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Company Directors and Freezing Orders

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Updated: 18th May 2016

Why would business assets be frozen?

Freezing orders are used to prevent business assets from being disposed of, or ‘hidden,’ by a debtor before court judgement can be enforced. A creditor who has applied for a freezing order, or Mareva Injunction as it is also known, must have good reason and be able to present a solid case to the courts.

The applicant must also give an undertaking to pay damages to the debtor should it later be found that the freezing order was incorrectly granted. If one of your creditors has applied for an order to freeze company assets, it is unlikely they have taken this action lightly. Applicants must meet strict conditions, and risk financial loss if they make a mistake.

What type of assets can be frozen?

Various types of asset can be included in a freezing order, but it is often specific assets that are frozen, or certain assets to the value of the debt. In some cases freezing orders cover all the assets of a company, including property, land, vehicles, and company shares.  

Any assets not included in the injunction can be dealt with in the normal way, but you must be careful to ensure the company has enough assets to meet the value of a ‘maximum sum’ order which covers at least the value of the claim.

What could have led to such an injunction being made?

To obtain a freezing order, your creditor must have a ‘substantive cause of action’ and a good, arguable case that can be backed up with solid evidence. They may have made numerous attempts to collect their debt, and faced with non-payment or non-response, fear that you will take aversive action to prevent business assets from being sold.

A freezing order is likely to immediately precede or run alongside further court action, and can be issued ‘with notice’ or ‘without notice.’ Even a ‘with notice’ injunction leaves the time available to deal with this situation very limited, and you will need to take action immediately.

Dealing with a freezing order

You may or may not have received notice of the application - a freezing order ‘without notice’ leaves you very little time to prepare. You will need to comply with the court’s requests, which might include providing a detailed list of company assets, or possibly gathering together other financial information.

You will be informed of a ‘return date’ hearing which you should attend, but if more time is needed to prepare, you may be able to request that the hearing is moved to a later date. In the meantime you must not deal with the assets in question, as doing so will place you in contempt of court.

It’s advisable to seek professional guidance as soon as possible so that you understand your obligations. A penal notice is included on the front page of a freezing injunction, and this means that you could face prison if you deal with the assets stated, or ignore court instructions.

Real Business Rescue has a highly experienced team of insolvency experts ready to help. We can guide you on the best immediate action to take, and look at the options for your business in the longer term. With 100 offices across the UK, you’re never far away from expert and confidential advice.

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