Gran Bretaña: algunos cambios concursales

La reforma de la legislación concursal ofrece una interesante experiencia a partir del documento sometido a consulta pública por el Gobierno británico el pasado mes de julio  (consulta abierta hasta el próximo 10 de octubre), titulado Red Tape Challenge – changes to insolvency law to reduce unnecessary regulation and simplify procedures. Los antecedentes de esta consulta se encuentran en un programa de reformas impulsado por el actual Gobierno británico, que también abarca el Derecho de sociedades, como espero tener ocasión de dejar constancia en una próxima entrada. 

En general, el documento parte de un alto grado de satisfacción por parte de los protagonistas del procedimiento de insolvencia. Sin embargo, existen una serie de cuestiones que deben ser objeto de mejora y reducir los costes del procedimiento concursal. Un ahorro que favorecerá a los acreedores, pues recibirán una mayor retribución en el marco de la insolvencia. En otros aspectos, el documento llama la atención por su mal funcionamiento. Es lo que sucede con las llamadas administraciones prepack —venta de un activo que se conviene antes de entrar en administración concursal y que se ejecuta una vez iniciada ésta— a las que hice referencia en una entradaanterior:

“10. The Insolvency Service has also launched a review into the use of prepack administrations, after concerns were raised about their transparency and has recently published a report on the review of insolvency practitioners’ fees by the independent reviewer, Emeritus Professor Elaine Kempson of Bristol University. The report found that where experienced, and usually secured, creditors are in control of proceedings, IP fees are successfully monitored. Where the creditors controlling the fees are unsecured and disparate, controls over fees are not working. The review outlines recommendations for steps to improve trust in the professionals who deal with businesses when they become insolvent, including providing greater information for unsecured creditors to assess fees and simplifying the oversight process by unsecured creditors. The Government will respond to the report later this year”.

El documento tiene tres partes. La primera se dedica a los cambios —que el propio documento califica como técnicos— de la reglamentación que afecta a los que podríamos traducir como administradores concursales (los insolvency practitioners).

La segunda parte del documento se centra en los cambios a introducir en el procedimiento concursal, al que se reprocha su falta de adaptación a la realidad actual:

52. The UK’s insolvency law framework as we understand it today was established in the second half of the 19th Century. Despite major revisions in 1986 and again in 2002, some of the processes in insolvency procedures are essentially unchanged from these Victorian beginnings. Commerce, communications and credit have all changed greatly over this period – some parts of this insolvency framework, while important and relevant when first formulated, may no longer be relevant for today’s insolvency market.

53. This document proposes a number of changes to how insolvency proceedings operate, in three broad themes; · meetings of creditors; · communication and creditor engagement; and · improving insolvency processes”.

Finalmente, la tercera parte del documento se ocupa de cómo deben informar los administradores concursales sobre el comportamiento de los administradores de las sociedades insolventes. Es la parte con un contenido más interesante y por eso me permito transcribir los párrafos introductorios de las medidas que se proponen a este respecto, en una materia llamada a seguir jugando un destacado papel en la legislación concursal y en su aplicación:

170. These proposals would streamline the way that insolvency practitioners (IPs) report on a director’s conduct in insolvent companies. This should lead to more efficient investigation of miscreant directors and a reduced burden on IPs.

171. The details of the proposals are outlined below and indicative costs and benefits have been included within the Impact Assessment at Annex 8. For each element of the proposal we are seeking views on the policy impact and on likely costs and benefits. A full list of consultation questions is contained at Annex 10.

172. The Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 (CDDA) provides powers to the courts to make disqualification orders on the application of the Secretary of State, or accept disqualification undertakings from company directors (and in some circumstances other persons). Those who become directors of companies should:

Carry out their duties responsibly; and

Exercise adequate skill and care with proper regard to the interests of the company’s creditors and employees.

173. The majority of directors do this effectively, but the CDDA is a powerful tool against those who abuse the privilege of limited liability. The objective of the legislation is to protect business and consumers from directors who are either incompetent or whose conduct, whether falling short of dishonesty or actually dishonest, makes them unfit to act as a director of another company for a period of time. It is easy to form companies in the UK and there is no formal qualification for individuals who wish to become directors. This is an important feature of an environment which encourages enterprise, growth and free and open markets. However, the integrity of the business environment needs protection to ensure that it is not abused; otherwise it may affect the willingness of banks and suppliers to provide unsecured credit and prove a danger to consumers. The disqualification regime provides a check against such abuse.

174. Businesses, investors, employees and consumers must have confidence that companies are acting fairly and that those who don’t will be identified and appropriately sanctioned. Businesses and individuals who behave honestly and responsibly should not be placed at a disadvantage by those who do not play by the rules. Having an effective and trusted system for identifying and dealing with poor business behaviour gives reassurance that we operate an even playing field, and creates an environment in which honest entrepreneurs are willing to invest in activities promoting growth and employment.

175. Disqualification is a civil, not criminal, matter. Around 2% of directors involved in insolvent companies are disqualified each year. Unfit directors are disqualified following and insolvency for between 2 and 15 years: the average period is 5.9 years. Where possible, defendants are offered the opportunity to provide undertakings before court proceedings are instigated.

176. We believe the current regime to be a proportionate response to addressing director misconduct, although we do think that the process by which IPs report misconduct could be streamlined”.

Madrid, 17 de septiembre de 2013