Presentation on theme: "Problems in Canadian Business Law Pol/Soc Sci 3165 6.0A Tuesdays, 2:30-5:30 pm Simon Archer"— Presentation transcript:
Problems in Canadian Business Law Pol/Soc Sci A Tuesdays, 2:30-5:30 pm Simon Archer
Stuff Last class Capital markets II, etc. Questions? Today Insolvency Competition law (if time) Next classes IP law Other areas you want to hear about?
Bankruptcy and Insolvency When things go wrong… Is a complement to “credit economy” Forms of credit single most important driver of mass participation in capital markets and market economy -- linked directly to consumer society B&I functions as social safety net in “weak state” Tension between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” business failures Is this a distinction courts should make?
Some factoids from the text Roman Law Unlucky debtor, delivering up existing assets – lives Dishonest debtor, hiding assets – executed Complex procedure in England through Industrial Revolution Provincial responsibility Federal responsibility before and since those dates
Two models Moral model (UK) history of debtors prisons origins in UK act, must explain bankruptcy, commercial morality and guard against frauds now considered outdated model Focus on liquidation and judgment of debtor Fresh start model (US) 1978: Ch 11 reorganizations emphasize fresh start, “bargaining model” by creditors some backlash by mid-1980s from lenders, now limits individual access to some degree
Bankruptcy Legislation in Canada Purpose and Intent Honest unfortunates gain a release from their debts Eliminate preferences of one creditor over another Mechanism for distribution of available assets Punish creditors who attempt to defraud creditors Uniform throughout Canada
Bankruptcy Legislation in Canada – cont’d Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act small, medium and large business and individuals Commercial proposals, Part III, Div 1 Consumer proposals, Part III, Div 2 Winding Up Act Financial institutions Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act large businesses only, conceived during depression, in need of massive overhaul, very business-friendly (and creditor-averse) Also note: Fraudulent Conveyances Act, Personal Property Security Act, Assignment and Preferences Act
Recent history Economic volatility, restructuring of global production chain, removal of trade barriers = new business models working around/under/over regulation Increased use of debt as financing sensitivity to payment streams different from equity financing use by households of credit card debt to replace income fluctuations Lesser role for governments in de-regulated world But really? A socialization of risk?
2002 stats Total bankruptcies/proposals=105,000 consumers bankruptcies=78,000 business bankruptcies=10,000 CCAA=20
Some reasons for bankruptcy Small business risks significant, usually gap between initial financing and profitability bankruptcy = low cost efficient exit for failed businesses Individuals: unemployment combined with high debts (currently at record highs), credit used as financing, fewer social safety nets Watch out: = high consumer debt levels, housing bubble, low interest rate environment If interest rates increase…
Definitions Insolvency Broader concept: inability to pay debts as they generally become due…also defined in Act Bankruptcy legal categories, bankrupt is a legal status...
Acts of Bankruptcy An “insolvent person” is In Canada, with debts in excess of $1000, any one of ten acts of bankruptcy is committed: Assignment in bankruptcy made (voluntary act by debtor) Fraudulent conveyance made Fraudulent preference Departs from Canada or dwelling Allows seized property to go unredeemed
Acts of Bankruptcy – cont’d Makes written admission to creditors meeting of inability to pay debts Secrets property with intent to defraud creditors Gives notice to creditors of suspension of payments Defaults in a proposal under the Act Ceases to meet his liabilities generally as they become due
BIA processes Start by petition (creditor asks court to take jurisdiction) or assignment Get a: vesting of property in trustee, bankruptcy takes precedent over all other enforcement, requirement of bankrupt to take orders of trustee Trustee can move to set aside prebankruptcy transactions first time, discharged after 9 mos. Creditor, trustee may oppose discharge, where Board will oversee hearing, broad powers.
Commercial proposals Part III, Div 1 used by small businesses to reorganize debts with intent to make “triggers” stay in place debtor continues to run business, Trustee acts a monitor Relatively strict timelines, quick action where conditions/timelines not met
Consumer proposals Part III, Div 2 Where debts excluding mortgage do not sufficient to pay obligations Requirement to repay all or portion over 5 year period Alternative to bankruptcy, avoid stigma, keep going with current assets
CCAA Only available to companies with claims against of $5M or more Management retains control (debtor in possession), can do a lot but with oversight of court (e.g., Air Canada, negotiated with unions, raised capital injection, paid massive bonuses to executives, etc.) Monitor appointed, develop plans, approval by creditors and court few actual rules, de facto Ch 11 bargaining model
Priorities Secured creditors, unpaid suppliers of recognizable inventory Funeral expenses Costs of administration Court fees Wages owing to employees (6 months or $2000 ea.) Municipal taxes (2 years worth)
Priorities – cont’d Landlord – three months rent Fees & costs ss.70(2) Workers compensation deductions, EI deductions, and income tax owing to Federal government Direct claims of injured employees Any other claims of the Crown Unsecured creditors
Discharge Court order releases bankrupt from debts Behaviour key to obtaining order Corporation cannot obtain discharge without complete payment of creditor’s claims Consumer Bankruptcy Summary Proceedings Bankruptcy Offences
INSOLVENT DEBTOR INITIATION OF BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS Voluntary Assignment by Bankrupt Person Proposal to Creditors by Debtor (through a Licensed Trustee) Creditor May Petition Court for Receiving Order (2) Has Committed an Act of Bankruptcy Within Past 6 Months (1) If Debtor has Debts in Excess of $1,000
PROCEDURE Receiving Order Issued Meeting of Creditors Appointment of Inspectors by Creditors to Supervise Trustee Trustee Liquidates Assets Distributes Proceeds to Creditors in Accordance with Priorities in Act Discharge of Bankrupt Appointment of Trustee
Issues in a restructuring Is it worth more liquidated than as a going concern? Whose interests (what hierarchy) should be considered in reorganization (creditors, employees, unions, community, none, all, government?)
Insolvency essay question To whom should the primary duties of directors of insolvent corporations be owed: shareholders of the corporation, or creditors of the corporation? Why?
Regulation of competition Nature of the Legislation Restrictive Trade Practices Mergers and Firms in a Dominant Position Conspiracies and Combinations in Restraint of Trade Remedies
Overview Basic assumption: “forces of free market should regulate industry” Since when did the free market defend the public interest? Can it? See slides re: integrity vs efficiency Alarming rise in monopoly powers in late 1800’s Early anti-trust responses in 1889 (Sherman Act, US), Combines Investigation Act (Can) Major consolidations of piecemeal legislation 1960 and Combines Investigation Act Combines, from Combinations (oligopolies) The Competition Act
Nature of legislation The Competition Act National coverage as federal act Prohibits certain trade practices as criminal offences, certain as regulatory offences E.g., bid - rigging is criminal act E.g., review and approval of certain mergers Applies to goods and services Commissioner of Competition has broad investigative powers, with right to warranted search and seizure
Blended regime Implications are that prohibited trade practices (about 15) which are criminal offences require BARD Regulatory offences only take a BOP threshold. Is complaint-driven as well as research-driven Lots of litigation over search and seizure -- e.g., Hunter v. Southam established new norms for search warrant powers, changed rules of the act (s. 8 violation).
Restrictive trade practices Competition Act, 3 main types Practices related to nature of the business organization (mergers, dominant firms) Practices that arise between firm and competitors Practices that arise between a firm and its customers
Mergers and dominant position Dominance itself is not improper Dominance to detriment of public is subject to review 50% of market a reviewable merger May prohibit or modify terms of mergers Little enforcement of this aspect of the CA.
Combinations, conspiracies In any product, an offence for anyone who “conspires” to unduly: limit dealing in any product limit manufacturing and unreasonably enhance price limit competition Carve-outs: defining industry standards and practices, exchanging information, measurements, etc. Can you see the problem with these rules?
Problems Proof: Conspiracy requires intent of consequences, hard to prove How to distinguish market manipulation from business decision? The amendment to s. 46 and s. 1.1 modify this (removing the obligation to prove WOULD HAVE reduced competition).
Problems of carve outs Is requiring a voluntary code of conduct to be adopted a practice in restraint of trade? Are unions in restraint of trade?
Offences relating to distribution and sale Price discrimination (for same thing at same time) Advertising allowances (again, available to all, not on discriminatory basis) Regional competition (“dumping”) Price fixing (ever notice how bank fees change?) But including downstream control, etc. Pyramid selling (a form of speculation or recruiting: see Bush campaign finance for example) Deceptive telemarketing
Offences…cont’d Forgoing are prohibited (e.g., attract criminal sanction) Very difficult to distinguish from legitimate commercial activity
Reviewable activities Where Abuse of dominant position, refusal to supply Consignment selling Exclusive dealing Tied selling Market restriction Foreign directives to Canadian subsidiaries Foreign arrangements affecting Canadian firms Have the effect of limiting competition, impeding market entry, can be ordered stopped, etc., or otherwise order for increased competition
Offences Relating to Promotion and Advertising of Products False or misleading advertising Price, “material terms” Cf. “mere puffery”? Strict liability (remember Wholesale Travel case?) Criminal and civil options Does not need to prove reliance (major obstacle in common law) Correction of errors Double ticketing (lowest price must rule) Bait-and-switch (“while supplies last” defence)
Civil actions under the Competition Act Violation of Act or breach of Order gives rise to ability to pursue civil (private) lawsuit Damages claim in quantum of loss Vs US, 3x damages Balance of probability burden Criminal proceedings evidence is admissible Access to justice?