In Safier v. Wardell and Others  EWHC 20 (Ch), in a reserved judgment handed down on 13 January 2017 following his recent retirement, His Honour Judge Behrens, sitting as a Judge of the High Court, held that funds paid by a third party to trustees-in-bankruptcy for the purposes of obtaining the annulment of a bankruptcy order, and paid into the Insolvency Services Account, do not attract liability for Secretary of State fees under Paragraph 4 of the Insolvency Proceedings (Fees) Order 2004 and Paragraph 20 of the Insolvency Regulations 1994. That decision is in line with the guidance provided by the Insolvency Service in its Dear IP Letter produced in October 1997.
The Safier decision is of some interest because the issue so decided has not previously been the subject of judicial scrutiny, in previous cases debtors and third parties simply paying the SoS fees to resolve matters. A number of cases have been on hold pending the Safier judgment.
In Safier the trustees-in-bankruptcy, partners in the firm of KPMG, who successfully opposed the Official Receiver’s submissions that the fees applied, were represented and advised by Louis Doyle of Kings Chambers. The debtor was represented by Kelly Bond of Enterprise Chambers, and the Official Receiver by Matthew Parfitt of Erskine Chambers.
Safier is not the last word on this important point. On handing down judgment, Judge Behrens granted permission to appeal to the Official Receiver. The appeal is expected to come before the Court of Appeal later in 2017.
For a copy of the approved judgment, click here.