In the recent decision of Westpoint Corporation Pty Ltd (in liq) v Yeo [2018] VSC 705, Westpoint Corporation (WPC) have been successful in having the Victorian Supreme Court inquire into the remuneration of the liquidators of Westpoint Finance (WPF). WPC is the major unsecured creditor of WPF.

The case ensued after WPC alleged that WPF’s liquidators ‘failed to properly perform their duties’ in incurring legal costs of approximately $600 000 and accruing remuneration in excess of $455 000, after pursuing three legal claims for commission in respect of the sale of real estate in circumstances where WPF did not hold the requisite licence and where there were statutory provisions prohibiting the recovery or retention for reward.

Consequently, in February 2017, WPC filed a complaint with the Supreme Court of Victoria seeking that the court conduct an inquiry into the conduct of the liquidators of WPF, pursuant to s536 of the Corporations Act.

WPC also sought a review of the liquidators remuneration pursuant to s504, contending that by pursuing the three legal claims, the amount available for distribution to the creditors of WPF was diminished by approximately $1 million. In doing so, WPC contended that the remuneration approved and paid to the liquidators to date, totalling over $1.4 million, was disproportionate to the $3.8 million recovered by the liquidators in the winding up.

Ultimately the court found in favour of WPC, concluding that an inquiry should be held into the liquidator’s conduct, pursuant to s536(1)(b) of the Corporations Act (now repealed). Despite this, Sloss J held that the review should be confined to their conduct in pursuing PRD Realty Qld; one of the three real estate agents originally targeted by WPF’s liquidators.

In relation to WPC’s request for a review of remuneration, the court held that the monies generated by the liquidators between March 26 2006 and October 2 2011 ought to be reviewed pursuant to s504(1).

Whilst inquiries into the conduct of insolvency practitioners is not a common occurrence, they can occur and this case presents a useful example of what the court might consider in determining whether to order an inquiry.  The case is useful both to insolvency practitioners and creditors.