Liquidation, Personal Guarantees, and Individual Voluntary Arrangement….

2 men sitting in office in conversation

During  the summer of 2023 PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency were in discussion with a director whose company was to go into liquidation.  It became apparent that he had provided a significant number of personal guarantees to company creditors that would crystallise and, with no dividend being paid from the liquidation, the guaranteed debt would fall on the director in its entirety.  The director was clearly concerned as to the consequences and we provided advice on how best he deal with these liabilities going forward – it was clear that it would be a choice of either Bankruptcy or propose an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (“IVA”)

Given our experience in dealing with personal insolvency and the fact that one creditor would have a significant vote if an IVA was to be approved, we approached that creditor, informally,  with a summary of the IVA to gauge their appetite to agree. We are pleased to report that the IVA was approved in October 2023 and the IVA has now been concluded 6 months on with the funds distributed to all creditors, resulting in the director being able to move forward.

If you require advice or assistance on any insolvency-related issue, then please contact PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency to discuss your situation on 01604 212150 (Northampton), 01908 488653 (Milton Keynes) or email to Alternatively, visit for further information.

Pragmatic approach avoids bankruptcy.

2 men sitting in office in conversation

When dealing with formal corporate insolvency appointments, sometimes directors owe funds to the company which, as office holders, we are duty bound to try and recover for the benefit of the company’s creditors.

One recent case being dealt with by our Milton Keynes Office had this very issue, but the director had also provided personal guarantees to company trade creditors totalling circa £300K. One of these trade creditors had also commenced bankruptcy proceedings against the director.  We were appointed liquidator of the company and, following some investigation, explored the prospect of whether an informal ‘full and final settlement’ could be reached in order to avoid bankruptcy and maximise the return to the liquidation and guaranteed creditors. We discussed this with the director and suggested they contact a solicitor who was then able to put the offer to all creditors.

We are pleased to report that all creditors accepted the offer, the settlement funds were received within 7 days and, in avoiding bankruptcy proceedings the director can now move forward.

Should you or a client require any advice or assistance on any insolvency-related issue, then please contact PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency on 01604 212150 (Northampton) or 01908 488653 (Milton Keynes) or email to

Highest liquidations since 1960

That is the headline from the corporate insolvency statistics for the second quarter (1 April – 30 June 2023) that were published on 28 July by the Insolvency Service. 

In total there were 6,342 company insolvencies of which 93% were either creditors voluntary liquidations (5,240) or compulsory liquidations (637).  Collectively in the year (Q3 of 2022 to Q2 of 2023) the recorded number of creditor voluntary liquidations (“CVL”) is the highest since 1960, which is remarkable when you consider arguably our worst recession that peaked in 1993.  The latest figures mean the rate of liquidations is 52 in every 10,000 active companies registered as compared to 43.9/10,000 one year ago.

The remaining numbers reported were 409 administrations and only 56 company voluntary arrangements.  In addition to these numbers the two new rescue procedures introduced under the Corporate Insolvency & Governance Act have hardly been utilised.  From 26 June 2020 to 30 June 2023 there have only been 45 Moratoriums and 21 Restructuring Plans.

The big question must surely be why?  In short, the common features appear to be:

  1. The combination of Brexit, quickly followed by Covid-19 has had a severe impact on the world-wide economy.
  2. Cash flow has been adversely hit following the withdrawal of the Government’s fiscal and other measures put in place to support businesses during the pandemic, together with the legacy the financial support and the pandemic have left.
  3. Because of that support, companies that would ordinarily have ceased trading in 2020-21 were able to continue longer than envisaged.  This means the 2022-23 figures are swelled by the legacy of the higher than usual company survival rates during the pandemic.

Something that you will not see in Government dispatches is that many companies are using CVL as a vehicle for selling the business and assets, or even to “Phoenix” into a new company.  This is because of the much-contested decision to make HMRC a secondary preferential creditor, resulting in the restructuring procedures being no longer viable in many cases.  The low numbers of administrations, CVA, moratoriums and restructuring plans are indicative of this problem.

The saying, “Lies, damn lies and statistics” has some merit when considering the insolvency numbers because it is the devil in the detail beneath those core figures that matters and the signs are many businesses are finding themselves the subject of a merger or acquisition.

At PBC we are finding ourselves assisting companies and their professional advisors with going concern sales more often than in the past and we see no reason for that current trend to change in the short term.  However, more often than not, the key to an organised resolution is to seek advice at an early stage.  It is a long-standing piece adage but there can be no coincidence that most businesses are saved in one form or another where the directors sought advice early.

If you require any advice or assistance on any insolvency-related issue, then please contact PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency to discuss and advise on your situation on 01604 212150 (Northampton) or 01908 488653 (Milton Keynes) or email to  Alternatively, visit for further information.

Insolvency Practitioner Declares Further Dividends

kalkulation am rechner

The success of an insolvency process is often measured on the ability to realise sufficient assets in order to pay something back to creditors and two cases we are administering are meeting that goal.

In the first case, PBC are delighted to announce the payment of a further significant interim dividend of £200,000 to HM Revenue & Customs from an insolvency estate.  Combined with a payment of £500,000 in January, HMRC have now received over 35% of their debt.  With further assets to realise, it is expected that well over £1million will be returned to creditors.

The second case involves an individual who was declared bankrupt in 2019.  Realisations of two buy to let properties and an endowment policy have enabled payments of approximately 20 pence in the pound to be made to unsecured creditors.

Jamie Cochrane said, “It is always pleasing to be able to make payments to creditors as described here.  The commercial approach taken by PBC on these cases has increased the dividends we are able to pay”.

If you require any advice or assistance on any insolvency-related issue, then please contact PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency to discuss and advise on your situation on 01604 212150 (Northampton), 01908 488653 (Milton Keynes) or email to  Alternatively, visit for further information.

Beware the Elephant Traps

Something I have been asked several times recently is when should directors seek advice from an insolvency practitioner.  My answer is always “as soon as possible” as there are more options available the earlier advice is sought, with the likelihood of rescue and recovery markedly higher.

The other advantage is that a director is less likely to step on what I call the elephant traps.  These antecedent transactions, explained below, can lead to personal liability for the director to restore the position to what it would have been prior to the transaction taking place.

  1. Preference

The Insolvency Act 1986 defines a preference as where a payment is made to a person and “that person is one of the creditors or guarantor for any of the debts and [the insolvent] does anything which has the effect of putting that person into a position which will be better than if that thing had not been done”. 

It needs to be proved that the company was insolvent at the time (or as a result) of the transaction and that there was a desire to prefer the creditor or guarantor.  However, where the recipient of the preference is a party connected with the company (e.g. a director or relative of a director or a company of such a person) then the desire is presumed.  Finally, the payment needs to take place within a relevant time which is 6 months prior to the company entering liquidation or administration, although this is extended to two years when the recipient is connected.

Typically, preference payments involve payments being made to directors to clear loan accounts, to creditors personally guaranteed by the director or to suppliers which the director intends to utilise should they start a new business.

  1. Transactions at an Undervalue

A transaction at undervalue occurs when a company “makes a gift or otherwise enters into a transaction that provide for no consideration” or “enters into a transaction for a consideration the value of which is significantly less than the value provided” in the two years prior to the company entering liquidation or administration.  Additionally, it needs to be proved that the company was insolvent at the time (or as a result) of the transaction.

The most common examples are the gifting of assets to directors or the transfer of an asset the director believes is theirs (e.g. a company car) for a value far less than it was worth.

  1. Transactions Defrauding Creditors

A transaction defrauding creditors arises when a company “makes a gift or otherwise enters into a transaction that provide for no consideration” or “enters into a transaction for a consideration the value of which is significantly less than the value provided”.

On the face of it, that sounds exactly like a transaction at undervalue but in this case it needs to be proved there was an intent to put assets beyond the reach of anyone likely to make a claim (typically a creditor).  There is no need to prove insolvency and the transaction does not need to occur in a relevant time period.

Often these cases involve scenarios where financial arrangements are changed to ensure one party holds the assets while another takes all the risk.

  1. Wrongful Trading

Wrongful trading occurs where “at some time before the commencement of the winding up, [a director] knew or ought to have concluded that there was no prospect of avoiding insolvent liquidation”.  

Case law has held that a director can be held personally liable for the increase in liabilities from the point where they ought to have reached the conclusion to the time when the company ultimately enters liquidation or administration.  A statutory defence is available to directors where “they took every step with a view to minimising the loss to the company’s creditors”. 

An example would be directors acknowledge their company had suffered losses and there was insufficient capital to keep the company trading.  Over the next two years (say) debts increased by £200,000 and the company went into liquidation owing £350,000.  The wrongful trading (and personal liability) is the £200,000 increase.

  1. Fraudulent Trading

Fraudulent trading carries criminal sanctions as well as personal liability for any party “knowingly … carrying on business with intent to defraud creditors or for any fraudulent purpose”.  The company does not need to be insolvent at the time of the fraudulent trading, which could be as simple as a single act.

A single act could be the taking of a loan, using the funds for personal benefit and having no intention of repaying the loan.  This would include the government backed Covid support schemes.

  1. Misfeasance

Misfeasance occurs where a director breaches their duty (fiduciary or otherwise) in relation to the company.  Common examples of this include adopting a systematic policy of avoiding paying taxes to HM Revenue & Customs, failing to maintain adequate books and records and paying dividends where there were not the available reserves to do so.

It is a common policy for director/shareholders to pay themselves a mixture of salary and dividends to reduce the tax liability but recent court judgements have held that dividends cannot subsequently be converted to salary if challenged.

Except with the statutory defence outlined above for wrongful trading, the antecedent transactions outlined have no defence so if a director steps on the elephant trap there is mitigation.  As a result, I must return to what I said at the outset that if advice is not taken as soon as possible, then this position could result in significant sums becoming payable by the director.

Government extends business support measures.

The Government have announced two further extensions of provisions under the Corporate Insolvency & Governance Act 2020.


Commercial landlords

The ability to evict or take goods in lieu of rental arrears has been further suspended until 25 March 2022.  The Government have produced a guide for landlords, which includes financial assistance.  The link is:

While this provision can be financially damaging to landlords, tenants also need to understand they must continue to pay rent (whether that is the contractual sum or a reduced amount under an agreement with their landlord) otherwise they are simply accruing a debt that could become unmanageable, while simultaneously increasing the landlord’s frustration, meaning they show less understanding once these provisions are lifted.

Further to the above, a director may have given a personal guarantee or, in non-payment of the rentals, could be exposing themselves to potential malpractice action (which carries personal liability) should their company ultimately fall into liquidation.

Debt enforcement

The restrictions on statutory demands and winding up petitions are being extended for a further three months until 30 September 2021.  The Government claim this is, “To protect companies from creditor enforcement action where their debts relate to the pandemic.”

It is, perhaps, interesting the announcement appears to be silent on extending the moratorium over wrongful trading, although directors, in particular, should not hold the misconception suspending wrongful trading provisions protects them if they continue trading beyond a point where creditors suffer.

While being of the view extending the above provisions further is kicking the can down the road, it is understandable.  The COVID road map has been pushed back until 19 July and with furlough to end in the autumn companies will need to re-adjust their overhead expenditure while also getting their business back on track after the adverse impact of lockdown.  Holding off aggressive creditor action to the end of September provides some breathing space for companies to recover before having to deal with aged debt.  Holding off landlords even further allows additional time for business owners to assess the viability of continued trading.

Should you have an insolvency-related issue then please contact me at PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency on (01604) 212150 (Northampton office) or (01234) 834886 (Bedford office). Alternatively, you may send an email to or access our website at

How are you paid?

PBC Logo

As the heading asks, how are you paid?  Is it a fixed salary, flexible hourly rate or on target earnings, or a combination of these?

In just over 32 years working in the insolvency profession I have been confronted with a wide variety of challenges.  However, the single most challenging task is when informing people, they are being made redundant.  It is my own fear, and I will never get used to being that messenger, even if those unfortunate employees being made redundant is for the greater good of saving a business.

When a company enters into a formal insolvency procedure, in most cases employees are entitled to make a claim for their entitlements against the Redundancy Payments Service (“RPS”).  The one regular surprise (it would appear) is that employee claimants includes directors provided they are able to demonstrate they were also employees at the time.

Generally speaking, the entitlements are wage arrears, accrued/unpaid holiday, redundancy and payment in lieu of notice.  In most cases, these claims are assessed quite easily.  You enter your fixed pay details and what you are owed on the online application.  However, what if you are on flexible hours or your income fluctuates due to commission earnings, so you are unable to insert a definitive earning figure?  This has been an issue for as long as I can remember, and “Best guess” tended to be the answer.  A recent announcement has been made by RPS that should partially address this issue.

With effect from 12 April 2021 employees with variable pay are being asked to calculate their entitlements based upon their 52-week average rate of pay.  I say, “Partially” because no computer system can fully address the large divergence in vocations and some employees could actually lose out.  For example, if you were paid commissions based upon holiday bookings, it is fair to assume earnings have been lower than normal over the past 52 weeks due to the pandemic restrictions.  Conversely, an estate agent may have seen an increase in their earnings due to the suspension of stamp duty enhancing property sales.  The question is, will RPS make an exceptional allowance for the impact of COVID?  I would suggest unlikely.

Should predictions be correct once the Government support programmes end, corporate insolvencies will increase and no doubt, the media will make plenty of noise over the scale of redundancies inherit with corporate failure and restructuring.  This prediction will place RPS under considerable pressure and payment target times will be challenged as a result, exposing those made redundant to a difficult time while they await entitlements.

Should you have an insolvency-related issue then please contact me at PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency on (01604) 212150 (Northampton office) or (01234) 834886 (Bedford office). Alternatively, you may send an email to or access our website at

Are we heading for an economic cliff?

How prepared are you for when the COVID-related financial support and other interim measures fall away? 

With the impact of COVID the Government laid down, what was to become the Corporate Insolvency & Governance Act 2020 (“CIGA”) which became law in June 2020 and had retrospective effect to March 2020.  CIGA was seen as a balancing act between the detrimental impact the severe restrictions would have for trading on one hand against shielding business from depleted cash flow on the other.

In January the House of Lords debated over the continued restrictions on creditor enforcement imposed by CIGA.  These restrictions were intended to expire on 30 September but were extended to 31 December and subsequently 31 March 2021.  In general, the restrictions prevented the service of statutory demands/winding up petitions, landlord enforcement and suspended wrongful trading provisions.  As a result of these restrictions, the latest data suggests an unprecedented level of debt has accrued, including over £4.5 billion in rent arrears.

Furthermore, there is an estimated £70 billion of Government-backed lending, together with deferred tax liabilities, which is most likely going to make HM Revenue & Customs (“HMRC”) a major creditor in most insolvencies, resulting in them having significant influence on the destiny of businesses.  This influence is made all the greater following the upgrading of HMRC to secondary preferential status when formal insolvency is required.

So, what is the good news?

Well, the Government have announced an easing of bounce back loan repayments in an effort to ease cash flow demands.  In addition, recognising the resulting position of HMRC and the detrimental effect COVID has caused generally, the House of Lords have stressed HMRC need to be co-operative and engaging with a supportive approach on proposed COVID-affected corporate restructuring.  Clearly, time will tell on this recommendation and I would say this commercial understanding needs to be wider by including landlords and credit controllers who are all seeking recoveries.

I asked in the title whether we are heading towards an economic cliff.  Personally, I would suggest “Normal” (whatever that is) will not occur over night.  So, rather than a cliff as COVID restrictions ease off, maybe the economy will experience a gradual slope.

Whatever the outcome businesses need to be pro-active.  Review your cash flow and look at ways of reducing overheads, particularly while your turnover gradually starts to return to pre-COVID levels.  You should engage with your creditors and for those who are owed money, a commercial understanding is going to be the order of the day.  If all fails, the advice has to be to seek early advice.  It is no coincidence those who do seek early advice find they have more options available then those who leave it until the last minute.  As a Scout will say, “Be prepared.”

Should you have an insolvency-related issue then please contact me at PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency on (01604) 212150 (Northampton office) or (01234) 834886 (Bedford office). Alternatively, you may send an email to or access our website at

Will the government support schemes make things worse?

Whilst we all might have our views on how Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock et al have handled the health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, one politician who has emerged with his reputation enhanced is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, and that’s not just because he has been nicknamed “Dishy Rishi”.


Whilst there is inevitably some people who have fallen through the cracks, the Chancellor’s support schemes have included the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (commonly known as the furlough scheme) – with 9.4million employees furloughed as at 5 July 2020, the Self-Employment Income Support scheme – with 3.5million people supported, and CBILS and Bounce Back Loans totalling £45billion as at 5 July 2020.


While this is a staggering amount of support that Mr Sunak has offered to UK businesses, there’s the potentially slightly controversial opinion that these schemes make things worse for the directors and their companies.


At PBC, we always raise awareness about seeking advice at the earliest possible opportunity as this gives the greatest chance of survival, the largest range of options available and minimises the risk of directors entering the “elephant traps” of antecedent transactions or breaches of their statutory duties.  But we are worried that some directors are believing that the government support schemes, combined with the suspension of wrongful trading provisions from 1 March – 30 September 2020, mean that their business will be fine once the Covid-19 restrictions are fully lifted and trading conditions return to business as normal.


However, while the furlough scheme helped towards wages and other schemes were designed to support business survival, liabilities such as utilities, rent, financial commitments etc will have continued to accrue.  In addition, it is unlikely that conditions will return to a “Pre Covid normal” for a significant period of time and businesses should be focussing on how they will adapt to the “new-normal” and ensure that they remain solvent and their cashflow is healthy.


Our concerns about the schemes making things worse are highlighted by a well published survey that reports just under half of Bounce Back Loans will not be repaid.  Are these loans being taken out purely to see the business survive for a few more months and enable the director to profit from the business before it fails?  Bounce Back Loans were publicised with no liability on the director or that no recovery action could be taken against a borrower’s main home.  However, while the loans were for business purposes only we have heard of scenarios where the loans have been taken into the company and then used to pay off the director’s personal debt.  This could lead to personal liability for the director and we urge all directors to seek independent advice on the use of the benefits received from the schemes


Should you have an insolvency-related issue then please contact me at PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency on (01604) 212150 (Northampton office) or (01234) 834886 (Bedford office). Alternatively, you may send an email to or access our website at


Jamie Cochrane