet verdergaande maatregelen en innovaties nodig zijn, op het punt van opleiding, training of mogelijk ook rechterlijke concentratie van zaken, zal spoedig blijken.

2019-11-doc2 Global restructuring Syncreon Group B.V. (cont'd)

In August, I discussed a part of the global restructuring of the Dutch Syncreon Group. See http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2019-08-doc1-scheme-of-arrangement-does-english-court-has-jurisdiction-re-dutch-b.v/. In the subsequent blog (2019-08-doc2a), I gave some detail about the query who is to decided that someone is a 'foreign representative'? The blog 2019-08-doc1 ended with: 'To be continued'. Indeed, one can follow the (envisaged) global restructuing nearly virtualy. The respective scheme of arrangement has been successfully approved by the English court (see Syncreon Group BV [2019] EWHC 2412 (Ch) on 10 September 2019. Falk J granted the order (https://www.casemine.com/judgement/uk/5d7f12d82c94e049a49629ae). The case will get headlines in the law books as it is the first in this decennium in which a Canadian court (Ontario Superior Court of Justice) recognized the English scheme as well as the order convening the meetings of creditors, granted by the English Court. Recognition was one of the conditions precedent to implementation of the schemes. I have not found yet, whether the other condition, recognition by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court pursuant to Chapter 15, has been fulfilled. The general approach taken by the Canadian court could be expected, as its legal system (CCAA), including several of its leading practitioners and judges, have a long tradition of fostering comity, promoting cross-border judicial cooperation and fair and efficient administration of cross-border insolvencies in order to enable companies to restructure on a cross-border basis.

2019-11-doc1 Biblioteca Capitolare Verona

For an international insolvency research project I was invatied to Verona. The group of researchers (from Spain, Germany, Italy and the UK) found some time to visit the  Capitolare Library of Verona. It's a famous institution, dating back to the fifth century A.D. and known for the antiquity and preciousness of its manuscripts. It makes the claim of being the most ancient in the field of Latin culture. For lawyers, it is extremely interesting just to see (no touch!) some of the oldest codices, including - going back to around 450 A.D. - the palimpsest Codex 15 (XV) which, unique in the world, contains the Institutions of Gaius. These pre-Justinian Institutes in their origine date back to around 160 A.D. The Bibliotheca was represented by a very well informed English guide. It deserves our respect. Present generations of Latin immersed academics should give their support in preserving the collection and their efforts in continuing to interest future generations. See http://www.bibliotecacapitolare.it/en/homeen/

2019-10-doc10 Improving the role of courts in quality and effectiveness

Below, conclusion and recommendations, to be published as contribution to the ACURIA project, which aims to identify legal and procedural strategies, blockages and best practices in the field of undertakings' insolvency and restructuring law that can be replicated or prevented in different legal and judicial systems, therefore enabling courts to provide a more accurate and fair response. The project is a joint effort between universities in Coimbra (Portugal), Firenze (Italy), Maastricht (Netherlands) and Gdansk (Poland) and funded by the European Commission. See https://acuria.eu/

Energizing courts to continue to break new ground in insolvency and restructuring cases
By Bob Wessels

[…]

7 Conclusion and recommendations

38 For cross-border cases within the EU, Article 42(1) EIR 2015 clearly establishes a duty for courts to cooperate and communicate in relevant cases with each other. Cross-border communication between judges in the EU is, in insolvency matters, rather a new phenomenon for quite some EU Member States. Drafted (with the input of some thirty judges from the EU) and published in 2015, the EU Cross-Border Insolvency Court-to-Court Cooperation Principles (‘EU JudgeCo Principles’) may serve as a supportive tool, offering a set of non-binding recommendations on cross-border communications and cooperation between courts in insolvency cases within the European Union.
[footnote] Recently, in the area of international family law, the explicit cross-border duty to cooperate and to communicate has been duly noted. In Germany national soft law instuments for court-to-court cooperation in family matters in national cases are being used, however the avalability of international guidelines as an aid for cross-border cooperation has been strongly recommended, see Martin Menne, Die Arbeit der deutschen Verbindungsrichter im internationalen Familienrecht; eine Darstellung anhand von Beispielen, in: Zeitschrift für Europeäisches Privatrecht 2019, 473ff., and by the same author, Öl im Räderwerk des internationalen Familienrechts, in: Interdisciplinäre Zeitschrift für Familienrecht (iFamZ), August 2919, 280ff.

39 In cross-border insolvency cases and, in increasingly in the future, in national restructuring and insolvency cases, courts encounter new challenges and the judges’ quality and professionality will be of uppermost importance.
In our 2017 report for the European Law Institute, prof. Madaus and I submit that the greater number of the aspects of the deontology displayed for a ‘liquidator’ by the European Parliament (being (i) competency; appointment; good repute; educational background needed for the performance of his/her duties, (ii) must be competent and qualified to assess the situation of the debtor’s entity, (iii) independent, (iv) in the event of a conflict of interest, he/she must resign from his/her office) will for a judge or a court be regulated in any way or form in the Member States’ constitution and/or its procedural legislation. In any EU Member State, the function of judges is the prerogative of the sovereign state. Still, EU Member States should use their regulatory powers to secure a degree of specialisation within the court system and ensure that judges are appropriately qualified to handle every-day liquidation cases as well as complex rescue procedures or cross-border cases.
Member States should evaluate their court systems against certain key factors which can indicate which alternative seems the best, given the circumstances of the case, respectively introduce a framework that allows these factors to be balanced in a particular case. Key indicators include:
(i) the avoidance of heavy costs for courts,
(ii) the general need to decide in insolvency matters with urgency and speed,
(iii) the general preference of disputants for confidentiality and to limit court involvement,
(iv) the wish to save resources for the insolvent estate, and
(v) ensuring easier implementation (e.g. of a cross-border rescue plan) or (vi) streamlining notices to creditors, as well as general business considerations, such as gaining time and efficiency and tapping on available expertise.
[footnote] We leave aside another method for achieving speed, namely technology or a per case digital forum, see Chaz Rainy, ‘Finding a Forum for Insolvency: Using Digital Forums to Improve Due Process in Insolvency Proceedings While Preserving Speed, Certainty, Discretion, and Cost Considerations’, 10 July 2015, available at https://ssrn.com/abstract=2657473.
Considering the great diversity of restructuring and insolvency cases, Member States should not only provide for specialised insolvency courts or chambers. They should also introduce a further specialised subsection or jurisdiction for (bigger) rescue and/or cross-border-cases because such cases require a specific set of qualification and experience that should be concentrated with specific judges in much more specialised courts. The design of the reforms in England, France and the plans in the Netherlands provide excellent examples of a possible structure.

40 Judges appointed to hear insolvency cases should have a special set of qualification while judges in specific restructuring or cross-border chambers should receive additional training. Every judge at an insolvency court should:
1.    be impartial and independent in any case, and
2.    in general have an understanding of business management issues,
3.    understand what it needs to effectively enforce the rights of both secured and unsecured creditors outside of insolvency proceedings,
4.    have specialised in commercial law matters, and
5.    have acquired insolvency expertise.

41 Member States should reflect these preconditions when appointing judges to insolvency courts or chambers. People appointed can have a legal, but also a business education – depending on the judicial tasks in the respective jurisdiction for an insolvency judge. Experiences with lay judges handling cases at the local level in France have proven that such appointments are an option. If suitable candidates are not available, Member States must provide for respective training. In addition, Member States should ensure the required level of experience and expertise by requiring and guarantying a judge’s term for a minimum number of years in the field of insolvency and restructuring. When appointing judges for further specialised chambers for restructuring or cross-border cases, Member States must safeguard the expertise necessary for the task by choosing from judges with experience in commercial and insolvency law that receive additional training in restructuring and international insolvency law. The establishment of national and international organisations of insolvency judges (e.g. BAKInsO in Germany, Judicial Wing at INSOL Europe or at the International Insolvency Institute (III), or the network of judges (and other experts) at the IEEI (International Exchange of Experience in Insolvency) has proven the potential of educating judges on a non-mandatory level while also organising their influence in the political process in EU Member States or at the EU level.

42 Courts themselves may wish to improve their level of quality and effectiveness. They could commit themselves to the development of a professional standard, a benchmark to continuously test the level of the key components of being a ‘good’ judge. The initiative on a national level could be taken by a national conference of judges or by certain courts themselves. In addition to a national standard a professional standard in matters of restructuring and insolvency could be developed. Elements of this standard would focus on the substance of a judicial decision, that such decisions would be on time, the flexibility of the organisation of persons involved (judges as well as supporting staff) and their expertise. The EU Preventive Restructuring Directive serve as a basis for implementing these improvements. Where such qualification requirements cannot be met, Member States should not give the court a central or an active role in the management of liquidation or reorganisation proceedings. It seems appropriate, to conclude this contribution with four of the recommendations prof. Madaus and I have formulated and which are commended for discussion:

Recommendation 1.03: Member States should provide for specialised courts or chambers to handle restructuring and insolvency cases. In addition, Member States should introduce a further specialised subsection for hearing rescue and cross-border-cases which require a specific set of qualifications and experience that should be concentrated with specific judges specialised in these matters.

Recommendation 1.04: Member States and courts should recognise that the performance of restructuring and insolvency tasks by courts and its judges requires the continuous strengthening of judicial independence, and the appearance of such independence.

Recommendation 1.05: Member States should ensure the proper qualification of judges at such specialised courts when making appointment decisions. Member States should also ensure the further education of appointed judges by supporting further training and by setting mandatory minimum terms of judges within these courts to incentivise the acquisition of the requisite expertise and experience. They should also encourage and support judges to actively participate in national and international networks of insolvency judges.

Recommendation 1.06: The EU, Member States and courts should actively develop methods to effectively improve judges’ performances by either
(i)    concentration of courts with jurisdiction to decide in matters of restructuring and insolvency
(ii)    selecting certain matters in which courts can be addressed to provide their view in certain matters of market uncertainties,
(iii)    developing specific education beyond the boundaries of general legal competence,
(iv)    developing and applying professional insolvency standards to assess performance,
or by a combination of these.