Restructuring and insolvency in New Zealand

Buddle Findlay

Buddle Findlay has a deep bench of talent, with 20 lawyers advising New Zealand's leading banks and insolvency practitioners on high-profile matters. The firm also acts for large corporates in receiverships, liquidations and workouts. David Perry is the lead partner and a past-chairman of Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association of New Zealand. He is supported by heavyweights Scott Abel, who specialises in insolvency and debt restructuring, and Wellington-based litigators Scott Barker and Seb Bisley. Up-and-coming litigation partners David Broadmore and special counsel Myles O’Brien, all based in Auckland, and Kelly Paterson in Christchurch are also heavily involved in the practice.

Practice head(s):

David Perry

Key clients

Bank of New Zealand

ANZ Bank New Zealand

KordaMentha

PwC

McGrathNicol

Kiwibank

Grant Thornton

BDO

Reserve Bank of New Zealand

ICBC

Work highlights

  • Advising the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and subsequently McGrath Nicol as liquidators of CBLI on various claims and issues arising from the large, complex and high-profile liquidation of CBLI. CBLI was a large listed New Zealand insurance company with extensive cross border transactions.
  • Advising Grant Thornton as liquidators of Cryptopia, which was a Christchurch-based cryptocurrency exchange. This work included, in the absence of legal precedent on cryptocurrency assets in New Zealand, proceeding filed in the High Court seeking to understand whether digital funds can be held on trust for account holders or whether they are beneficially owned by Cryptopia.
  • Acted for BDO as administrators and liquidators of Arrow group of construction companies and subsequently the liquidators in the voluntary administration and subsequent liquidation of the Arrow group of construction companies. The Arrow group was one of the largest construction enterprises in New Zealand, with a significant number of active projects located across over New Zealand at the time of its collapse.

Chapman Tripp

Chapman Tripp has a ten-lawyer practice that has a strong track record in domestic and cross-border matters, encompassing debt restructuring and distressed debt, receiverships, liquidations and administrations, as well as designing and implementing a number of significant schemes and compromises. It has played a central role in complex and novel matters, including acting for four former directors of Mainzeal in the company's long-running liquidation. Practice heads Michael Arthur and Michael Harper are regarded as among the most experienced and respected practitioners in the market, acting for the country's leading banks and insolvency practitioners. They are supported by litigation partner Laura Fraser and highly-rated senior associate Janko Marcetic. All are based in Auckland, though the practice also operates through the firm's Christchurch and Wellington offices.

Practice head(s):

Michael Arthur; Michael Harper

Other key lawyers:

Laura Fraser; Janko Marcetic

Key clients

KordaMentha

ANZ Bank New Zealand (ANZ)

Bank of New Zealand (BNZ)

Westpac New Zealand

BWA Insolvency Limited

Baker Tilly Staples Rodway

BDO

McGrath Nicol

ASB Bank

KiwiBank

Work highlights

  • Advising ANZ on its rights and position as a creditor during the VA process and then liquidation of CBL Corporation. Overall, the CBL group of companies is comprised of 40 registered companies across a number of jurisdictions, namely New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, England and Wales, Ireland, France, Denmark and Luxembourg. ANZ is a secured creditor of CBL Corporation, as part of a syndicate of lenders together with ICBC and Bank of China.
  • Acting for four of the former directors of Mainzeal Property & Construction Limited (in receivership and liquidation). Mainzeal was one of New Zealand’s largest construction companies but it went into receivership in February 2013, shortly followed by liquidation. Mainzeal’s liquidators sued the firm’s clients for various directors’ duties following Mainzeal’s collapse in February 2013.
  • Advising different creditors of Tamarind Taranaki in respect of its voluntary administration and liquidation. Tamarind Taranaki’s parent company is domiciled in Singapore, and many of the creditors are based outside of New Zealand.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts

MinterEllisonRuddWatts is frequently involved in the most technically challenging and high-value matters in the market. As well as acting for New Zealand's leading banks, the firm also receives instructions from prominent insolvency practitioners. Working with the firm's other offices, the practice is heavily involved in trans-Tasman, regional and cross-border insolvency and restructuring assignments. Sean Gollin, who has 'excellent technical skills, good commercial attributes and is proactive with his advice', and Michael Langdon, who frequently acts for domestic and international banks, lead the practice from Auckland. Up-and coming partner Ana Simkiss and finance senior associate Vanessa Hunter are also recommended. Richard Gordon in Wellington is a highly experienced commercial litigator with notable expertise in banking and securities law. Mark Sandelin left to become a barrister.

Practice head(s):

Sean Gollin; Michael Langdon

Testimonials

‘The firm has high technical standards and excellent communicators’.

‘Sean Gollin has excellent technical skills, good commercial attributes and is proactive with his advice.’

Key clients

BDO New Zealand Limited

Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association New Zealand Incorporated

Westpac New Zealand Limited

KordaMentha

Rabobank

Kiwibank Limited

ANZ Bank New Zealand

Institute of Directors in NZ

Bauer Media

Bank of New Zealand

Work highlights

  • Acted for both Rabobank and its appointed receivers, KordaMentha, in relation to the receivership of rural feed business, Fiber Fresh Feeds Limited, with subsidiaries in Australia, Japan and the Middle East.
  • Heavily involved for the Institute of Directors in NZ; Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association New Zealand Incorporated; Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, in the development of temporary legislative relief by the New Zealand Government in response to concern that the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to the unnecessary failure of numerous businesses, including creation of a safe harbour from breach of insolvency related directors duties and temporary protection against creditor action to allow development and implementation of restructuring plans.
  • Advised Bauer Media NZ on the closure of its magazine publishing business in New Zealand (involving iconic New Zealand magazine mastheads) due to the severe economic impact of Covid-19. This was the first major casualty of the pandemic in New Zealand and received large publicity.

Russell McVeagh

Russell McVeagh continues to attract high-profile instructions and is frequently involved in key industry sectors, notably construction, retail sectors, forestry, property development, hospitality and financial services. Its work encompasses domestic and cross-border insolvency, the enforcement of creditors' rights, corporate and debt restructuring and recovery actions against directors. In Auckland, practice head Matthew Kersey is described as 'the market leader in this area'. Polly Pope, who is 'an outstanding insolvency lawyer: responsive, results-focused and commercial' and banking and finance partner John Powell are also recommended. The firm hired Kirsten Massey from Herbert Smith Freehills LLP to add experience in cross-border matters and class action litigation. In Wellington, litigation partner Nathaniel Walker is heavily involved in the practice's key matters.

Practice head(s):

Matthew Kersey

Testimonials

‘Matt Kersey is the market leader in this area.’

‘Polly Pope is an outstanding insolvency lawyer: responsive, results-focused and commercial.’

Key clients

KordaMentha

KPMG

PWC

BDO

McGrath Nicol

OCP Asia

ANZ Bank New Zealand Limited

Westpac Bank

ASB Bank

Bank of New Zealand

Bridgewest Finance

Marina Bay Sands Pte Ltd

Hogan Lovells

Work highlights

  • Advising OCP Asia Pacific as secured creditor to Tamarind Taranaki Limited (in receivership and liquidation), and acted for PwC as the receivers of that company. This is a high-profile upstream oil and gas insolvency. TTL operated an oil field off the Taranaki coast. It went into voluntary administration in November 2019, and receivership and liquidation in December 2019.
  • Acting as NZ counsel to KPMG as liquidators of Halifax NZ, with K&L Gates (Sydney). The matter is highly complex because it involves the liquidation of a trans-Tasman brokerage with $250m in funds claimed by over 11,000 investors.
  • Acting for the receivers of FE Investments, a finance company, appointed by the finance company’s trustee. This matter is important as FE Investments is a non-bank deposit taker, with reportedly over 600 investors.   Standard & Poor’s downgraded the company’s credit rating to CCC just before Christmas. FE Investments Group (FEIG)owns FE Investments, and is listed on Australia’s ASX sharemarket.

Simpson Grierson

Simpson Grierson has the largest dedicated restructuring and insolvency practice with five partners and one special counsel at the head of a 25-lawyer group. As a result, it handles the full spectrum of work, non-contentious and contentious, including corporate recovery, reconstructions, administrations, receiverships, statutory managements, liquidations and security enforcement, in key industries such as construction, agriculture and energy. The firm acts for leading banks and other creditors, as well as New Zealand's leading IPs. Head of banking and finance Stuart Evans and head of restructuring and insolvency James Caird, both based in Auckland, are the lead partners. Ben Upton is recommended as a specialist banking, asset recovery and insolvency litigator. Josh Cairns in Wellington also stands out for his specialist litigation expertise, which saw him involved in the groundbreaking insolvency of online investment broker Halifax New Zealand.

Practice head(s):

Stuart Evans; James Caird

Other key lawyers:

Josh Cairns; Ben Upton

Key clients

Westpac

KordaMentha

PwC

ASB Bank

McGrathNicol

KPMG

Bank of New Zealand

BDO

Heartland Bank

Grant Thornton

Financial Markets Authority

EY

Work highlights

  • Advising PwC on the receivership of the Ebert Construction retentions fund, seeing a ground-breaking judgment (in favour of the receivers) on the application of the Construction Contracts Act’s new trust arrangements for subcontractor retention funds.
  • Advising KPMG as the liquidators of the Cullen Group, a large and complex corporate group whose liquidation is unusually complicated due to a complex web of intragroup transactions set up as part of a tax avoidance strategy.
  • Acting for the Financial Markets Authority in litigation against dual-listed insurer CBL Corporation and its directors and officers, where the NewZealand Courts will for the first time consider the statutory provisions under which the claims are brought.

Anthony Harper

'They work hard, under pressure to get the job done which is usually tight deadlines', says a client of the partners at Anthony Harper. Bringing together the skills in litigation, banking and finance, the firm is able to handle high-profile matters concerning refinancing, restructuring, administration, liquidation and disputes, for clients including large banks, finance companies, insolvency practitioners and private businesses across New Zealand. Practice head Crispin Vinnell in Christchurch is 'an outstanding insolvency lawyer in whom we have 100% trust', says one client. Regarded as a leading lights in the market, Vinnell and  Dan Hughes in Auckland are frequently appointed by receivers, liquidators, administrators and investigative accountants. Special counsels Lynne Van in Auckland and Chloe Jolliffe in Christchurch are also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Crispin Vinnell

Other key lawyers:

Lynne Van; Dan Hughes; Chloe Jolliffe

Testimonials

‘They work hard, under pressure to get the job done which is usually tight deadlines.’

‘When working with Anthony Harper I work with Lynne Van and the client service is good.’

‘The firm is very client-focused and they are prepared to put their head out to get the best result for their client.’

‘The team has very strong technical expertise and the ability to provide real-time advice and support has been hugely beneficial to my team.’

‘Crispin Vinnell is an outstanding insolvency lawyer and someone in whom we have 100% trust to provide legal advice in complex and difficult insolvency assignments.’

‘I have always found the team responsive to issues arising with our company. Their knowledge assists in resolution of most matters in our favour.’

‘We mainly use Chloe Jolliffe, to a lesser extent Crispin Vinnell. They are prompt in reacting to our needs. Their responses are measured yet remarkably definitive.’

Key clients

All of Government Panel

ASB Bank

Deloitte

Ernst & Young

Goldsmith Fox PKF

Heartland Bank Limited

Kiwibank Limited

KPMG

Work highlights

  • Acted for PFK Corporate Recovery and Insolvency in a high-profile liquidation that is now the leading case in New Zealand on preference claims. The case revolved around the liquidation of Northern Crest was widely publicised, leaving creditors owed an estimated NZ$80m.
  • Advised McGrathNicol in a complex, cross-border insolvency. The purpose of the appointment has been to realise assets sufficient to secure payment of approximately US$25m.
  • Acting for ASB Bank in a complex bankruptcy. The case was of significance as it involved weighing up and assessment of the bank’s contractual, common law and statutory obligations to maintain privacy against the extent of the Official Assignee’s investigatory powers under the Insolvency Act where third parties were involved.

Bell Gully

The Auckland office of Bell Gully is a key adviser to New Zealand's major banks, as well as IPs. The firm is currently involved in some of the most high-profile insolvencies in the market, including the receivership of Burger King franchise operator Antares Restaurant Group and the administration of CBL Group. The firm's work encompasses restructurings, insolvencies, receiverships and liquidations, with non-contentious matters and disputes featuring strongly in its caseload. David McPherson, who frequently handles debt restructuring, distressed debt acquisitions and receiverships, leads the practice, in which partner Tim Fitzgerald and senior associate Nick Moffatt play key roles.

Practice head(s):

David McPherson

Other key lawyers:

Tim Fitzgerald; Nick Moffatt

Key clients

PwC

ANZ Bank New Zealand Limited

KordaMentha

McGrath Nicol

KPMG

ASB Bank

BNZ

Grant Thornton

BDO

Ferrier Hodgson

Work highlights

  • Advising Antares Restaurant Group Limited, the operator of the Burger King franchise in New Zealand and its directors, on the recently announced receivership of the holding company.
  • Acting for Brendon Gibson and Neale Jackson of KordaMentha as administrators on aspects of the administration of ten New Zealand registered companies in the CBL Group, including the ultimate parent company, CBL Corporation Limited (Administrators Appointed) (CBL Corporation).
  • Acting for Pearlfisher Capital, a non-bank lender, that is active in the New Zealand property market. In this proceeding it seeks to recover arrangement fees and facility fees that it says are owing by a prospective lender, Wallace Homes Limited.

Dentons Kensington Swan

Dentons Kensington Swan, which acts for banks and insolvency practitioners, has a team made up of 'clear experts in their respective areas of the law', with one client remarking that 'this was brought to bear with us achieving an overwhelmingly positive outcome'. The firm has particular expertise in debt recovery and securities enforcement work, as well as advising creditors and IPs on financial risk management, receiverships, administrations and liquidations. Clients praise the 'patience, compassion and intent' of practice head James McMillan in Auckland, noting that his 'calm, kind and humble manner was so refreshing and comforting'. Banking partner Liz Lim who joined from Tompkins Wake in 2020, litigator Mark Broad and, in Wellington, corporate partner David Shillson are highly active in the practice.

Practice head(s):

James McMillan

Testimonials

‘DKS came highly recommended. Even based solely on our first meeting with DKS, I could tell that we were in capable hands.’

‘The team took the time to understand all of the complexities of the situation. They asked the “right” questions to unearth important information that wasn’t initially provided. With their experience and expertise, they were able to help us come up with solutions that we wouldn’t have come to on our own or with any other legal team.’

‘They came across as genuinely wanting to help us achieve the desired outcome and this made us feel very supported during such a difficult time. They were compassionate with us but had “teeth” when it came to executing on instructions. They were clear experts in their respective areas of the law and this was brought to bear with us achieving an overwhelmingly positive outcome.’

‘James McMillan is the opposite of every negative legal stereotype. In stark contrast to the legal team we initially engaged, James listened to us with patience, compassion and intent. His calm, kind and humble manner was so refreshing and comforting. He was quickly able to get to grips with all the nuances of the matter and his expert guidance and execution helped us to a victory, very much against the odds. He didn’t hesitate to go the extra mile to help give us a fighting chance and he pulled out all the stops. He made a lasting impact on our lives and indirectly on that of all our employees, suppliers and trade creditors. This man deserves some kind of award for his efforts and performance.’

‘Liz Lim and Charles Thompson also deserve a mention for their attentive listening, expert input and genuine support. We felt really supported by the entire team every step of the way.’

‘The range of knowledge available not only within the team, but also the ability to seek expertise in other specialist teams within the firm.’

Key clients

ANZ Bank New Zealand Limited

HSBC

Deloitte

BDO Auckland

KordaMentha

KPMG

Borrelli Walsh

Work highlights

  • Acted for Jason Kardachi and Mitchell Mansfield as administrators and liquidators of Tamarind Taranaki Limited, a distressed oil business with debts of over $300m. This was one of the largest insolvencies in New Zealand in 2019.
  • Advising HSBC and KordaMentha on the receivership of Slinkskins, a Southland tannery operation.
  • Advising Deloitte as liquidators of Isola Vineyards, a company connected to the Mainzeal collapse.

DLA Piper New Zealand

'The team is very knowledgeable in this space and able to provide robust advice in an easily understandable manner', notes a client of DLA Piper New Zealand. The firm has a multi-disciplinary restructuring group that advises banks, insolvency practitioners and corporates on high-value and complex insolvency matters. It is currently acting for the liquidators of CBL Insurance in the largest insolvency currently on-going in New Zealand. Finance partner Michael Thompson and litigator Alicia Murray co-lead the practice from Auckland. Head of litigation Iain Thain and, in Wellington, partner Emma Moran, who is 'a consummate professional providing  a high level of engagement and excellent customer service', are also central to the practice.

Other key lawyers:

Iain Thain; Emma Moran

Testimonials

‘Team is very knowledgeable in this space which is not always the case in legal practices and able to provide robust advice in an easily understandable manner. Timely, accurate service provided along with building a sound business relationship.’

‘Litigation partner Emma Moran is a consummate professional, with a high level of engagement, excellent customer service and of course excellent legal advice and service.’

Key clients

Kare Johnstone and Andrew Grenfell of McGrathNicol as liquidators of CBL Insurance Limited

GE Financial Services and GE Renewable Energy

China Construction Bank

Heartland Bank

Foodstuffs

Thorn Group Financial Services

DUAL NZ Limited

Work highlights

  • Acting for the liquidators of CBLI (both in their current role and previously as interim liquidators). The liquidation is currently the largest insolvency in New Zealand and has involved a number of Court appearances on various issues to date.
  • Provided debt recovery and insolvency legal services to WestCity the owner of WestCity Mall, a major regional shopping centre in Auckland with an annual turnover in the hundreds of million dollars.
  • Acted for Auckland Council in relation to a construction project where the Principal was placed into liquidation. Tricky issues arose around the effect of the liquidation on the completion of the project and dealing with the liquidators.

Mayne Wetherell

Mayne Wetherell in Auckland is regarded as one of New Zealands leading banking and finance firms, which puts it in prime position to handle high-value, novel and complex deals across the capital spectrum. This also brings high-profile insolvency and restructuring matters to its six-partner team, led by acquisition financing and special situations expert Will Tipping. With a track record of work in numerous major restructuring transactions in New Zealand since the global financial crisis, the firm is often the preferred counsel for banks.

Practice head(s):

Will Tipping

TWA Legal Limited

TWA Legal Limited in Auckland joins the ranking having taken over the entire restructuring and insolvency practice of Lowndes, which ceased trading in 2020. Its two lead partners, Mike Whale and Michael Anderson, are two of the most experienced practitioners in the market. They are supported by up-and-coming partner Jennifer Tunna. Among their clients are major creditors involved in some of the most high-value insolvency cases currently in the market, and the partners frequently act for specialist insolvency practitioners and financial services institutions. The firm is the only insolvency and restructuring boutique firm in New Zealand, though it also has recognised skills in general banking and finance matters.

Practice head(s):

Michael Anderson; Mike Whale

Other key lawyers:

Jennifer Tunna

Anderson Lloyd

Anderson Lloyd's restructuring and insolvency practice is based largely on the South Island, with finance partner Ben Johnston and litigator Simon Munro in Christchurch the lead partners. They are backed up by the banking and finance practice in Auckland, which attracts work from creditor banks alongside a steady stream of instructions from IPs based on the South Island. The practice also assists major corporates as creditors of, or contractual counterparties to, insolvent companies, as well as providing advice on changes in insolvency legislation. Senior associate Charlotte Houghton is also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Ben Johnston; Simon Munro

Other key lawyers:

Charlotte Houghton

Key clients

Fund Managers Otago Limited

New Zealand Insolvency & Trustee Service

Ernst & Young

Farmlands Co-Operative Society Limited

ANZ Bank New Zealand Limited

Bank Of New Zealand

Norling Law Limited

Norling Law Limited in Auckland is a boutique law firm with a strong focus on insolvency and restructuring, though it also handles a broader palette of dispute resolution. Since it was formed five years ago by lead partner Brent Norling, the firm has become a popular choice for IPs, directors of distressed or insolvent companies, security holders, creditors and shareholders. With two former IPs in its six-lawyer practice, the firm has extensive experience in advisory work and contentious matters, particularly in the mid-market.

Practice head(s):

Brent Norling

Work highlights

  • Co-author the leading Insolvency text in New Zealand, Heath and Whale on Insolvency for LexisNexis.

Webb Henderson

Webb Henderson in Auckland joins the ranking thanks to the growing involvement of its banking and corporate practice in matters concerning insolvent companies. The firm acts for lenders, corporates, directors and IPs on restructuring and insolvency matters, including the acquisition of insolvent companies. Finance partner Nicole Xanthopol and corporate partner Henry Willis lead the practice. Corporate partners Garth Sinclair and Graeme Quigley handling high-profile business transformation and restructuring transactions, as well as distressed situations workouts.

Other key lawyers:

Garth Sinclair; Graeme Quigley

Key clients

ANZ Bank New Zealand Limited

9Spokes

Stevenson

Work highlights

  • Advised Stevenson on the implications of Solid Energy’s (a state-owned enterprise, which was the largest coal mining company in New Zealand) administration. Stevenson managed the Rotowaro coal mine, which was owned by Solid Energy.
  • Advised 9 Spokes on its urgent capital raising project, comprising a fully underwritten pro rata renounceable rights issue and (in parallel) a private placement.
  • Acted for Pepkor in its acquisition of clothing retailer Postie Plus, during the period in which Postie Plus was in administration.