Australia: TGIF 2 August 2019: Putting to rest questions on the realisation of trust assets

Last Updated: 6 August 2019
Article by Cameron Cheetham, Craig Ensor and Felicity Healy

This week's TGIF considers the decision in Cremin, in the matter of Brimson Pty Ltd (In Liquidation) [2019] FCA 1023, which confirms that liquidators should approach the Court before taking steps to realise trust assets.

Background

Three 'Snooze' franchisees were placed into liquidation and a liquidator appointed in May 2019. The liquidator's investigations soon revealed that each of the three companies operated a franchise business exclusively in its capacity as trustee of a trading trust.

The companies did not undertake any activities or conduct any business in their own right and at all times held and continued to hold all property on trust. Therefore, the stock and plant and equipment assets were held by each of the companies as trustee of the relevant trading trust.

The trust deeds for two of the trading trusts contained clauses that operated to remove the corporate trustee upon that company being placed into liquidation. The third trust deed did not contain an automatic removal clause, but did provide that on liquidation of the trustee the principal (also the sole director of each of the three companies) was permitted to remove or replace the trustee. The liquidator was not aware of any of the three corporate trustees having been replaced.

Each of the trust deeds conferred a right on the trustee to be indemnified out of the assets of the trust for liabilities incurred by the company as trustee. While the trustee under each trust deed had certain powers, none permitted the trustee to sell trust property except for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

The application

On the day following his appointment, the liquidator received an offer from the franchisor to purchase the three businesses. The sale to the franchisor would enhance the return to creditors.

To deal with the assets of the trading trusts, the liquidator made an application to the Federal Court pursuant to s 90-15 and 90-20 of the Insolvency Practice Schedule and the Trustee Act 1958 (Vic), amongst other provisions, for orders that he:

  • have the power to wind up each trust (including carrying on the business of the trusts, selling the assets and paying trust creditors from the proceeds) and that he is justified under s 477 of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) in winding up the trusts and paying creditors from the trusts' assets; and
  • alternatively, be appointed receiver and manager to the assets and undertaking of the trusts (with a power of sale for realising those assets).

Critical considerations

There has been some uncertainty as to how practitioners are to deal with trust assets, specifically, whether the power to sell the property of a company extends to the sale of trust property. The Court has helpfully stepped through some of the critical considerations for practitioners appointed to corporate trustee entities.

First, a company that is a trustee of a trading trust has a right of indemnity to resort to the trust assets under its right of exoneration from a liability incurred in carrying on the business of the trust. This right and the equitable lien that arises endures in a liquidation, even if the company is removed as here. The company will continue to hold the assets as bare trustee.

Secondly, a liquidator appointed to a former corporate trustee cannot sell the property of the trust without order of the Court, or by appointment of a receiver over the trust assets. This requires consideration as to whether the sale is in respect of the whole trust asset rather than merely that subject to the trustee's lien or charge.

Thirdly, the courts are generally willing to make orders permitting the sale of trust assets by a liquidator by granting a power of sale. The more common course, however, is for the liquidator to apply to the court to be appointed as a receiver.

Fourthly, as was confirmed in the recent decision of Carter Holt Harvey Woodproducts Australia Pty Ltd v Commonwealth [2019] HCA 20, the proceeds from the exercise of a corporate trustee's right of exoneration may only be applied in satisfaction of the trust liabilities or trust creditors.

The Court's preference here was to appoint the liquidator as receiver and manager to the assets of each of the trusts to enable the sale to the franchisor.

Comments

The realisation of trust assets and the purpose to which those proceeds can be put has been fraught with uncertainty for some time. As a result, practitioners have been turning to the courts for guidance, despite the costs associated with doing so and the inconsistent outcomes arrived at.

This case confirms that practitioners must approach the court either for the grant of a power of sale or to be appointed as receiver and manager over the trust assets.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Chambers Asia Pacific Awards 2016 Winner – Australia
Client Service Award
Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (WGEA)

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Practice Guides
by Mondaq Advice Centres
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions