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走進澳洲 | 董事職責與非法鳳凰活動
時間:2020-06-01 作者:澳洲業務團隊

前言




文康君益誠律師聯盟處理過諸多涉及澳大利亞的業務,在此基礎上聯盟成立了澳洲業務團隊,團隊成員包括多位能以英語為熟練工作語言的中國律師以及澳大利亞注冊律師,其中王欲弘律師在中澳法律、投資、貿易、移民等業務領域深耕多年,還運營著以投資業務為主的澳洲基金和澳中投資平臺。團隊國際法律顧問祝福律師擁有澳洲律師牌照近十年,作為在澳大利亞長大的華人,熟悉中澳兩國文化,處理了大量中澳跨境法律事務,經驗豐富。

澳洲業務團隊可為文康君益誠聯盟客戶提供與中國-澳大利亞有關的投資、貿易、移民、跨國婚姻、訴訟等全方位、一站式的商業和法律服務。





董事職責與非法鳳凰活動


Directors Duties and Phoenix Activity


本文為澳大利亞公司法系列文章。我們在過去的文章中詳細探討了董事的職責和義務以及自愿接管制度的流程。閱讀本文需熟悉前述文章中討論過的問題。

This article continues our Australian Corporations law series. We have discussed in some detail director duties and responsibilities and the process of voluntary administration in past articles. The current article requires a familiarity with issues discussed in the mentioned articles.

在過去的幾年中,與“非法鳳凰活動”相關的董事職責得到了相當多的關注。2019年財政法修正案(打擊非法鳳凰活動)于2020年2月5日由聯邦議會通過,賦予了澳大利亞證券投資委員會(“公司監管部門”)更大的權力以起訴這些非法活動。

In the past few years, considerable attention has garnered around director duties with a focus on “phoenix activity”. The Treasury Laws Amendment (Combating Illegal Phoenixing) Bill 2019 was passed by Federal parliament on 5 February 2020 to provide the Australian Securities Investments Commission (“corporate regulator”) with more ability to prosecute such illegal activities.


01

非法鳳凰活動
Illegal Phoenix Activity

非法鳳凰活動是指,一個新公司的成立是為了繼續另一個故意進行清算以規避未償債務的現存公司的業務。公司董事通過自愿接管制度,以避免兌現履行雇員應享有的權利資格和納稅義務等未償還的債務。

Illegal phoenix activity is where a new company is created to continue the business of an existing company that has been deliberately liquidated to avoid outstanding debts. Through the process of voluntary administration, the directors of the company seek to avoid payment of outstanding debts which includes employee entitlements and tax liabilities.

由澳大利亞證券投資委員會(ASIC)總結的常見做法如下:

The common modus operandi is summarised by the Australian Securities Investments Commission (“ASIC”) as follows:

“這種違法行為通常發生在當公司董事以虛假價格或非市價將現有公司的資產轉讓給新成立的公司,卻將公司債務保留在前公司時。一旦資產被轉讓,前公司便進入清算程序。當清算人受任時,由于前公司并無資產可出售,因此債權人無法得到償付。

一旦資產轉移至新公司,董事們便(以新公司)繼續經營(前)公司的業務。因為新公司承擔的債務較少,運營成本也較低,導致新公司在市場競爭時有非公允的優勢?!?/span>

“This illegal practice usually happens when company directors transfer the assets of an existing company to a new company without paying true or market value, leaving debts with the old company. Once the assets have been transferred, the old company is placed in liquidation. When the liquidator is appointed, there are no assets to sell so creditors cannot be paid.

Once the assets are transferred to a new company, the directors continue to operate the business. This gives the new business an unfair advantage when competing for work, because they carry less debt and have lower operating costs.”

證券投資委員會認定(非法鳳凰活動)的重要特征為:


  • 公司破產,且無力償還債務;和/或


  • 故意拒絕無擔保債權人平等獲取可用資產以履行及償還債務;和


  • 在關閉前公司的12個月內,開展另一個可以利用以前部分或全部資產的業務;和


  • 關聯方控制前公司的管理或其董事。

The key characteristics identified by ASIC are:


  • A company fails and is unable to pay its debts; and/or


  • Acts in a manner which intentionally denies unsecured creditors equal access to the available assets in order to meet and pay debts; and


  • Within 12 months of closing, another business commences which may use some or all of the assets of the former business; and


  • Is controlled by related parties to either the management or directors of the previous company.



非法鳳凰活動的實質是董事與債權人交易時的不誠信行為,以及以非公允價格將資產轉移至新公司。

例如,“A公司”的董事以非公允價格將資產轉移至新的“B公司”,而債務仍然保留在A公司。A公司而后進入自愿接管制度,并且由于A 公司沒有可出售的資產,因此其債權人不能得到償付。

The essence of illegal phoenix activity is the Director’s dishonest acts in dealings with creditors and the not at arm’s length transfer of assets to the new company.

An example is where directors of “company A” transfer the assets of A to a new “company B” not at fair value, whilst the debts remains with company A. Company A is then placed in voluntary administration, and as there are no more assets to sell, the creditors cannot be paid.




02

2020年的改革
The 2020 Reforms

主要的改革內容包括:

1. 不利于債權人的處置:本次改革將董事、前破產事務顧問以及協助人員涉及和觸犯民事處罰和刑事犯罪的行為納入到了新型鳳凰活動違法行為的范圍內。董事的職責也已擴大,包含了防止進行不利于債權人的處置行為。

2. 董事問責:目前,董事將被禁止以不當方式回溯辭職日期,或在會導致公司董事空缺的情況下辭去董事職務。

The main reforms include:

1. Creditor-defeating dispositions: These reforms introduce new phoenixing offences, with civil penalties and criminal offences for contraventions by directors, pre-insolvency advisers and other facilitators. Directorsundefined duties have also been expanded to include a duty to prevent creditor-defeating dispositions.

2. Director accountability: Directors will now be prohibited from improperly backdating resignations, or ceasing to be a director, when this could leave a company with no director.


1、不利于債權人的處置
Creditor-Defeating Dispositions

不利于債權人的處置是指以低于市場價值或最佳合理可得價格轉讓或出售公司財產,從而達到防止、阻礙或明顯延遲以該財產滿足公司債權人在清算時的要求。

A creditor-defeating disposition is a transfer or sale of company property for less than its market value, or best reasonably obtainable price, that has the effect of preventing, hindering or significantly delaying the property becoming available to meet the demands of the companyundefineds creditors in winding-up.

因此,ASIC和法院被賦予宣告此類交易行為無效的權力,并恢復各當事方在發生此交易前的原有地位。

Accordingly, ASIC and the Courts have been granted powers to void such a transaction and restore the parties to the position that they would have been in but for the transaction.

至關重要的是,改革還將此類責任和義務直接歸由公司董事承擔,并將“公司高管或協助人員導致公司做出不利于債權人的處置”的行為定義為犯罪。

Crucially, the reform also places the onus and responsibility directly on the company’s directors and does so by making it an offence for “a company officer or a facilitator to cause a company to make a creditor-defeating disposition.”

2、董事問責
Director Accountability

這項改革還確保了董事為其不當行為承擔責任,以防止董事以不當方式回溯辭職日期,或在會導致公司董事空缺的情況下辭去董事職務。

The reform also ensures that directors will be held accountable for any misconduct through the prevention of backdating resignations, and in circumstances where the resignation of a director will leave a company without any directors, barring the director from resigning.
03
違反董事職責
Breaches of Director Duties

一般法律原則規定董事對整個公司負有信義義務。

A director owes a fiduciary duty to the whole company under general law principals.

應當對2001年《公司法》(以下簡稱“《公司法》”)規定的以下內容進行考量:

第181條第(1)款——善意或正當目的——董事必須以善意及為公司的最大利益行事。

第182條第(1)款——濫用職權——董事不得擅自使用職權為自己或他人謀取利益,或對公司造成損害。

第183條第(1)款——信息的濫用——公司的董事不得不當使用信息,為自己或他人謀取利益,或對公司造成損害。

The following sections of the Corporations Act 2001 (the Act) should be considered:

Section 181 (1) – good faith or proper purpose – a director must act in good faith and in the best interests of the company.

Section 182 (1) – Misuse of position – a director must not improperly use their position to gain an advantage for themselves or someone else, or to cause detriment to the company.

Section 183 (1) – Misuse of information – a director of a company must not improperly use information to gain an advantage for themselves or someone else, or cause detriment to the company.

違反這些規定造成公司損失的,可能面臨巨額罰款和最高監禁5年的處罰。

The contravention of these provisions which result in a loss to the company could lead to large fines and imprisonment of up to 5 years.

該法案還規定,若從事此類欺詐活動的董事在7年內涉及了兩家或兩家以上公司的破產或資不抵債,可能將被禁止在5至10年內進行公司管理業務。

The Act also provides that directors who engage in such fraudulent activities may be banned from managing corporations for 5 to 10 years if they have been involved in the failures or insolvencies of two or more corporations within a 7-year period.

此外,進行非法鳳凰活動需要各專業人士之間協作,通常包括前破產事務顧問、估價師、清算人和掛名董事。法律對此作出規定,如果能證明相關人員進行了幫助、教唆、勸誘或唆使董事從事非法鳳凰活動的行為,則每一位涉及非法鳳凰活動的人員都應承擔同等責任,并可能面臨同樣的處罰。

Additionally, illegal phoenix activity requires the cooperation of different professionals, and often include the pre-insolvency adviser, valuer, liquidator and dummy directors. In response, the law holds each of the people involved equally responsible and may be subjected to the same penalties if it is proved they aided, abetted, counselled or procured a director to engage in illegal phoenix activity.

這并非意味著董事不能合法地將A公司的資產轉移至關聯的B公司。判斷的關鍵在于董事的非善意行為以及其逃避稅務和其他負債的意圖。

This is not to say that directors are not able to legitimately transfer assets of Company A to the related Company B. The litmus test is the dishonesty of the directors’ acts and their intention to evade tax and other liabilities.

延伸

閱讀

在澳投資
澳大利亞的重點產業
外國投資審查委員會的作用
投資澳大利亞農業
對澳投資的稅務問題
澳洲家事法院眼中的家庭全權信托
董事欺詐:法律后果與司法救濟
信托:恰當的運用和切實的考慮

澳大利亞法律框架下的合同落空原則及不可抗力條款

自愿接管制度:接管人、債權人以及可能的后果
清算

清算及債權人

澳大利亞外國投資制度-對新政策的解讀

澳大利亞的股東訴訟(上)

澳大利亞的股東訴訟(下)


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