Insolvency Proceedings: New Temporary Reliefs/公司清盘程序: 新的临时措施

Temporary measures in relation to insolvency proceedings announced by the companies commission of Malaysia

 

**可以在下方查看本文章的华文版本

On 10 April 2020, the Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs announced in a press statement that Companies Commission of Malaysia (“SSM”) will be increasing the current indebtedness threshold from RM10,000 to RM50,000 until 31 December 2020, to reduce potential actions to wind up companies. Additionally, companies will also be given a period of six months from the current 21 days, to respond to a statutory notice of demand. These initiatives are part of an effort to reduce the burden on the business community and corporate sector which has been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The question that arises with the announcement of these initiatives is whether the increase of the debt threshold for initiating winding up proceedings against a company and the extension of the statutory limitation period would be legally enforceable in this manner.

The relevant law on this issue is governed by Section 466(1)(a) of the Companies Act 2016, which provides that a company shall be deemed to be unable to pay its debts if the company is indebted in a sum exceeding the amount as may be prescribed by the Minister.

Although Section 466(1)(a) gives the Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs the legal power and authority to set the indebted sum, it is pertinent to note for companies intending to take the benefit of this temporary increment of a company’s debt threshold may not be legally enforceable as of yet until the same has been duly gazetted by the Minister in the Federal Gazette.

Section 466(1)(a) of the Companies Act 2016 further provides that the company has 21 days after the service of a notice of demand to pay the indebted sum to creditors. With the increased 6 month period for companies to respond to statutory demands, this would now provide companies that are struggling financially the necessary buffer to pay the sums demanded by the creditor.

However, it must be borne in mind that the extension of the statutory limitation period in the form of an announcement by the Ministry does not have legal effect as it stands and cannot supersede the Companies Act 2016, which is an Act of Parliament. Any amendments to Section 466(1)(a) of the Companies Act 2016 can only be amended by the passing of another legislation and it remains to be seen how this temporary measure will be legally implemented without the passing of any subsidiary legislation/regulations.

Without further directives from SSM following from the announcement, it is also unclear when these initiatives would take effect in relation to winding up proceedings. Therefore, a party wishing to commence such proceedings might face uncertainties on whether a winding-up petition could be presented after the expiry of 21 days on the basis of non-compliance of statutory demands that were issued to the debtor before the announcement was made.

With all these uncertainties and without proper amendments to the law in place, the Judiciary as well as the litigating parties involved may later find themselves in a conundrum in the winding up proceedings.

While the efforts of the Malaysian government to help businesses stay afloat in the current economic situation have been commendable so far, the government should perhaps give due consideration in passing an Act similar to the one passed by Singapore to give the government legal basis to enforce all temporary measures.

An all-encompassing legislature to lawfully protect businesses and individuals hit by the COVID-19 pandemic would be a better solution and would provide better clarity on how and when these measures would legally be effected. Guidance may be sought from the Singapore COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020, in which commencement of insolvency proceedings should be restricted accordingly to give a chance for companies and businesses to recover financially after the COVID-19 crisis is over.

 

Update dated 24 April 2020:

On 23 April 2020, the Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs has published the Companies (Exemption) Order (No.2) 2020 [P.U.(A) 123] in the Federal Gazette (“Exemption Order No. 2”).

Pursuant to the newly gazetted Exemption Order No. 2, the Minister has exempted all companies from Section 466(1)(a) of the Companies Act 2016 which provides that a company has 21 days after the service of a notice of demand to pay the indebted sum to the creditor. This exemption is subject to the condition that a company shall be deemed unable to pay its debts under Section 466(1)(a) of the Companies Act 2016 if the company neglects any notice of demand within the period of 6 months after service of the notice of demand.

It is clear from Exemption Order No. 2 that the exemption would only apply in relation to any notice of demand which is served within the period of 23 April 2020 to 31 December 2020. As such, only companies that were served statutory demands on or after 23 April 2020 would enjoy the extended period of six months to pay the indebted sum to creditors before a winding up petition can be filed by the creditors. Companies should also note that if a statutory demand were to be served on or after 1 January 2021, the position would revert back to Section 466(1)(a) of the Companies Act 2016 where the period of 21 days applies.

Exemption Order No. 2 is effected by the Minister in exercising his powers conferred by Section 615 of the Companies Act 2016. Section 615 of the Companies Act 2016 provides that the Minister, upon the recommendation of SSM, may order the exemption of any person, corporate or class of corporations from all or any of the provisions of the Companies Act 2016.

With regard to the increased debt threshold of RM50,000.00, the Minister has also gazetted the same on 23 April 2020 and a copy of the Gazette can be found here. In exercising his powers conferred by Section 466(1)(a) of the Companies Act 2016, the Minister prescribes that the amount of indebtedness of a company shall be an amount exceeding RM50,000.00. Similarly, companies should take note that the increased debt threshold is only temporary and effective from 23 April 2020 until 31 December 2020.

Pursuant to the respective Gazettes, the temporary measures initiated by SSM earlier have effectively been passed into law and Exemption Order No. 2 has provided much needed clarity on how and when these temporary measures are to be implemented and effected. These temporary laws would now provide struggling companies a short respite to get back on their feet to avoid the consequences of winding up proceedings against them.

Note:-

It may also be worth mentioning that Exemption Order No. 2 revokes the previous Companies (Exemption) Order 2020 [P.U.(A) 122]  (“Exemption Order No. 1”) which was gazetted by the Minister on 22 April 2020. In Exemption Order No. 1, the Minister had exempted the provision of Section 466(1)(a) of the Companies Act instead of exempting companies from the statutory period of 21 days. While the desired outcome remains the same, the wordings of Exemption Order No. 1 may give rise to questions on whether the Minister has the legal power to exempt a statutory provision in the absence of such wordings in Section 615 of the Companies Act 2016.

By: Jaclyn Chang Mei Qi

DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice and/or legal opinion. Messrs Yeoh & Joanne accepts no liability for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in this article.

 

公司清盘程序: 新的临时措施

 

在2020年4月10日,国内贸易和消费者事务部部长在一则新闻声明中宣布,马来西亚公司委员会已将目前的公司债务门槛从一万令吉提高至五万令吉,以降低公司清盘诉讼的可能。该门槛将实施至2020年12月31日。

此外,对于原本需要在21天内回应的索偿债务通知书,被清盘的公司也将获得6个月的期限以回应该索偿债务通知书。以上这些措施是为了减轻由COVID-19对于企业界和企业部门所造成的经济影响和负担。

在宣布以上这些措施后将出现的问题将会是,被提高的公司债务门槛以及被延长回应索偿债务通知书的法定期限是否可行或具有法律效力。

根据《2016年公司法令》第466(1)(a)条文,如果公司的债务超过了由国内贸易和消费者事务部部长所规定的金额,该公司将被视为无法偿还债务。

尽管《2016年公司法令》第466(1)(a)条文赋予国内贸易和消费者事务部部长规定债务总额的法律权力,但有意利用该暂时被提高的债务门槛的公司需须注意,直到部长在《联邦公报》上正式将其刊登在宪报上为止,该文件可能尚无法依法执行。

除此之外,根据《2016年公司法令》第466(1)(a)条文,公司须在收到索偿债务通知书后的21天内将债务总额支付给债权人。随着刚宣布的索偿债务通知书回应期限被提高到6个月,这将为财务困难的公司提供必要的缓冲,以支付债权人索偿的款项。

但是,必须牢记的是,由国内贸易和消费者事务部部长的公告形式延长该法定回应期限本身并没有法律效力,也不能取代作为国会法案的《2016年公司法》。对于2016年公司法令》第466(1)(a)条文的任何修正只能通过另一项新通过的立法来进行修改,而在不通过任何附属法规或条例的情况下,如何在法律上实施该临时措施仍有待观察。

在宣布该措施之后,马来西亚公司委员会没有进一步的指示,也不清楚这些措施将何时在公司清盘诉讼程序方面生效。因此想要发起公司清盘诉讼程序的债权人可能会面临各种不确定性,就如是否能向在措施宣布前收到索偿债务通知书并无法遵守在21天法定回应期限内将债务总额支付给债权人的公司提出清盘申请。

有了这些不确定因素,而又没有适当的法律修订,司法机构及有关的诉讼当事人日后可能会在公司清盘诉讼程序中陷入困境。

虽然马来西亚政府在当前经济形势中帮助企业维持运营的努力值得称赞,但政府或许应该适当考虑通过一项类似于新加坡通过的法案,为政府提供法律依据来执行所有临时措施。

一个全方位的立法机构来合法地保护受到COVID-19打击的企业和个人将是一个更好的解决方案,并且将更清楚地说明这些措施将如何以及何时合法地实施。立法机构可以从《2020年新加坡COVID-19(临时措施)法案》(Singapore COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020) 中寻求指引,就如在该法案中,破产清盘程序的发起应受到相应的限制,以便在COVID-19危机结束后,公司和企业有机会在财务上得到恢复。

 

更新日期:2020年4月24日:

于2020年4月23日,国内贸易和消费者事务部部长(“部长”)在 《联邦公报》上公布了 《2020年公司(豁免)令》(第2号),[P.U.(A) 123] (“第2号豁免令”)。

根据新公布的第2号豁免令,部长已豁免所有公司遵守《2016年公司法令》第466(1)(a)条文,该条文规定,公司在索偿债务通知书送达后21天内向债权人支付欠款。这项豁免是有条件的,如果公司在索偿债务通知书送达后的6个月内依然忽略任何索款通知,根据《2016年公司法》第466(1)(a)条文,公司应被视为无力偿还其债务。

第2号豁免令清楚列明,豁免只适用于在2020年4月23日至2020年12月31日期间送达的任何索偿债务通知书。因此,只有在2020年4月23日或之后收到法定索偿债务通知书的公司才能享有延长的6个月期限,在债权人提出清盘申请之前向债权人支付债务总额。公司还应注意,所有在2021年1月1日或之后送达的法定索偿债务通知书,则将根据《2016年公司法》第466(1)(a)条文中的21天期限处理。

第2号豁免令是由部长行使《2016年公司法》第615条文赋予的权力实施。《2016年公司法》第615条文规定,部长可根据马来西亚公司委员会的建议,下令免除任何个人、公司或公司类别遵守《2016年公司法》的任何或所有规定。

关于提高债务门槛到5万令吉,部长也于2020年4月23日发布了同样的联邦公报,点击参阅该联邦公报。在行使《2016年公司法》第466(1)(a)条文赋予的权力时,部长规定公司的债务金额应超过5万令吉。同样,公司应注意,该增加的债务门槛只是暂时的,即从2020年4月23日至2020年12月31日为止有效。

根据该联邦公报,马来西亚公司委员会在早前发布的临时措施已有效地通过成为法律,此外在于如何以及何时实施和执行这些临时措施上,第2号豁免令已提供了急需的明确性。这些临时法律现在将为陷入困境的公司提供一个短暂的缓冲及喘息的机会,让它们可以重新整顿再站起来,以避免清盘诉讼对它们带来的后果。

备注:-

还值得一提的是,第2号豁免令撤销了部长于2020年4月22日在联邦公报上公布的 《2020年公司(豁免)令》[P.U.(A) 122] ( “第1号豁免令”) 。在第1号豁免令中,部长豁免了《2016年公司法令》第466(1)(a)条文的规定,而不是免除公司遵守该21天的法定偿还期限。虽然预期结果将保持不变,但第1号豁免令的措辞可能会引起质疑,即在《2016年公司法》的第615条文中没有此类措辞的情况下,部长是否有法律权力豁免某项法定条文。

文章来自于:张美琪律师 (Jaclyn Chang Mei Qi)

文章翻译:李淑婷律师 (Lee Su Ting)

免责声明:本文仅供参考,不应作为法律建议和/或法律意见。Yeoh & Joanne律师事务所不会承担因依赖本文所含信息而产生的任何损失的责任。

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *