Public Interest Proceedings
The term “Public Interest” is pervasive to many areas of the legal framework within the UK, extending from legislation granting or extending rights granted to the general public (in the public interest), the Courts judicially reviewing interpretations of the law by government (as far as it may extend to procedure or the application of the law) through to specific litigation claims issued “in the public interest”.
Without these protections, which are under constant review and subject to ongoing change, the risks to individuals and companies in the UK will almost certainly increase. Whilst a precise list of such risks cannot would be difficult to provide, without doubt they include financial fraud and prejudice to specific groups of people or organisations within the UK including the general public as potential customers of companies acting in a fraudulent manner.
In such circumstances it may be prudent for a Winding-Up Petition to be presented to wind-up a company perceived to be liable for fraud, in the public interest.
Defending a Public Interest Winding-Up Petition
Where a public interest winding-up petition is presented, there is no requirement to provide evidence that the company is insolvent or otherwise unable to continue trading in its present form. The only requirement is to demonstrate that the company is trading contrary to what the Secretary of State believes is the public interest.
In a majority of circumstances a Public Interest Winding-Up Petition is properly presented against companies which are trading solely for the purpose of defrauding the general public. However, this is not always the case.
Quite commonly we see companies that may be selling new products, or seeking investment for projects that may take years to develop (indeed a lot of research and development companies exist in an insolvent state, reliant on investment with an uncertain outcome for the product they are trying to develop).
In such circumstances there are strong grounds to defend a public interest winding-up petition.
Consequences of a Public Interest Winding-Up Order
If a Winding-Up Order is made by the Court, whether it was defended or not the likely outcome is that almost certainly the Secretary of State will seek a Disqualification Order against the Directors who ran the company.
Whilst a Disqualification Order is not guaranteed, Directors would be wise to seek legal advice upon receiving notice of the intention to issue a Disqualification Claim based on the fraudulent misconduct.
If a Director decides to cut his/her losses and offer a Disqualification Undertaking or is subsequently disqualified in proceedings then s/he faces the further risk of being subject to a Compensation Order.
Our webpage here describes in more detail the consequences of a Director being disqualified.
Public Interest Proceedings generally
To understand the relevant stages leading to a Public Interest Winding-Up Order, and the impact thereafter, please visit our webpages dealing with the following aspects of these types of proceedings:
- Complaints to Secretary of State
- Companies investigations
- Winding-Up Petitions/Orders
- Impact on Director Disqualification
- Prosecutions by the Registrar of Companies
- Criminal proceedings
At Francis Wilks & Jones we have extensive experience of these matters and are able to advise and assist on circumstances where you face the threat, or are subject to, Public Interest Winding-Up Proceedings.
Please call any member of our Director Disqualification team for a consultation now on 020 7841 0390. Alternatively please email us with your enquiry and we will call you back at a time convenient for you.