The voluntary administration procedure in the Corporations Act was introduced in 1993. Prior to this, the only formal mechanism for a company to compromise with its creditors was by a creditors' scheme of arrangement, a process often regarded as costly, time consuming and cumbersome.
The primary objective of voluntary administration is to provide for the business, property and affairs of an insolvent company to be administered in a way that:
- maximises the chances of the company, or as much as possible of its business, continuing in existence; or
- if it is not possible for the company or its business to continue in existence – results in a better return for the company's creditors and members than would result from an immediate winding up of the company.
The voluntary administration process gives a company a short breathing space, during which there is a general moratorium on the enforcement of creditors' claims. It enables the administrator to continue to trade the company's business during the administration period, and for any proposal to rehabilitate the company or otherwise maximise returns to creditors (other than via an immediate winding up) to be put before creditors and, if approved, implemented via a deed of company arrangement (DOCA). A DOCA will be binding on key stakeholders including the company, its shareholders and its creditors (save for secured creditors who do not vote in favour of the DOCA).
The voluntary administration process is intended to be quick, although in more complex administrations (such as corporate groups) it is usual for the Court to extend relevant time limits and the administration period may extend for more than 6 months. Extensions are allowed by the Court on a case by case basis and are entirely dependent on the circumstances of the particular administration.