I am not sure how many of you have seen the recent press reporting of the cases the Insolvency Service are bringing against the directors of Sports Direct/USC and City Link, but it demonstrates another risk for SME directors if they employ staff and their business is failing.

The prosecutions are being brought under s194 of the Trade Union & Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, which essentially outlines the requirement for a business to consult with its employees ahead of any redundancies (the provisions are summarised below) and in the event of not complying with this requirement, then the directors can be convicted of a criminal offence and fined up to a maximum of £5,000. My belief is that the Insolvency Service will then utilise a successful conviction under this legislation to form the basis of further disqualification proceedings, as the criminal offence will be prima facie evidence of misfeasance by the directors.

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New proposals from the Ministry of Justice could see further increases in court fees, with the maximum charges climbing to £20,000 or more for claims over £200,000. Opposition to these measures has been predictably fierce on the grounds of access to justice, which is purportedly a public service, becoming unattainable.

Arguments have also been put forward that these reforms could result in lost revenue for law firms, particularly in the City, due to fees in financial centres, such as New York, being more competitively priced. Further concerns have been expressed over the impact of these changes on small businesses and individuals, who would not have access to the funds required to pursue their debts through the courts and consequently could be pushed into insolvency. A worrying scenario. Could mediation, or “ADR” be a viable alternative for those who cannot afford to pursue debts through the courts?

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Directors of insolvent companies are naturally concerned about the potential for disqualification and often ask about the criteria and what the impact will be. The answer is never straightforward and as shown below there are no hard and fast rules as to the grounds on which an Order will be sought or made.

Recent changes have introduced the concept of compensation, in addition to a period of disqualification, which is a step closer to knitting together the asset recovery and public interest roles that have previously been quite separate. It is not clear what impact, if any, this will have on the number of prosecutions, but it might result in an increase in the number of undertakings where there is a tangible financial consequence and will be something directors need to seriously consider.

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We have all been told how the UK economy is growing and doing better than other economies including Germany.

The collapse of Commodity Prices has had a direct effect on SMEs with a slowing down of national economies and these conditions are expected to worsen not improve.

Some Western economies are contracting which in English is recession. Look how panicked everyone is at China’s growth model. It is time to take strategic action to soften the effects of a sharp dip and recession proof your business.

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…a little classic rock reference there for all our listeners at Radio PCR!

It’s that time of year and the “Stattos” of the Insolvency Service have just published their latest data on company and individual insolvency for the period April to June 2015. Of course, with stats, the devil is in the detail but it will come as no surprise that there continues to be a decline in the number of corporate and individual insolvencies. Company insolvencies have been on a decreasing trend since 2013 and were at the lowest level since Q4 2007 which was just before the start of the 2008 recession.

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