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2018-05-doc4 Kanttekeningen bij art. 362 Fw

Zie mijn uitnodiging opgenomen in dit blog onder 2018-05-doc3 om reacties/commentaar op mijn conceptteksten voor Wessels Insolventierecht I, 5e druk, te sturen naar: info@bobwessels.nl. Nu het volgende onderwerp:

[1068j] Aanpassingen 5e druk. Zoals ik in het Woord vooraf in dit deel van de 5e druk van de serie Wessels Insolventierecht aangaf groeit het insolventierecht, dat zijn weerslag in de Faillissementswet heeft, in enkele jaren uit tot vier sets van regels (voor faillissement, voor surseance, voor de regeling van schuldsanering van natuurlijke personen en voor situaties ‘buiten faillissement en surseance van betaling’). Dat dwingt ertoe in deze serie mede in ogenschouw te nemen de differentiatie in deze (pre-)insolventieprocedures en hun verschillende privaat- en procesrechtelijke uitwerkingen. De logische consequentie is dat ik per afzonderlijke procedure meer aandacht vraag voor (i) processuele differentiatie, (ii) privaatrechtelijke verankering, (iii) toekomstige ontwikkelingen, (iv) maatschappelijke (Europese) signalen, en (v) financieel-economische en multidisciplinaire aspecten. Ik geef van alle een voorbeeld.

[1068k] Processuele differentiatie. De verwerking van het procesrecht in de Titels I (Faillissement), II (Surseance van betaling) en III (Schuldsaneringsregeling natuurlijke personen) van de wet verschilt van elkaar. In Titel I is een eigen stelsel van rechtsmiddelen ter zake van de faillissementsaanvraag opgenomen (art. 8-12) en kent bijvoorbeeld art. 67 lid 1 een eigen regeling van hoger beroep tegen een beperkt aantal beschikkingen. In Titel II zijn in het bijzonder twee eigen regelingen uitgewerkt: art. 282, dat betrekking heeft op de beperking van beroepsmogelijkheden tegen beschikkingen die door de rechter op basis van Titel II zijn gegeven, en art. 283, dat limitatief aangeeft welke verzoeken (‘verzoekschriften’, oud) moeten worden onderte­kend door een advocaat. Voor het instellen van beroep in cassatie is steeds de medewerking nodig van een advocaat bij de Hoge Raad. Zie verder Wessels Insolventierecht VIII 2014/8456 e.v. Voor de schuldsaneringsregeling in Titel III bepaalt art. 360 dat tegen de beslissingen van de rechter, ingevolge de bepalingen van Titel III gegeven, geen hogere voorziening open staan, behalve in de gevallen, waarin het tegendeel is bepaald, en behoudens de mogelijkheid van cassatie in het belang der wet (art. 360). Een groot deel van de verzoeken die ingevolge Titel III kunnen worden gedaan moeten door een in art. 5 bedoelde advocaat zijn ondertekend. Voor het instellen van beroep in cassatie is steeds de medewerking nodig van een advocaat bij de Hoge Raad (art. 361). Zie verder Wessels Insolventierecht IX 2017/9430 e.v.

De Algemene Termijnenwet heeft op alle drie de titels betrekking, maar – zie art. 362 lid 1 – zij is niet van toepassing op de termijnen, gesteld in de art. 39, art. 40, art. 238, art. 239 en art. 305. Art. 362 lid 2 bepaalt dat art. 261–297 Rv niet van toepassing zijn op verzoeken ingevolge de Faillissementswet.

[1068ka] Volledige terugbetaling staatssteun bij akkoord. Artikel 12 Wet terugvordering staatssteun (Stb. 2018, 75) voegt aan art. 362 een lid 3 toe, luidende: ‘3. De rechtbank weigert homologatie van een akkoord, bedoeld in deze wet, indien het akkoord niet voorziet in de terugbetaling van de staatssteun die ingevolge een Commissiebesluit als bedoeld in artikel 1 van de Wet terugvordering staatssteun moet worden teruggevorderd’. In de MvT, Kamerstukken II, vergaderjaar 2016/17, 34 753, onder punt 6.3, is toegelicht dat de bepaling voortvloeit uit de rechtspraak van het Europese Hof (o.a. HvJ EU 11 december 2012, ECLI:EU:C:2012:781 [C-610/10, Magefesa]) over onvoorwaardelijke en effectieve terugbetaling van staatssteun in situaties van insolvabiliteit. De bepaling moet bewerkstelligen dat een akkoord als bedoeld in de wet niet kan worden goedgekeurd (gehomologeerd) door de rechter indien dat akkoord niet de volledige terugbetaling waarborgt van de staatssteun die ingevolge een Commissiebesluit moet worden teruggevorderd. De bepaling is in art. 362 geplaatst. Onder artikel 12 van genoemde wet wordt toegelicht dat de aard en de omvang van de betalingsverplichting wordt gegeven door het Commissiebesluit, bedoeld in art. 1 van de Wet terugvordering staatssteun. Het gaat hierbij ‘... onder meer om homologatie van een akkoord in faillissement (artikel 153 Fw), in surseance (artikel 272 Fw) en schuldsanering (artikel 338 Fw)’. De woorden ‘onder meer’ zijn onduidelijk. Er is gekozen voor plaatsing in een algemene bepaling van de wet, ‘… omdat hierdoor de bepaling op alle gevallen van toepassing is waarbij een akkoord door de rechter kan worden gehomologeerd, ook op basis van eventuele toekomstige regelingen.’ Kennelijk wordt gedoeld op de regeling in de voorziene Titel IV, hetgeen ook de woorden ‘onder meer’ zou verklaren. Nagegaan zou moeten worden of deze Europeesrechtelijke bijzondere terugvorderingsregeling ook van toepassing is op de situatie waarin Titel IV zal gaan voorzien, te weten situaties buiten surseance van betaling en faillissement. Datum van de inwerkingtreding van de wet: 1 juli 2018 (Stb. 2018, 79).

[...]

2018-05-doc3 Start bewerking serie Wessels Insolventierecht

Enige tijd geleden ben ik gestart met de bewerking en actualisering van alle tien delen in de serie Wessels Insolventierecht. Dat wordt dan de 5e druk van de serie. Deo volente, hoop ik deze tussen 2018 en 2022 te voltooien. Na bijna 20 jaar was het tijd om enkele bescheiden wijzigingen door te voeren. Ik noem kort: versterking privaatrechtelijke inbedding, verscherping procesrechtelijke signatuur en naast aandacht voor het positieve insolventierecht ook nagenoeg vaststaande komende Nederlandse wetgeving en Europese ontwikkelingen laten doorklinken. Zin om iets bij te dragen? In de 4e druk van Deel X in de serie (Wessels International Insolvency Law Part II), welk deel in het najaar van 2017 verscheen, heb ik een nieuw element aan het schrijfproces toegevoegd door te communiceren met personen die actief zijn op het gebied van Europese herstructurering en insolventie. Via mijn blog (www.bobwessels.nl) en via LinkedIn heb ik conceptteksten van Part II gepubliceerd met de uitnodiging aan degenen die geïnteresseerd zijn op het desbetreffende onderwerp betrekking hebbende literatuur, uitspraken of praktijkervaringen te sturen of commentaar te leveren op deze teksten. In het voorjaar van 2017 heb ik in een periode van vier maanden acht keer een uitnodiging gepost. Een incentive om op deze wijze bij te dragen aan het ‘live’-debat over mijn teksten is de zekerheid dat (i) substantiële bijdragen worden erkend door de namen van de betrokken auteurs te vermelden en dat (ii) in geselecteerde gevallen de gemailde reacties kunnen worden aangehaald in de tekst, samen met de erkenning van de auteur. De uit ongeveer dertig landen ontvangen reacties, beschrijvingen van praktijkgevallen, literatuurbronnen en zelfs de ontwerptekst van een proefschrift waren de rijke vrucht van het toen geïntroduceerde ‘deliberate public participatory drafting process’ dat mij goed bevallen is. Zie http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2017-08-doc5-4th-edition-intl-insolvency-law-part-ii-ready-for-launch/. Om deze reden is in overleg met uitgever Wolters Kluwer besloten dit voor de 5e druk van de serie ook toe te passen. Belangstelling? Hou dan mijn blog in de gaten en reageer via: info@bobwessels.nl. Alvast dank!

2018-05-doc2 Two lectures for IEEI in Athens

For IEEI in Athens last week, I gave 2 presentations. One on Business rescue in Europe (http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2018-05-doc1-19th-ieei-colloquium-16-18-may-2018-in-athens/) and a short overwiew of the legislative developments re the Recalibration of Dutch Bankruptcy Act. See some notes below.

Introduction
The Dutch Bankruptcy Act dates from 1896. It contains 3 proceedings: bankruptcy liquidation (faillissement), suspension of payments (surseance van betaling) and, since 1998, debt rescheduling natural persons (schuldsaneringsregeling natuurlijke personen).
Several efforts have been made, especially since the late 80s, to modernize the Act. As a result: consumer insolvency has been introduced, the bankruptcy liquidation proceedings suffer structurally (70%) from asset-less estates, the suspension of payments proceedings hardly are used, only as a stepping stone to liquidation (application only possible by the debtor; he starts too late).
A pre-draft for a fully new Insolvency Act, including legislative texts and Explanatory Notes, was developed between 2003-2007. I was one of the members of this Governmental Commission. It was received rather favourable, however, in 2011 the Minister of Security & Justice said: we can’t give it priority. Main reason: vested interests of financial community (banks) and the tax department of the government itself; lack of ambition.
Since 2012: Legislative Program Revision Bankruptcy Act, which rests on three pillars: combating insolvency fraud, modernizing insolvency procedures and strengthening the possibility for restructuring of companies. Presented as a three-pillar structure: the fraud pillar, the modernization pillar and the reorganization pillar. During a Conference October 2017 the approximately 10 speakers were '... all in all moderately positive about the legislative program'.

Fraud pillar
The fraud pillar included three topics that led to three separate laws.
On 1 July 2016, the Directors Disqualification Act and the Criminal Fraud Reform Act entered into force. Furthermore, on July 1, 2017 the Act on strengthening position of insolvency practitioner came into effect.
The purpose of the Directors Disqualification Act is to impose a management ban and / or a 'supervisory ban' of up to five years on directors who are guilty of insolvency fraud or maladministration in the run-up to insolvency
The Law review on criminalization of insolvency fraud only changes the Code of Criminal Law. The purpose was to improve and strengthen the legal possibilities for criminal action against insolvency fraud.
Law strengthening position IP (curator). For the purpose of combating insolvency and combating the societal damage caused by insolvencies, it has been found necessary to (i) improve the information position of IPs by, in particular, restraining or imposing the duty of information and co-operation, (ii ) to clarify and strengthen the obligation to submit the bookkeeping and administration in bankruptcies, and (iii) by providing a follow-up procedure for cases in which the IP identifies ‘irregularities’ in an insolvency case.
A section Article 68(2) has been added, providing: ‘The IP  (a) checks when managing and administering the liquidation of the insolvent estate whether or not irregularities have caused or also caused the insolvency bankruptcy, have made the liquidation of the insolvent estate more difficult or increased the deficit in the insolvency; b. informs the supervisory judge confidentially; and c. reports, if he or the supervisory judge considers this necessary, these irregularities to the competent authorities.’
This is a new statutory task that must be performed in the public interest and that deviates from the IP’s traditional task of serving the joint interest of the creditors.

Modernization pillar
This is the second pillar. The Act modernization insolvency proceedings has been accepted by the House of Representatives in February (as a ‘hammer-piece’ and is now in the Senate. This law aims to make the bankruptcy procedure more efficient, to make it suitable for modern means of communication, as well as to promote customization within the procedure.
The aim in drafting this law has been to facilitate the settlement of insolvencies by:
(a) better aligning the IP’s set of instruments with the requirements of modern digital time; this also includes improving the accessibility of information,
(b) giving the court more customization options in the settlement of an insolvency,
(c) bringing the insolvency procedure more into line with technical developments and possibilities, and
(d) improving building knowledge in the judiciary, by further specialization (including the appointment of 2 or more supervisory judges) and support in further developments in the implementation of insolvency legislation.
The changes fan out over the entire Bankruptcy Act.
This law also introduces a ‘Standing’ Commission on Insolvency Law. The Insolvency Law Commission operates in the context of the Governmental Advisory Bodies Framework Act. That idea was more than ten years ago in art. 1.1.7 (‘Insolvency Council’) Pre-draft Insolvency law already put forward and the need to install such a commission has been expressed again by me (see Wessels, WPNR 2014/7021).

Reorganization pillar
The idea behind legislative proposals in this pillar is to strengthen the reorganization of companies to prevent insolvencies as much as possible. Entrepreneurs should be encouraged to seek help or seek advice in a timely manner if there is a risk of payment default and ensure that measures are taken to facilitate reorganization, restructuring and restarting outside bankruptcy. In addition, measures would be taken to promote the continuation of the company in an inevitable bankruptcy liquidation and to speed up a restart of viable business units after insolvency.
Originally, this (now) third pillar was comprised of three legislative proposals under the recalibration proposals:
Law on the continuity of companies I. It deals with the introduction in the Bankruptcy Act of the possibility for the court to indicate ‘in silence’ before a possible insolvency who it will appoint as an IP (‘beoogd curator’). The proposal aims to provide a legal basis for what is now called the pre-pack or silent administration; In recent years, although lacking a clear statutory foundation, a pre-pack procedure has been developed in Dutch legal practice. A legislative proposal for the codification of this practice, the Continuity of Companies Act I (WCO I) is under review for enactment by the Senate.
WCO I will allow debtors in financial distress to prepare and attempt a silent restructuring of their businesses through a pre-pack procedure, allowing the debtor – which remains authorised to dispose of its assets – and a court-appointed trustee to jointly investigate and prepare an asset sale to be implemented immediately on the opening of formal insolvency proceedings.
Legislation concerning the formation of a compulsory agreement outside insolvency which will take shape with a proposal for a Continuity of Companies Act II (WCO II), now known as Act on the homologation of privately negotiated agreement.
Both the position of classes of secured and ordinary creditors and the rights of shareholders can be subjected to a composition plan under WCO II – even allowing for:
-    an amendment of the debtor’s articles of association;
-    the exclusions of pre-emptive rights of existing shareholders; and
-    the issuance of new shares to allow for a debt-for-equity swap.
In statu nacendi is the Continuity of Companies Act III with various measures for the continuation of the company in insolvency, including a delivery obligation for suppliers of essential goods and services. This obligation to deliver is elaborated in a proposal for the Continuity of Enterprises Act III.

The Minister for Legal Protection (!) expects to finalise this legislative programme in 2019.

2018-05-doc1 19th IEEI Colloquium 16-18 May 2018 in Athens

From 16-18 May the 19th IEEI-Colloquium will be held in Athens, Greece. The International Exchange of Experiences between Insolvency experts (IEEI) has been a German Initiative from the Bundesstaat of Nord-Rhein Westphalen. Its goal is certainly expressed in the abbreviation IEEI. So far more than 30 colleagues from 16 countries all over the globe have registered. I was invited to speak about the report prof. Stephan Madaus and I delivered last September to the European Law Institute (ELI). We were able to present and discuss parts of our study at the IEEI conference in 2016 in Lisbon and 2017 in Chicago. On IEEI, see http://www.insolvenzrecht.jura.uni-koeln.de/16366.html?&L=1.
My presentation relates to the report ‘Rescue of Business in Insolvency Law’, consisting of 115 recommendations (explained on more than 375 pages) on a variety of themes affected by the rescue of financially distressed businesses. The Report’s ten chapters cover: (1) Actors and procedural design, (2) Financing a rescue, (3) Executory contracts, (4) Ranking of creditor claims; governance role of creditors, (5) Labour, benefit and pension issues, (6) Avoidance transactions in out-of-court workouts and pre-insolvency procedures and possible safe harbours, (7) Sales on a going-concern basis, (8) Rescue plan issues: procedure and structure; distributional issues, (9) Corporate group issues, and (10) Special arrangements for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) including natural persons (but not consumers). The Report also includes a glossary of terms and expressions commonly used in restructuring and insolvency matters. See: Wessels, Bob and Madaus, Stephan, Business Rescue in Insolvency Law - an Instrument of the European Law Institute (September 6, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3032309, or - alternatively - Wessels, Bob and Madaus, Stephan, Business Rescue in Insolvency Law - an Instrument of the European Law Institute (September 2017). Available at http://www.europeanlawinstitute.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/p_eli/Publications/Instrument_INSOLVENCY.pdf. To contact the reporters use for Stephan Madaus the address: stephan.madaus@jura.uni-halle.de, and for me: info@bobwessels.nl. Picture: Bob Wessels, Stephan Madaus and Gert-Jan Boon. See also http://www.bobwessels.nl/blog/2017-09-doc3-eli-business-rescue-report-published/

2018-04-doc3 Harmonising security rights in the EU?

The EU Insolvency Regulation (Recast) (848/2015) applies since June 2016 to 26 member states (all, except Denmark). In these states more than 100 different collective insolvency proceedings can be used, by natural persons or by companies. Some countries only provide for one such insolvency proceeding (Bulgaria, Croatia), in other countries two proceedings can be opened (Estonia) or three (The Netherlands, Finland, Sweden)), four (Spain, Germany), five (France, United Kingdom, Greece), six (Austria, Malta), seven (Italy), eight (Belgium) or even ten (!) (Ireland) are available. Categorising these proceedings requires, in addition to language skills, a solid understanding about these proceedings’ goals and requirements and the way they function in the respective general national law system (including its contract, company and labour laws). Evidently, the European Parliament’s call in 2011 for harmonisation of national corporate insolvency law has triggered more focused comparative studies. Insolvency law, however, has been regarded until recently as untouchable. In the field of national rules relating to restructuring and insolvency there is hardly any comparative tradition. In conversations the use of the H-word (for ‘harmonisation’) was a crudeness. It’s only since some seven years that in this area of law comparative research has been commenced and gradually has gained in depth, but the number of studies is still rather limited. The book of Gerard McCormack and Reinhard Bork (Eds.), Security Rights and the European Insolvency Regulation, Cambridge: Intersentia, 2017 (700 pages; ISBN: 9781780683171) The book at hand is a welcome addition to the still rather empty shelf.

The book is welcome too, as it does not focus on an insolvency technicality, but it goes right to the heart of the inherent conflicts in insolvency law, the place of security rights and their nearly sacrosanct position in relation to unsecured rights (many times these are the rights of ‘small’ business creditors). That’s the legal perspective. The economic reality is that security rights are of fundamental importance to the granting of credit. A security right for a creditor (e.g. a bank) generally lowers the cost for business to finance operations. The study, the results of which are presented in the book, assesses the concept of security rights according to the different European legal traditions. The book, furthermore, evaluates the appropriateness of the protection given to security rights in the light of the objective of the Insolvency Regulation to facilitate the more effective administration of cross-border insolvency cases as well as the position of these rights in the context of the basic principles of ensuring fairness between creditors.

The book is split in two parts. The first part contains four chapters with comparative analysis and the second part, covering two/third of the book, presents national reports providing answers to a questionnaire of 28 (!) questions. Surprisingly, as the title of the book does not disclose so, the analysis and the national reports also cover avoidance laws (faillissementspauliana, Insolvenzanfechtung, transaction avoidance, nullité), as the editors wish to cover advantages gained by creditors in the period immediately before formal insolvency proceedings are instituted. Indeed, it touches upon the area of potential unfairness to other creditors who may be forced into taking enforcement proceedings against the debtor. An avoidance action, however, is not limited to security rights and their meaning may be rather different within a restructuring taken place outside formal insolvency proceedings. The results of the study in the book augment to the very many suggestions and options presented in literature during the last decade. The attractiveness of the book lays in the theme of security rights.  

In the first part, the first chapter covers security rights under Article 5 of the original Insolvency Regulation (1346/2000) and the nearly similar Article 8 of the Recast. It is a fine piece of some 40 pages using cases and literature from around seven jurisdictions and it suggests options for reform also based on important soft laws, such as the UNCITRAL Legislative Guide and model laws related to secured transactions. Chapter 2 does the same for transaction avoidance, although the use of soft laws seems more limited here. Chapter 3 (‘Security rights, national laws and possible reforms’) brings into play the aforementioned national reports. It is noted here that the national reports date from around the midst of 2016. The editors do not take these reports themselves into account, rather develop on their basis a classification or an arrangement of legal families, resulting in four of these, the Germanic Legal System (Germany and Austria), the Common Law System (England and Ireland), the Roman Legal System (Spain, Italy and France) and the Central and Eastern European Systems (Hungary, Poland and Lithuania). This approach has at least three flaws. To have a view on the EU, it loses out on the Nordic, the South-East and the Low Countries region. Combining or mixing national laws into families many times does not take into account differences which may exist in such hardcore themes as security rights and transaction avoidance. By doing so the result necessarily ends in a rather abstract norm, insufficiently connected to the nitty gritty detail, always so important in creating and executing security rights or applying transaction rules, including its inherent rules of evidence. Thirdly, the mere fact of insolvency is the litmus test of any civil law system. The domestic civil law systems may in one way or the other belong to a family, the response to the incident of insolvency and how to allocate financial loses to the interested parties involved (secured creditors, unsecured creditors, the tax authorities) may well lead to another categorisation.

This 60-pages chapter also takes into account World Bank’s policy indicators in ‘getting credit’, soft laws on secured transactions and possible convergence between laws of the member states, more specifically the provisions on proprietary securities in the Draft academic European Common Frame of Reference (DCFR) on European private law. The editors have so much on their plate that they do not provide clear cut answers, rather develop analysis and evaluation of certain themes in the light of mainstream traditions.

This very broad comparative study includes analysis and evaluation of the laws on secured rights demonstrating rather divergent views across the EU regarding the extent to which it should be possible to create security rights over assets. It presents a broad array of options and solutions which might spark further thoughts and innovations. It deeply goes into the meaning of Article 5 of the EU Insolvency Regulation 1346/2000, now nearly similar Article 8 Recast. It analyses also the many differences countries have when defining a ‘right in rem’ and its effects. The full study may assist members states in enhancing their domestic laws or possible law reform. It should be read by representatives of the banking industry and economists, many times confusing insolvency with pure asset liquidation. In the academic world it will allow for discussion and circulation of ideas. A next step in the area of security rights and insolvency could be to discuss and formulate certain recommendations of principles in this field, as such principles will make the debate and the use of its results more precise. In this regard it is to be regretted that the editors’ views have not been presented (at least not explicitly, the book is from May 2016) and connected to the ‘predecessor’ of the November 2016 European Commission Proposal for preventive insolvency frameworks, the Recommendation on this topic from March 2014.

Any harmonisation confronts us with a decision on the content of such a harmonised rule and therefore with the necessity of developing a common understanding about the goals of such rules and therefore a European debate on insolvency, including restructuring, theory. Who would ever have thought insolvency would be enthusiastically welcomed? European law has an impact on cross-border business and it will have more so in the imminent future. The book is especially important in where it marks a shift in the debate from the question of the feasibility of further harmonisation of insolvency laws to the elaboration of proposals for possible harmonisations.  

This is the draft text of a book review, forthcoming in Common Market Law Review, Kluwer Law International, probably the June 2018 issue, by Professor em. Bob Wessels, University of Leiden