Lessons learnt from holding Virtual Creditors meetings during Covid
May 7, 2020
Posted by: Jim Stafford
The Consulative Committee of Accountancy Bodies-Ireland recently issued Technical Guidance on how to hold Virtual Creditors meetings. We are now arranging creditors meetings with the benefit of this guidance.
Having now held a number of Virtual Creditors meetings I set out below some common sense tips on how to successfully conduct such meetings.
The CCABI guidance is presently only that, guidance. The Companies Act 2014 does not presently allow for creditors meetings to be held 100% virtually. The present legislation provides that there must be 3 creditors present in person, or by proxy, at the venue advertised for the creditors meeting in order to have a valid quorum. Other creditors may attend virtually, if they decide to do so. However, our view is that creditors should be allowed to attend physically if they so wish. Accordingly, a suitable sized room must be available to allow social distancing.
Consider providing the chairman of the meeting with the appropriate letter that he can exhibit to Gardai if he is stopped in transit to the meeting.
Ask all those physically attending the meeting to use sanitiser upon entering the building.
Consider establishing a dedicated Gmail account, in the name of the company going into liquidation, to accept Proxies and to collate a list of email addresses that Zoom invites can be emailed to. The advantage of a Gmail account is that it may be accessed from anywhere.
In the statutory advertisement for the meeting consider advertising the Gmail account that creditors can send proxies to. Sometimes the directors do not have the addresses of all creditors, such as holders of Gift vouchers, so such creditors can only be notified by advertising.
Have a “stand by” lap top available with the Zoom app already down loaded so that if the Chairman’s lap top does not work that you have a back up. (We had one case where the Chairman’s lap top would not accept our WiFi password.) In some cases the chairman may not have a laptop etc.
Ensure that the person hosting the Zoom call has a Zoom account in order to avoid the meeting cutting off after 40 minutes.
Have extension leads available.
The liquidator should be in a separate room if he/she is using his/her own laptop to participate in the Zoom call, otherwise you will get an echo effect.
If a significant number of creditors are expected to attend, the Chairman should have a colleague who can host the Zoom meeting on his/her behalf, so that the Chairman can focus on the meeting and not be concerned about admitting late entrants to the call.
Have a Conference call facility available, and know the number and PINs required. (We had one Zoom meeting where the Virgin Media WiFi became unstable, and we had to ask the creditors to dial into a conference call instead. We were able to enter the number and the relevant pin into the chat box feature on Zoom.)
Zoom meetings are better than conference call meetings, as creditors can be identified etc. The chairman can also remove individuals during a Zoom call if they are being deliberately obstructive etc. It is also easier to hold a confidential Committee of Inspection meeting immediately after the creditors meeting.
I firmly believe that Virtual Creditors meetings are the way to go. They save creditors the expense of travelling, and they receive the Statement of Affairs in advance so that they have time to study it and prepare questions.
The Irish Society of Insolvency Practitioners have made a submission to the Government to legislate for virtual creditors meetings. I do hope the Government make the necessary amendments.