Photo of L. Viswanathan

National Chair and Partner in the Finance, Insolvency &  Projects Practice at the Mumbai office of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Viswanathan advises leading banks, financial institutions and private credit providers as well India’s largest corporates on financing, restructuring  and infrastructure projects.  He is currently advising on many insolvency proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. He can be reached at l.viswanathan@cyrilshroff.com

THE ROAD TO RESOLUTION OF FINANCIAL SERVICE PROVIDERS - IBC

 

The Imperative for a distinct framework for the resolution of financial firms

The financial sector is facing a combination of liquidity, governance and business issues, on account of which certain Non Banking Financial Companies (“NBFCs”) are facing solvency concerns.

The severe liquidity crunch for NBFCs was caused  as banks and other financial institutions have curtailed refinancing the loans of NBFCs on account of which several NBFCs and other financial institutions faced debt servicing and solvency issues. These have sought to be resolved through the Stressed Asset Directions issued by the Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”) on June 7, 2019. This was fraught with complexities given the diverse sets creditor, including market borrowings  each of whom were governed by different financial regulators.
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Essar Steel India Limited - Supreme Court reinforces primacy of Creditors Committee in insolvency resolution

Essar Steel judgement of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), which required that the secured financial creditors share recoveries in a resolution plan under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC), inter se (irrespective of the ranking of their security positions) and with the trade creditors, on a pari passu basis, was considered a ”confusion in the different types of creditors” and a setback for the nascent but growing secondary debt market in India. The judgement perhaps was also opposed to the realities of credit risk assessments and pricing of the credit leading to an unsatisfactory resolution outcome for creditors in an insolvency situation.
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 2019 IBC Amendment Bill - Insolvency and Bankruptcy

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) has been widely considered a landmark legislation that has brought about a paradigm shift in the recovery and resolution process.

However, during the implementation of the IBC over the past two years and eight months, several challenges have emerged, including:

  1. The Supreme Court recognises the utmost

Is Liquidation Irreversible - Schemes of Compromise in Liquidation

The 2005 Report of the Expert Committee on Company Law (JJ Irani Committee Report) had noted that an effective insolvency law:

should strike a balance between rehabilitation and liquidation. It should provide an opportunity for genuine effort to explore restructuring/ rehabilitation of potentially viable businesses with consensus of stakeholders reasonably arrived at. Where revival / rehabilitation is demonstrated as not being feasible, winding up should be resorted to.

Where circumstances justify, the process should allow for easy conversion of proceedings from one procedure to another. This will provide opportunity to businesses in liquidation to turnaround wherever possible. Similarly, conversion to liquidation might be appropriate even after a rehabilitation plan has been approved if such a plan was procured by fraud or the plan can no longer be implemented”.
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RBI FRAMEWORK FOR RESOLUTION OF STRESSED ASSETS BLOG

The Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”) has issued the Reserve Bank of India (Prudential Framework for Resolution of Stressed Assets) Directions, 2019 (“New Framework”) on June 07, 2019[1] in which the RBI has continued the core principles of its circular dated February 12, 2018 (“February 12 Circular”) and has added provisions encouraging both informal and formal restructuring in India. The New Framework creates an enabling framework for restructuring and resolutions outside the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (“IBC”) as well as encourages use of IBC as a restructuring tool. It applies to banks, financial institutions as well as large non-banking financing companies (“NBFCs”) (the February 12 Circular did not apply to NBFCs) and also requires asset reconstruction companies to adhere to the relevant resolution framework under the inter-creditor agreement (see below).
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RBI Circular - Insolvency and Bankruptcy Blog

The Supreme Court’s judgment in Dharani Sugars and Chemicals Limited vs. Union of India is examined herein.

The Supreme Court in Dharani Sugars and Chemicals Limited vs. Union of India & Others (Dharani Sugars) has struck down the circular dated February 12, 2018, containing the revised framework for resolution of stressed assets (RBI Circular) issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on the ground of it being ultra vires Section 35AA of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 (Banking Regulation Act).

Section 35AA was introduced by Parliament in 2017 to confer power on Central Government to authorise the RBI to give directions to any bank or banks to initiate an insolvency resolution process under the provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) in respect of ‘a default’. The RBI Circular was challenged, inter alia, on the basis that Section 35AA does not empower the RBI to issue directions for reference to the IBC of all cases without considering specific defaults.


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Sashidhar v. Indian Overseas Bank and Ors. – Commercial Wisdom Reigns Supreme

The Supreme Court’s decision in K. Sashidhar v. Indian Overseas Bank and Ors.[1]addressed a critical issue in the corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP) – i.e. the scope of judicial scrutiny over a commercial decision taken by the committee of creditors (“CoC”) to approve or reject a resolution plan.
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Rights of Suspended Board - Vijay Kumar Jain v. Standard Chartered Bank

Upon commencement of the resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (Code), powers of the Board of Directors of the company stand suspended and are vested in and exercised by the resolution professional. While the directors are entitled to attend the meetings of the committee of creditors (COC) formed for the company, such directors have no voting rights.

A question arose over whether the directors should be given copies of the resolution plans and other confidential documents that the COC considers during the meetings. Sharing of such documents could be seen as in direct conflict with the obligations of the resolution professional to maintain confidentiality under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (Insolvency Resolution Process for Corporate Persons) Regulations, 2016 (CIRP Regulations) and other related regulations. More importantly, it could create positions of conflict between the suspended Board, who often submit resolution plans or are applicants under Section 12A, and the other participants. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in its recent judgment in Vijay Kumar Jain v. Standard Chartered Bank and Others[1] has, with great respect, left some questions unanswered.
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Swiss Ribbons vs. Union of India – The Foundation for Modern Bankruptcy Law

The authors instructed Mr. Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India, on behalf of the respondent Banks and Financial Institutions in the proceeding before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Swiss Ribbons v. Union of India upholding the constitutionality of the provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC or the Code) is a landmark in the development of the Code.
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The Government of India and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have brought about several measures to resolve non-performing assets (NPAs). Several NPAs may have arisen from credit facilities that were sanctioned by banks as a commercial decision taken in good faith and in the ordinary course of conducting banking business. Equally there could be cases where NPAs arise as a result of siphoning of funds by the borrower or promoters or other connected entities.

Several serving and retired bankers have recently been charged and/or arrested on suspicion of criminal misconduct over alleged loan fraud under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (Principal Act). There have been instances of arrest of bank officials without any proof of quid pro quo or wrongdoings.


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