CASH FLOW AND CORONAVIRUS – What directors must do

Paul Cooper at Blake-Turner has for many years advised clients experiencing cash flow difficulties.  All too often an otherwise sound business hits a hurdle and all of a sudden it is “insolvent” because it realises it will not be able to pay certain debts as they fall due in the next few weeks and months.

To describe the current Coronavirus pandemic as a “hurdle” would be a massive understatement, but the responsibilities of directors remain exactly the same.

What directors must do

1.     Change your priorities:

As soon as the directors of a company realise that there is a real prospect of them not being able to meet their debts as they fall due (“cash flow insolvent”), whether now or in the future, then when making decisions they must make the interests of creditors paramount.  If they fail to do this, then they risk making themselves personally liable for some of the debts of the company.

2.     Plan carefully:

Whilst it is far from clear when the current crisis will end (this blog was created in March 2020), we are being given assurances by the Government and international organisations that will possibly be in around 3 months’ time. Also, that the government will assist by way of backing bank loans and paying 80% of furloughed employees’ wages.

Therefore, if you are a director of a company who envisages being cash flow insolvent in the coming three months you need to plan now.  If your business is fundamentally sound, you may well be justified in continuing to trade, even if that incurs a lot of debt, provided that you reasonably consider that when we emerge you are likely to be able to trade through those losses and pay off those loans. In those circumstances, creditors will obviously be far better off than they would be were you to simply give up now and allow the company to go bust.

3.     Record your decisions to protect yourself:

It is important to protect yourself personally as a director by keeping minutes of your board meetings at which you make the decision to continue to trade. Also, to regularly review that decision and minute each review and the reasons for your decisions. Also, keep copies of your cash flow forecasts as they evolve over time. If the worst subsequently happens, a contemporaneous record of your thought processes and decisions will be of great assistance in defending any claim against you personally by a liquidator or the Official Receiver.

4.     Seek advice:

If you carry out your cash flow forecasts, and budget thereafter, and come to a view that it is unlikely that you will be unable to trade through and/or recoup your losses and/or pay off the short term debt, then you must immediately seek advice from an insolvency lawyer such as Paul Cooper at Blake-Turner, or an insolvency practitioner.  A director can be made personally liable for certain debts if they continue to trade and spend money where it is not reasonable for them to do so, and in continuing to spend money and incur liabilities they will ultimately make the creditors worse off. Taking professional advice and minuting decisions will show you acted reasonably at all times and be crucial in ensuring you do not become personally liable.

5.     If it comes to the worst:

A business can often be saved by putting the company into administration and selling that business.  This is often by way of a pre-pack sale in which most if not all of the current debts of the company can be left behind and a new company continue to trade the business and save the employees’ jobs. Blake-Turner have extensive experience in this area.

There are also other options if you decide you cannot continue to trade, such as liquidation or a CVA.  Please click on the foregoing links for further information in that regard.

At Blake-Turner we have years of experience of assisting distressed companies.  We understand the desire to save and restructure where possible and we can advise you of various strategies by which you can do this.  Please contact Paul Cooper on +44 (0) 7967 014788 or at paul.cooper@blaketurner.com

Partnership Disputes and LLP Disputes

Before the introduction of the Limited Liability Partnership (“LLP”) as a legal entity in English law 20 years ago, the only form of legal partnership that existed was a partnership under the Partnership Act 1890.  A significant difference was that in an old style partnerships each partner had joint (but not several) liability.  In an LLP some or all of the partners have a form of limited liability similar to that of shareholders of a company.  Unlike a company, the partners have the right to manage a business directly.

As such, the range of partnership disputes is now wider than before and includes disputes between members (as they are known) of an LLP and not just partners of a partnership.

As with an old-style partnership, LLPs are often governed by an agreement between the members which are generally known and referred to as partners.  This agreement obviously comes into play in the event of a partnership dispute.  Absent a written agreement the relationship between the members and the LLP and third parties is governed by the Limited Liability Partnerships Act 2000 and the Limited Liability Partnership Regulations 2001 and subsequent amendments thereto.

Often one of the central features of a partnership dispute focuses on who has control of the LLP (or partnership) during the dispute between members or partners.

Focusing on LLPs there may well be a dispute resolution procedure in any written LLP agreement but in the absence of such, it must be remembered that under the 2000 Act each member has the right to manage the affairs of the LLP.  This, of course, can be curtailed or controlled by any LLP Agreement, but in the absence of one, it can lead to great difficulties not only between the members themselves but apropos third parties.  Members do have the same rights as shareholders to claim for unfair prejudice if the LLP is being conducted in a manner unfairly prejudicial.  However, many LLP agreements expressly exclude such rights and a member is therefore left to resort to the agreement and the Act and its regulations to seek redress.

If the relationship between the members breaks down and cannot be repaired either informally or through the procedures set out in any written agreement (if there is one) then it is crucial that you should take early legal advice to determine from the start what position you as a member (especially a minority one) are in advance of taking action.  Often LLP agreements are drafted to ensure a deadlock situation between equal partners, which makes matters even more difficult.  Together with a lawyer, a strategy can be put in place to try to achieve the speediest and most economical resolution to a dispute (which may or may not involve purchasing or selling of one member’s share to others).

Rupert Farr, head of Litigation at Blake-Turner, has extensive experience in partnership disputes, both old-style partnerships and LLPs, in different areas of industry and business (including accountants, facilities management, digital payment companies, and others).  He would be happy to discuss any partnership dispute case which you have with an initial consultation being free of charge before a decision is made as to whether to go forward.