走进澳洲 | 董事职责与非法凤凰活动
Directors Duties and Phoenix Activity本文为澳大利亚公司法系列文章。我们在过去的文章中详细探讨了董事的职责和义务以及自愿接管制度的流程。阅读本文需熟悉前述文章中讨论过的问题。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.在过去的几年中，与“非法凤凰活动”相关的董事职责得到了相当多的关注。2019年财政法修正案（打击非法凤凰活动）于2020年2月5日由联邦议会通过，赋予了澳大利亚证券投资委员会（“公司监管部门”）更大的权力以起诉这些非法活动。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非法凤凰活动是指，一个新公司的成立是为了继续另一个故意进行清算以规避未偿债务的现存公司的业务。公司董事通过自愿接管制度，以避免兑现履行雇员应享有的权利资格和纳税义务等未偿还的债务。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.由澳大利亚证券投资委员会（ASIC）总结的常见做法如下：The common modus operandi is summarised by the Australian Securities Investments Commission (“ASIC”) as follows:“这种违法行为通常发生在当公司董事以虚假价格或非市价将现有公司的资产转让给新成立的公司，却将公司债务保留在前公司时。一旦资产被转让，前公司便进入清算程序。当清算人受任时，由于前公司并无资产可出售，因此债权人无法得到偿付。一旦资产转移至新公司，董事们便（以新公司）继续经营（前）公司的业务。因为新公司承担的债务较少，运营成本也较低，导致新公司在市场竞争时有非公允的优势。”“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.”
The key characteristics identified by ASIC are:
非法凤凰活动的实质是董事与债权人交易时的不诚信行为，以及以非公允价格将资产转移至新公司。例如，“A公司”的董事以非公允价格将资产转移至新的“B公司”，而债务仍然保留在A公司。A公司而后进入自愿接管制度，并且由于A 公司没有可出售的资产，因此其债权人不能得到偿付。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.
1. 不利于债权人的处置：本次改革将董事、前破产事务顾问以及协助人员涉及和触犯民事处罚和刑事犯罪的行为纳入到了新型凤凰活动违法行为的范围内。董事的职责也已扩大，包含了防止进行不利于债权人的处置行为。2. 董事问责：目前，董事将被禁止以不当方式回溯辞职日期，或在会导致公司董事空缺的情况下辞去董事职务。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.
Creditor-Defeating Dispositions不利于债权人的处置是指以低于市场价值或最佳合理可得价格转让或出售公司财产，从而达到防止、阻碍或明显延迟以该财产满足公司债权人在清算时的要求。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和法院被赋予宣告此类交易行为无效的权力，并恢复各当事方在发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.至关重要的是，改革还将此类责任和义务直接归由公司董事承担，并将“公司高管或协助人员导致公司做出不利于债权人的处置”的行为定义为犯罪。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.”这项改革还确保了董事为其不当行为承担责任，以防止董事以不当方式回溯辞职日期，或在会导致公司董事空缺的情况下辞去董事职务。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.Breaches of Director DutiesA director owes a fiduciary duty to the whole company under general law principals.应当对2001年《公司法》（以下简称“《公司法》”）规定的以下内容进行考量：第181条第（1）款——善意或正当目的——董事必须以善意及为公司的最大利益行事。第182条第（1）款——滥用职权——董事不得擅自使用职权为自己或他人谋取利益，或对公司造成损害。第183条第（1）款——信息的滥用——公司的董事不得不当使用信息，为自己或他人谋取利益，或对公司造成损害。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.违反这些规定造成公司损失的，可能面临巨额罚款和最高监禁5年的处罚。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.该法案还规定，若从事此类欺诈活动的董事在7年内涉及了两家或两家以上公司的破产或资不抵债，可能将被禁止在5至10年内进行公司管理业务。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，进行非法凤凰活动需要各专业人士之间协作，通常包括前破产事务顾问、估价师、清算人和挂名董事。法律对此作出规定，如果能证明相关人员进行了帮助、教唆、劝诱或唆使董事从事非法凤凰活动的行为，则每一位涉及非法凤凰活动的人员都应承担同等责任，并可能面临同样的处罚。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.这并非意味着董事不能合法地将A公司的资产转移至关联的B公司。判断的关键在于董事的非善意行为以及其逃避税务和其他负债的意图。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.
Whether you are seeking to establish a local Australian subsidiary or acquiring an interest in an Australian company or asset, Wincon – JYC Law Group’s Australia Legal Team provides an integrated end to end solution to Chinese investors.
Our experience comes from a history of working with Chinese and Australian multinationals engaged in bilateral trade and cross border investments.