Posts

Implications of IBC Ordinance, 2020- Quick Round up

Resolution Division, 

(resolution@vinodkothari.com)

The President today signed in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 [‘Ordinance’] to implement the already-talked-about abatement of IBC filings for the period of the COVID disruption, and accordingly, amend the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 [‘Code’]. We analyse the Ordinance in quick bullet points –

Read more

Forced Contributions to Infructuous Liquidations: Understanding Regulation 2A

-Megha Mittal

(resolution@vinodkothari.com)

Since its inception, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (“Code”), along with its regulations, has been subject to many reforms, some aimed at establishing new legal principles and some for removing difficulties faced during the insolvency resolution and/ or liquidation process; one such reform was the introduction of Regulation 2A[1] in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Liquidation Process) Regulations, 2016 (“Liquidation Regulations”), which provides for contribution by financial creditors of the corporate debtor to contribute towards liquidation costs, if so called upon by the liquidator.

In this article, we shall briefly understand the backdrop in which the said provision was introduced, throw light upon the extant provisions and then address the elephant in the room- is it obligatory upon the financial creditors to make such contribution when sought by the liquidator?

Read more

MCA need not be mandatorily impleaded in applications: NCLAT sets-aside directions issued by of Principal Bench

Megha Mittal

(resolution@vinodkothari.com)

The Hon’ble National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (‘NCLAT’), vide its order dated 22nd May, 2020[1] set aside the directions issued by the Hon’ble Principal Bench for impleadment of Ministry of Corporate Affairs (‘MCA’) as a respondent-party to all applications filed under the Companies Act, 2013 and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

This comes in light of the order dated 22nd November, 2019 of the Hon’ble National Company Law Tribunal, Principal Bench of New Delhi (‘NCLT’/ ‘Principal Bench’), in the matter of Oriental Bank of Commerce v. Sikka Papers Ltd. & Ors[2], wherein the Hon’ble NCLT directed that “…In all cases of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, and Company Petition, the Union of India, Ministry of Corporate Affairs through the Secretary be impleaded as a party respondent so that authentic record is made available by the officers of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs for proper appreciation of the matters..”(‘Impugned Directions’). The said requirement was directed to be made applicable in all benches of NCLT, pan-India.

Read more

Ease of Exit of Businesses in India

‘Doing business’ is not only about seamless starts or how less cumbersome the journey can be – it is also about the certainty of freedom to exit, as and when needed. As such, a sound framework for exit is quintessential for businesses – viable or non-viable. A company might opt to liquidate itself voluntarily, or go for a scheme of merger or amalgamation or even striking off. At the same time, it must be noted that exit may not be always voluntary – sometimes, it may be forced upon the business, for example, in case of insolvent companies, creditors may prefer to liquidate the entity rather than drag it as a going concern. Some of the important considerations in making a choice are – solvency of the company, position of assets and liabilities, extent of judicial involvement, extent of flexibility in the conduct of the process, professional involvement, time involved, and costs. With the judicial authorities being clogged with cases, we may need to reinvent the infrastructural framework and take steps to make the exit process easier. The article discusses the aspects as above.

  1. This Article has been published in the April, 2020 issue of Chartered Secretary, issued by the Institute of Companies Secretaries of India, available at- https://www.icsi.edu/media/webmodules/linksofweeks/ICSI-April_2020.pdf

COVID- 19 AND DEBENTURE RESTRUCTURING

-Munmi Phukon, Pammy Jaiswal and Richa Saraf (corplaw@vinodkothari.com)

ICRA has published a report on 23.04.2020[1], listing out some 328 entities[2] who have availed or sought a payment relief from the lending institutions or investors. The list also includes names of such entities that have received an in-principle approval from investors in their market instruments (like non-convertible debentures)- prior to the original due date- for shifting the original due date ahead, but where a formal approval from the investors was received either after the original due date or is still pending to be received.

Earlier, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had, vide circular no. SEBI/ HO/ MIRSD/ CRADT/ CIR/ P/ 2020/53 dated 30.03.2020[3], addressed to the credit rating agencies (CRAs), granted certain relaxation from compliance with certain provisions of the circulars issued under SEBI (Credit Rating Agencies) Regulations, 1999 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The circular stipulated that appropriate disclosures in this regard shall be made in the press release, seemingly, the report published by ICRA is a part of the disclosure requirement specified by SEBI.

In view of the COVID crisis, companies in large numbers are approaching investors or will be approaching investors for restructuring of the debentures, therefore, it becomes pertinent to discuss- how the restructuring is carried on? whether a meeting of debenture holders will be required to be convened? what will be the consequences if the restructuring is not done? and other related questions. Below we discuss the same.

Force Majeure– An Excuse to Default?

In financial terms, “default” means failure to pay debts, whether principal or interest. Under ISDA Master Agreement[4], failure by the party to make, when due, any payment is listed as an event of default and one of the termination events. However, the ISDA Master Agreement provides that in case of a force majeure event, payments can be deferred. Most of the standard agreements, contain specific clauses pertaining to force majeure, where the party required to perform any contractual obligation is required to intimate the other party as soon as it becomes aware of happening of any force majeure event. While in some cases, due to impossibility of performance, the agreement itself is frustrated; in some other cases, the obligations are merely deferred till the event persists.

Our article “COVID- 19 and The Shut Down: The Impact of Force Majeure” can be accessed from the link: http://vinodkothari.com/2020/03/covid-19-and-the-shut-down-the-impact-of-force-majeure/

Consequences of default- Rights available to debenture holders:

A debenture holder has several options available in case of default: (a) insolvency proceedings; (b) enforcement of security interest; (c) proceedings for recovery of debt due. Below we discuss the same:

– Right to call for meeting of debenture holders: Rule 18 (4) of the Companies (Share Capital and Debentures) Rules, 2014 stipulates that the meeting of all the debenture holders shall be convened by the debenture trustee on:

  • requisition in writing signed by debenture holders holding at least 1/10th in value of the debentures for the time being outstanding; or
  • the happening of any event, which constitutes a breach, default or which in the opinion of the debenture trustees affects the interest of the debenture holders.

– Right to make an application before NCLT: Section 71(10) of the Companies Act, 2013 provides that on failure of the company to redeem the debentures on the date of their maturity or failure to pay interest on the debentures when it is due, an application may be filed by any or all of the debenture holders or debenture trustee, seeking redemption of the debentures forthwith on payment of principal and interest due thereon.

Application under IBC: Section 5(7) of IBC defines a “financial creditor” to mean any person to whom a financial debt is owed and includes a person to whom such debt has been legally assigned or transferred to, and Section 5(8) of IBC defines “financial debt” as a debt along with interest, if any, which is disbursed against the consideration for the time value of money and includes any amount raised pursuant to any note purchase facility or the issue of bonds, notes, debentures, loan stock or any similar instrument. Thus, debenture holders are treated as financial creditors for the purpose of IBC and may exercise all the rights as available to a financial creditor.

As per Section 6 of IBC-“Where any corporate debtor commits a default, a financial creditor, an operational creditor or the corporate debtor itself may initiate corporate insolvency resolution process in respect of such corporate debtor in the manner as provided under this Chapter”.  Accordingly, the debenture holders (whether secured or not) may apply for initiation of corporate insolvency resolution process against the company under Section 7 of IBC. In fact the Central Government has, vide notification no. S.O. 1091(E) dated 27th February, 2019, notified that such right may also be exercised by the debenture holder, through a debenture trustee.

Right to enforce security interest: The right of foreclosure is a counter-part of right of redemption. Just like a company has a right of redeeming the security after payment of debt amount, a secured debenture holder has a right of foreclosure or sale in case of default in redemption. In the case of Baroda Rayon Corporation Limited vs. ICICI Limited[5] and in Canara Bank vs. Apple Finance Limited[6], Bombay High Court upheld the right of the debenture trustee to sell off the properties of the company for the benefit of the debenture holders.

Here, it is pertinent to understand how the debenture holders shall exercise the right of foreclosure. The law distinguishes between security interests based on the nature of the collateral. For instance, in case of security interests on immovable properties, Chapter IV of Transfer of Property Act, 1882 applies.  Further, the security interest, in case of secured debentures, can be enforced in the following manner: (a) In case the debenture holder is a bank/ financial institution, as per the provisions of Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest Act, 2002; and (b) In case the debenture holder is not a bank/ financial institution, as per the common law procedures.

– Other remedies: Any default in the terms of the debentures is a breach of contract, and the debenture holder may sue the company for breach of contract as per the provisions of Contract Act, 1872, and further seek for compensation as per the terms of the debenture, or in absence of specific term in the agreement, compensation may be claimed as per the provisions of Section 73 of the Contract Act, 1872.

Issues cropping up due to COVID- 19 and the resolution thereof:

In view of the COVID pandemic one of the issue that was arising was that the issuers of debt instruments who were not able to fulfil the obligations as per the terms of the debentures or redeem the same on the maturity date were running to courts for seeking interlocutory reliefs, seeking to restrain the debenture holders from exercising any rights against the defaulting issuer. In the case of Indiabulls Housing Finance Ltd. vs. SEBI[7], the petitioner prayed for an ad interim direction to restrain any coercive action against it, with respect to the repayment to be made by it to its non-convertible debenture holders. In the said case, granting the prayer, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court directed maintenance of status quo with respect to the repayments to be made by the petitioner to the NCD holders.

Further, there was a lack of clarity on how rating and valuation of a security would be revised in view of the default or the restructuring? Therefore, SEBI has issued the following circulars:

  • SEBI, vide a circular no. SEBI/ HO/ MIRSD/ CRADT/ CIR/ P/ 2020/53 dated March 30, 2020[8], granted certain relaxation from compliance with certain provisions of the circulars issued under SEBI (Credit Rating Agencies) Regulations, 1999 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With respect to recognition of default, the circular stipulates that CRAs recognize default  based  on  the guidance issued  vide  SEBI circular dated May 3, 2010[9] and November 1, 2016[10], however, based on its assessment, if the CRA is of the view that the delay  in  payment  of  interest/principle  has  arisen  solely  due  to  the  lockdown  conditions   creating   temporary   operational   challenges   in   servicing   debt, including due to procedural delays in approval of moratorium on loans by the  lending institutions, CRAs may not consider the same as a default event and/or  recognize default.

  • Further, SEBI has, vide its circular no. SEBI/HO/IMD/DF3/CIR/P/2020/70 dated 23.04.2020[11], reviewed certain provisions of  the  circular  dated  09.2019[12] issued under  SEBI  (Mutual  Funds)  Regulations,  1996. In the circular, SEBI has stipulated that based  on  assessment,  if  the valuation  agencies appointed  by Association of Mutual Funds in India are of the view that the delay in payment of interest/principal or extension of  maturity of  a  security  by  the  issuer has  arisen  solely  due  to  COVID-19 pandemic  lockdown  creating   temporary   operational   challenges   in   servicing   debt, then valuation  agencies may  not  consider  the  same as  a  default for the  purpose of valuation of money market or debt securities held by mutual funds.

Restructuring Process and the Formalities associated thereto:

In the context of COVID, the restructuring of debentures shall mean nothing but deferral of the date of redemption. The terms of the debentures, including the maturity date, etc is specified in the terms of issuance. The terms of issuance also provides how the variation in terms can be effectuated. Therefore, it is pertinent that to make any changes in terms of debentures, the relevant clauses in the issuance terms are considered.

In terms of Reg. 59 (2) of the SEBI LODR Regulations, 2015, any material modification to the structure of debentures in terms of coupon redemption etc. are required to approved by the Board of Directors and the debenture trustee (DT). Further, in terms of Reg. 59(1), prior approval of the stock exchange(s) shall also be required for such material modification which shall be given by the stock exchange(s) only after obtaining the approval of the Board and the DT.

In addition to the approval as aforesaid, in terms of Regulation 15(2)(b) of SEBI DT Regulations, DT is required to call a meeting of the debenture holders on happening of any event which in the opinion of the DT affects the interest of the holders. Similar provision is there in the Companies (Share Capital and Debenture) Rules, 2014 also [sub- rule (4) of Rule 18].

Unlike the requirements of obtaining shareholders’ consent by way of special/ ordinary resolution for various matters including variation of rights thereof, there is no explicit provision  for obtaining of a consent of the debenture holders for restructuring of the debentures under the Companies Act, 2013 (‘CA 13’). However, the provisions of SS 2 being, mutatis mutandis, applicable to a meeting of debenture holders also, all the provisions w.r.t convening/ conducting of general meeting such as, sending of notice, explanatory statement etc. as applicable to general meetings shall apply to the meeting of debenture holders.

However, looking at the current crisis situation, where calling of a physical meeting is not possible, and issuers will be required to hold the meeting of the debenture holders, in case consent by e-mail is not possible due to the large number of debenture holders, through video conferencing mode. The modalities for participation (like voting, two-way communication, recording, etc.) and other compliances related of sending of notices etc. may be in the manner clarified by the MCA Circular dated 13.04.2020[13].

In a nutshell, the procedural requirements to be followed for restructuring of debentures shall be as provided hereunder.

S. No

 

Relevant Provisions Actionable/ Compliance Remarks
1. Regulation 50 (3) of LODR Regulations Prior intimation to the stock exchange (SE) for the meeting board of directors, at which the restructuring is proposed to be considered.

 

2 working days in before the board meeting.

 

(excl. date of intimation and date of meeting)

2. Sec. 173 of CA 13 BM to be convened by the Company for proposed restructuring including the revised terms subject to approval of the stock exchanges and the debenture holders.

 

Through VC considering the COVID 19 Guidelines issued by the Govt. Our FAQs in this regard may be found at : https://www.google.com/url?q=http://vinodkothari.com/2020/03/board-meetings-during-shutdown/&sa=D&source=hangouts&ust=1587820272757000&usg=AFQjCNEictCwK_-LNnlH7oiB1GMmdRzO6w

 

3. Regulation 59(2)(a) of LODR Regulations

 

Obtain approval of the DT Before applying to SEs.
4. Regulation 59 of the Listing Regulations Seek prior approval from the stock exchange

 

After taking the consent of the board of directors and DT.

 

5. Regulation 15(2) of DT Regulations, 1993 Separate meeting of debenture holders to be called for deferment in repayment due to liquidity crunch in the hour of crisis.

 

The meeting may be called by the company itself or through the DT.

Since the scope of SS 2 issued by ICSI includes meetings of debenture holders also, the company will have to observe the requirements of SS 2 in convening the meeting of debenture holders. However, considering the current crisis situation, such meeting may be convened through VC facility as clarified by MCA Circular dated 13th April, 2020. Our FAQs in this regard may be found at http://vinodkothari.com/2020/04/general-meetings-by-video-conferencing-recognising-the-inevitable/

 

6. Regulation 51 (2) of the Listing Regulations Intimation to the stock exchanges being an action that shall affect payment of interest or redemption of NCDs

 

 

ASAP but not later than 24 hours of Board decision.

 Documentation Requirements:

In usual circumstances, if any variation is carried out in the debenture terms, the parties enter into an addendum, amending the clauses contained in the debenture subscription agreement (and also, in the trust deed/ security documents, if required), however, given the current scenario and the lock down, it is not possible for parties to sign and execute the agreements. Since the restructuring already has the approval of the majority debenture holders, it is deemed that the resolution “overrides the terms of issuance”. Thus, in our view, the resolution passed by the debenture holders approving the restructuring should suffice, and modification in the agreements may not be required.


[1] https://www.icra.in/Rationale/ShowRationaleReport/?Id=94320

[2] The rating agency has stated that the list is not a comprehensive one, as information about some rated entities are not readily available as of now, and separate disclosures will be made w.r.t. such entities.

[3]https://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/circulars/mar-2020/relaxation-from-compliance-with-certain-provisions-of-the-circulars-issued-under-sebi-credit-rating-agencies-regulations-1999-due-to-the-covid-19-pandemic-and-moratorium-permitted-by-rbi-_46449.html

[4] https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1065696/000119312511118050/dex101.html

[5] 2002 (2) BomCR 608, (2002) 2 BOMLR 915, 2003 113 CompCas 466 Bom, 2002 (2) MhLj 322

[6] AIR 2008 Bom 16, (2007) 77 SCL 92 Bom

[7]https://images.assettype.com/barandbench/2020-04/6ec54849-0188-4fe3-a841-88c2861124d5/Indiabulls_vs_SEBI.pdf

[8]https://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/circulars/mar-2020/relaxation-from-compliance-with-certain-provisions-of-the-circulars-issued-under-sebi-credit-rating-agencies-regulations-1999-due-to-the-covid-19-pandemic-and-moratorium-permitted-by-rbi-_46449.html

[9] https://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/circulars/may-2010/guidelines-for-credit-rating-agencies_1467.html

[10]https://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/circulars/nov-2016/enhanced-standards-for-credit-rating-agencies-cras-_33585.html

[11]https://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/circulars/apr-2020/review-of-provisions-of-the-circular-dated-september-24-2019-issued-under-sebi-mutual-funds-regulations-1996-due-to-the-covid-19-pandemic-and-moratorium-permitted-by-rbi_46549.html

[12] https://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/circulars/sep-2019/valuation-of-money-market-and-debt-securities_44383.html

[13] http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/Circular17_13042020.pdf

 

Please click below for youtube presentation on the above topic:

 

Our other content related to COVID-19 disruption may be referred here: http://vinodkothari.com/covid-19-incorporated-responses/

Our other articles relating to restructuring on account of COVID-19 disruption may also be viewed here:

COVID and Insolvency Reforms – Trends and Expectations

An entity/individual is amenable to committing a default during the disaster period. Therefore, in such difficult times, it becomes important to save businesses, which can later save the economy. The Indian Government and the judiciary have undertaken several intermittent measures with respect to insolvency regime.

As the authorities try to provide all possible relief amidst the ongoing crisis, what we need is probably a holistic mitigation framework to deal with all possible problem areas – as we can see for other countries as well. Countries across the globe have promulgated relaxations under their respective insolvency laws, both personal and corporate. In general, the insolvency and winding up proceedings have the same trigger event, which is default. A cursory reading of the amendments/propositions with respect to insolvency laws across countries would indicate a certain level of commonness in the measures, e.g.  there is a moratorium on presumption/determination of default, increase in the minimum limit of default, etc.

An important thing to note is that the relaxations do not extend to entities which had been in default before the event of disaster – that is, a disaster cannot be an excuse to cover a default which did not happen because of the disaster. Therefore, a pre-existing default is not saved from the COVID mitigation laws. Country-wise study of reforms with respect to insolvency laws are in the detailed article below.

In view of the worldwide reforms and the imminent necessity, we are of the view that certain basic amendments in law can help, for instance, the definition of ‘default’ under s. 3(12) may be amended as to exclude default occurring during the disaster period. Alternatively, a proviso can be inserted under s. 4(1) and s. 78 to provide that a default occurring during such period as the Central Government may, by notification, specify, being period associated with a national disaster, shall not be treated as a default for the purpose of the said sections. “Disaster” shall have the meaning as ascribed thereto in section 2 (d) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Incidental amendments may also be necessary in the SARFAESI Act. The definition of default under s. 2(1)(j) of the said Act can be defined so as to provide that a default occurring during such period as the Central Government may, by notification, specify, being period associated with a national disaster, shall not be treated as a default for the purposes the above clause.

The aspects as above have been discussed in detail in the article below.

IBC threshold raised in Coronatic Disruption: Analysis and Implications

Megha Mittal & Shreya Jain

(resolution@vinodkothari.com)

Frivolous initiation of insolvency process, merely for recovery of dues has been a persistent concern- catalyst being the seemingly low threshold of Rs.1,00,000/-.While murmurs about  raising the threshold limit for initiating insolvency process have long been in the picture, the notification comes in the wake of recent outbreak of the novel COVID – 19 – the minimum default requirement now stands increased hundred times; from Rs. 1,00,000/- to Rs. 1,00,00,000.

Applicable from 24.03.2020, the Government, in exercise of its powers under section 4 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (“Code”)[1] has specified Rs. 1,00,00,000 (Rupees One Crore) as the minimum amount of default for the purposes of triggering insolvency. Note that Rs. 1 Crore is the maximum threshold which the Central Government can prescribe under section 4.

The step has been widely touted as a relief for MSMEs in this time of crisis, however, this might have multiple implications. The authors have made a humble attempt to analyse its implications from a broader perspective, and if at such increase would be welcomed in absence of the ongoing crisis.

Read more

Companies under IBC-quarantine, get GST-rebirth

-Vinod Kothari 

[vinod@vinodkothari.com]

Resolution is not a re-birth of an entity – it is simply like nursing a sick entity back to health. It is almost akin to putting the company under a quarantine – immune from onslaught of creditor actions, while the debtor and/or the creditors prepare a revival plan. The objective is that the entity revives – in which case, it is out of the isolation, and is back as a healthy entity once again.

This process is not unknown in insolvency laws world-over. However, in India, revival under insolvency framework has taken a completely unique trajectory. First was section 29A, cutting the company from its promoter-lineage for all time to come. The next was section 32A – redeeming the company from the past burden of civil as well as criminal wrongs, thereby giving it a new avatar, with a new management.

Now, the initiation of a CIRP proceeding will be akin to a new birth to the company, at least for GST purposes. Therefore, irrespective of whether the revival process succeeds or not, at least for GST purposes, the entity becomes clean-slate entity. This is the result of the new GST rule announced on 21st March, 2020. However, the new rules do not seem to have envisaged several eventualities, and we opine the intent of giving an immunity from past liabilities might have better been carried out by appropriate administrative instructions, rather than the new registration process.

Read more

Limits of the Limitation Law and IBC

-Megha Mittal

(resolution@vinodkothari.com)

The law of limitation revolves around the basic concept of fixing or prescribing the time period for barring legal actions beyond that period. A concept widely acknowledged, in India, the law of limitation is governed by the Limitation Act, 1963[1]. As stated in its preamble, the Limitation Act, 1963 (“Act”) is an act to consolidate the laws for the limitation of suits and other proceedings and for purposes connected therewith.

As observed in the 89th Report of the Law Commission of India[2], the laws of limitation are ultimately based on justice and convenience. An individual should not live under the threat of possible action for an indefinite period, and at the same time, should be saved from the task of defending a stale cause of action, as it would be unjust. The Report states, “all that has been said on the subject can be summarised by stating that the laws of limitation rest upon three main foundations – justice, convenience and the need to encourage diligence.” 

The very crux of having a limitation law in force is that a person cannot sleep over his rights[3] for an indefinite period and seek such remedy at a later stage. That being the tenet on which the law is based, there are several basic principles which the law states. These principles substantively affect the rights of parties. Recently, there has been a lot of commotion around the manner and the circumstances, in which the limitation law can be invoked in the context of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (‘Code’), though it is established now that the limitation law is applicable to the proceedings under the Code by virtue of section 238A.

In this article, we have made a humble attempt to analyse the various principles of the Limitation Act and its impact on the Code.

Read more

Ablution by Resolution

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to wash out liability of corporate debtors resolved under IBC

-Sikha Bansal (resolution@vinodkothari.com)

 

Resolution under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (‘Code’) is a harbinger of fresh start of the corporate debtor, which passes into the control of a new management by the very application of section 29A. The fresh start would have no meaning if the corporate debtor or the new management thereof have to bear the brunt of offences which the corporate debtor or its officers committed prior to ablution under the Code – that is, one cannot be made to reap what they did not sow. As such, it was important to provide immunity to the corporate debtor and its assets, the successful resolution applicant and the new management personnel.

Read more