CLAYTON UTZ partner David Cowling is putting his weight behind a new international education program to re-skill Australian insolvency lawyers.
Cowling and his colleagues at INSOL International, the international professional body representing insolvency practitioners, believe recent developments relating to international insolvency rules and provisions threaten to expose a skills gap among Australian insolvency practitioners.
Cowling's comments come as the new Federal Government last week introduced a Cross-Border Insolvency Bill into Parliament.
“The imminent arrival of the UNCITRAL insolvency regime in Australia will have significant knock-on effects for the skills requirements of Australian insolvency practitioners,” Cowling said.
Cowling added that the flow on affects of legislative change would not be restricted to a few multinational companies, with globalisation having produced complex networks of creditors and debtors.
"The collapse of a company in one country can produce knock-on effects in other countries. This means that a liquidator may be dealing with creditors and debts that are located all around the world. There is also a growing multinational trade in the debts of distressed companies,” he said.
In preparation for the introduction of the UNICITRAL insolvency regime in Australia INSOL has developed a postgraduate global insolvency practice course, in conjunction with the Leiden University (The Netherlands).
The course committee members are primarily academics, but Cowling is a member of the practitioner advisory committee, which includes practitioners from London firm Lovells and accounting giant KPMG.
The course aims to equip lawyers with the skills to cope with the rapid pace of change and an upswing in global insolvency activity.
The enactment of UNCITRAL will affect Australian insolvency practitioners in two ways, according to Cowling. The most immediate effect will be an increase in the activity of overseas insolvency practitioners in Australia. This will be most difficult where there are conflicts of interests between international insolvency law and Australian creditor’s interests.
“While no doubt wanting to further the aims of UNCITRAL, Australian practitioners will have to be vigilant to ensure that the interests of Australian creditors are protected in situations where primacy is being asserted by an overseas insolvency administrator,” Cowling said.
At the same time, Australian creditor's legal interests will now be bindingly affected by decisions taken in other jurisdictions.