The business of the Insolvency and Companies List includes corporate and personal insolvency and pure company work (in the Companies Court). It forms part of the Chancery Division of the High Court and is situated in the Business and Property Court England and Wales.
Corporate insolvency work comprises applications and petitions initiating an insolvency procedure and applications made during an insolvency procedure. The hearings before the court may range in length and involve trials where witnesses are tested or experts heard. Cases typically include claims against directors or challenges to decisions made by an office-holder. The Court also hears public interest cases for example the winding up of a company on public interest grounds or disqualification of directors.
In respect of personal insolvency matters creditors and debtors petitions below the value of £50,000 and £100,000 respectively are dealt with in the County Court at Central London which sits at the Thomas More Building, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2AA. There are also cases where, notwithstanding these monetary limits, the petition has to be presented in the High Court, for example where the bankruptcy petition is being presented against a member of a partnership being wound up by the High Court in London; where the debtor is not resident in England and Wales and has not carried on business or resided in England and Wales in the 6 months before the presentation of the petition; and where the petitioner is unable to determine the debtor’s place of residence or place of business.
The pure Company work in the High Court involves a wide range of disputes or claims such as a scheme or arrangement, applications for the approval of the reduction in the capital or share premium account, cross-border mergers, the disclosure of shareholder information, challenge to the decisions of management and shareholder disputes.
The division of work between different levels of judge and routes of appeal are set out in the extant Insolvency Practice Direction. For the most part work done in the Insolvency and Company List is dealt with by five Bankruptcy Registrars who are soon to be renamed Insolvency and Companies Court Judges. The change of name better describes their specialist role. These judges also hear corporate and corporate insolvency appeals from District Judges sitting in County Courts in the South-East of England.
There is no bar on the length of trial that may be heard by a Registrar but due to their numbers, practicalities give rise to a general rule restricting trials to no more than three weeks.