COMPANY LIQUIDATION STRATEGIES

A creditor who’s claim against a company has not been paid on due date is, as a matter of law, entitled to apply for the liquidation of the company.  If the court is satisfied that the company is unable to pay the debt, a liquidation order will normally be granted, with the often distressing consequence that jobs are lost, assets are sold at far below their value and a business which, if given a respite, would have regained its financial health, ceases to exist.

The new Companies Act, No 71 of 2008, has introduced the concept of business rescue, which is intended to assist financially distressed companies in restructuring their business in a manner that maximises the likelihood of the company continuing in existence on a solvent basis.  Business rescue certainly has its place in the South African economic environment, and its growth and wider application should be encouraged.  There are, however, a number of drawbacks.  The business rescue practitioner has to be paid, and his fee is frequently substantial.  Furthermore, the business rescue plan has to be approved by 75% of the creditors voting interests, and by 50% of the independent creditors (i.e. creditors who are not directors, shareholders or members of the same company group).  If the business rescue plan is not approved, liquidation of the company will be the almost inevitable result.

Item 9 of Schedule 5 to the 2008 Companies Act provides that the liquidation of companies continues to be governed by the applicable provisions of the previous Companies Act, No 61 of 1973 (“the 1973 Companies Act”).  Which brings me to Section 347(1) of the 1973 Companies Act, dealing with the powers of the court hearing a liquidation application.  It provides as follows:  “The court may grant or dismiss any application under s 346, or adjourn the hearing thereof, conditionally or unconditionally, or make any interim order or other order it may deem just …”.

The power which the court has to adjourn the application, or make “any other order it may deem just” is a power infrequently exercised and one which has received insufficient attention by the courts.  That power should, for example, be exercised in conjunction with the power granted a court in terms of Section 354(1) of the 1973 Companies Act, which states that the court may at any time after commencement of a winding up, on the application of a liquidator, creditor or member “and on proof to the satisfaction of the court that all proceedings in relation to the winding up ought to be stayed or set aside, make an order staying or setting aside the proceedings …”.

In Klass v Contract Interiors 2010 (5) SA 40 (W), the court held that the power vested in the court by Section 354 is an unfettered discretionary power.  The court may, in deciding whether a winding up is to stayed, have regard to the wishes of the majority of creditors, and to considerations of commercial morality.  This approach echoes the reasoning adopted in Calgary & Edmonton Land Co Ltd (1975) 1 All ER 1046 (CH).  It is also consistent with a line of cases which state that, in liquidation and sequestration applications, a court may postpone the granting of a liquidation or sequestration order to enable a debtor to pay the claim of the applicant creditor, where it appears that the debtor has realistic prospects of doing so (Rosenbach & Co (Pty) Ltd v Singh’s Bazaars (Pty) Ltd 1962 (4) SA 593 (D)Payslip Investment Holdings CC v Y2K Tech Ltd 2001 (4) SA 781 (C) at 787-789).

A company faced with a liquidation application may therefore, if it is able to show that it will be able to pay the debt within a realistic time, succeed in averting the liquidation application.  A couple of self-evident and practical points need to be made, in this regard.  Firstly, a company running into cash flow problems must keep its creditors fully informed.  If it becomes clear that debts are not going to be paid on due date, the company should timeously ask the creditors for extensions of time, make realistic proposals as to the payment of any arrear amounts and, most importantly, ensure that it treats all its creditors equally, as regards payments of debts.  A creditor that finds out that its claim has been unpaid, while those of other creditors met, is likely to speedily resort to liquidation or other litigation proceedings.

By managing its creditors in this manner, a company will, if in due course one of the creditors loses patience and brings liquidation proceedings, be able to successfully resist liquidation by invoking Section 354 and the proviso to Section 347(1).

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE FAMILY ADVOCATE

The Family Advocate has many duties but in the context of Divorce Law, they are mostly consulted for making sure that all Parenting Plans and divorce Consent Papers are in the best interest of any minor children involved. The public can, however, also have access to the Family Advocate and it is important to note that they offer a free service.

The roles of the Family Advocate include the following: to provide education to family members and to others involved in the systems serving the family and youth; to help identify the strengths and needs of families; to be a mediator between the system and the family by helping to educate professionals on the strengths and needs of the family; to help family members understand the different roles of the agencies involved in the system and how they may affect the family and assist families in identifying and utilizing necessary services.

A Family Advocate helps state and local agencies and systems adopt more strengths-based and family-driven programs, policies, and services. The focus is to better meet the needs of families and their youth who have mental illness, co-occurring disorders or substance use disorders and improve outcomes for all, including families, youth, and the agencies they utilize.

A Family Advocate also has the authority to draft Parenting Plans at no cost which will help provide the minor child with a stable and suitable schedule between the two parents. A Family Advocate cannot however provide for a maintenance amount as this falls under the jurisdiction of the maintenance court. Should a parent feel like they are not sure of their rights or responsibilities towards their minor child, the Family Advocate can be approached in order to arrange a meeting between the two parties to mediate the rights and responsibilities between the two parties. This process is also at no cost, however should one of the parties deny the meeting, the Family Advocate has no authority to subpoena them to attend the meeting.

The Family Advocate is a perfect remedy for parents who have their child’s best interest at heart and who aim to provide a stable environment for the child when both parents are no longer together.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.

A PROMISE TO MARRY

In this article the legal consequences of breaking off an engagement will be discussed. Is it a contract, and if it is, can you institute a claim for damages due to a breach of this contract?In order to enter into a valid engagement to be married the following requirements must be met:

  • Both parties must have the capacity to act, which generally means that parties must be older than 18 years or if they are minors, that they have the necessary consent from their guardians.
  • Both parties must voluntarily consent to the engagement. A material mistake, such as the identity of either of the parties, will render the engagement void. There must also be no misrepresentations made by either of the parties; in other words, where it would have resulted in the contract not being concluded, had the other party known the truth.
  • Both parties must be permitted by law to marry each other. For example, you may only be engaged to one party, unless a polygamous engagement applies under African Customary Law.
  • One may not marry a sibling.

It is important to note that there is no law in South Africa that requires an engagement before   marriage.

Once a date for the marriage has been determined, there is a reciprocal duty to marry on that date, unless the date is changed by mutual agreement. Further, if no date has been determined, it is presumed that the marriage will take place within a reasonable time. Nevertheless, either of the parties may terminate the engagement, which may or may not attract a claim for damages or return of gifts.

An engagement can be terminated in the following ways:

  • Marriage
  • Death of either parties
  • Mutual agreement
  • Withdrawal of parental consent
  • Breach of promise
  • Termination by one party that is justified and based on sound reasons

It is important to establish whether there is a just cause for cancellation. If there is, the engagement may be validly terminated. A reason such as sterility or criminal activity, if it was only brought to the attention of the other party after agreeing to marry, may provide enough grounds to break off the engagement. If both parties agree to terminate the engagement, all gifts given in anticipation of the marriage, including the engagement ring, must be returned.

If one party breaches the promise to marry without justifiable reasons, the innocent party can, according to our law, institute a claim for damages, provided that the losses were within the contemplation of the parties. The innocent party can claim expenses incurred in anticipation of the wedding, thus placing the innocent party in the financial position he or she would have been had the engagement never been entered into. Further, the innocent party may keep or claim back the engagement ring as part of costs incurred.

In the case of Van Jaarsveld v Bridges, the court decided that a party cannot successfully institute a claim for prospective losses on the basis of a breach of promise to marry, because an engagement is not an ordinary contract in the context of contractual damages and should therefore not be placed on a rigid contractual footing. This means that a party may not institute a claim for damages placing him or her in the position he would have been had they gone through with the marriage. Previous court judgements indicate that compensation will be awarded at the discretion of the court and that each case must be evaluated on the basis of its individual circumstances.

In conclusion, it is important to note that a promise to marry is an agreement which attracts legal consequences; therefore one should not be hasty when deciding to ask the big question.

Bibliography:

Van Jaarsveld v Bridges 2010 (4) SA 558 (SCA).
Cloete v Maritz 2013 (5) SA448 (WCC).
Bull v Taylor 1965 (4) SA 29 (A).
Georgina Guedes, 23 October 2013, Mail and Guardian, “Five fallacies about engagement rings”.
A Guide to Divorce and Separation in South Africa, “Engagement and the Law”.
Ronald & Bobroff, “The engagement”.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.

SCHNETLER’S INC. IS “GOING GREEN”

As a law firm, it isn’t difficult to imagine the countless reams of paper which we consume each and every month. As a firm, we have realised that it too is our responsibility to unite our efforts with those of every other person who is consciously striving to erase our carbon footprint which is deeply embedded on our planet Earth.

It is predicted that Cape Town residents generate over 6000 tons of waste PER DAY! In other words, each person (and there are approximately 3,497,097 people in the greater Cape Town area) produces over 1.72 kilograms of waste per day. It is alarming to learn that waste generation in Cape Town escalates at approximately 7% a YEAR!

According to an Environmental Affairs and Tourism media statement issued in 2007, South Africa has set a national target of reducing the amount of waste going to landfills by 70% by 2022, and to minimise and treat the remaining 30%.

Recycling is our solution to this very serious issue, one which affects all of us. Recycling is something everyone can get involved in. Everyone can contribute positively towards ensuring that our planet does not develop into a colossal land fill. By implementing recycling in your everyday life, no matter what your financial position is, you can make a contribution towards living lightly on our planet.

For those who require further encouragement and validation that recycling really can and does make a difference to our environment, as well as to our ordinary lives, can find five reasons why YOU should recycle.

  1. “Recycling saves energy”
    Recycling saves energy for the reason that the manufacturer does not need to create something new from raw, natural resources. By using recycled materials we save on energy consumption, which too keeps production costs down.
  2. “Recycling reduces landfills”
    Recycling reduces the need for more landfills – nobody wants to live next to a landfill!
  3. “Recycling preserves our resources and protects wildlife”
    By recycling, we reduce the need to destroy the habitat of wild animals. Paper recycling alone, saves millions of trees.
  4. “Recycling is good for the economy”
    Recycling and purchasing recycled products creates a greater demand for more recycled goods. Products made from recycled materials use less water, create less pollution and less energy is used in the production thereof.
  5. “Recycling helps our climate problems”
    Recycling produces considerably less carbon dioxide, which reduces the amount of unhealthy greenhouse gas emissions.

The bottom line is that reducing waste means less pollution, fewer raw materials AND a financial saving!

Schnetler’s has become a supporter of Oasis Association, to whom we provide all of our firm’s recyclable goods. Oasis processed over 220 tons of recyclable waste a month during 2007!  This means that Oasis Association saved the City of Cape Town approximately 20 339 cubic metres of landfill. Today Oasis Association recycles over 260 tons of waste a month. We believe that it is EVERBODY’S responsibility and duty to support and make an active effort to save our environment.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.