A highly successful one-day conference on current issues in insolvency law was held in the Cube on 16 January 2015, organised by Professors Louise Gullifer and Jennifer Payne and Dr Kristin Van Zwieten, under the joint auspices of the Law Faculty and the Commercial Law Centre at Harris Manchester College, and generously funded by Travers Smith. It is the latest in a series of biennial conferences on insolvency: past conferences have been held in January 2011 and January 2013. Participants in the event included barristers and solicitors as well as academics and research students, and the discussion took place under the Chatham House Rule.
The conference began with a paper by Dr Van Zwieten on directors’ duties in the vicinity of insolvency. The paper re-examined the ratio of West Mercia Safetywear Ltd. v Dodd and the use to which the common law principles developed in that case had been put in subsequent cases in the UK and Australia, particularly in the case of Westpac Banking Corporation v Bell Group Ltd. Christopher Hare commented on the paper, which was followed by lively discussion.
In the second session, Felicity Toube QC and Gabriel Moss QC presented the cases for and against the Privy Council decision in Singularis Holdings Limited v PricewaterhouseCoopers. The decision raises a number of important issues, and these were reflected in the ensuing debate. The final session of the day focused on valuation, with an interesting and provocative paper from Sarah Paterson of the LSE, commented on by Jennifer Marshall of Allen & Overy. The paper looked at the different approaches to valuation of the UK and the US in the light of the recent ABI Commission proposal. The difficulties and complexities of the question of how to decide where the value breaks in an insolvency and, especially, in a restructuring, were brought out both by the speakers and the ensuing discussion.