One of the effects of the pandemic has been to slow down (some might say even further!) the litigation process in the UK courts, and despite one or two high-profile decisions relating primarily to business interruption insurance there have been few reported cases dealing with the effects of the pandemic relevant to asset financiers.
One likely vehicle of attack by customers arises from the doctrine of frustration of contracts, which may discharge the parties from performance of a contract that has become legally or physically impossible through no fault of the parties. In general terms this doctrine is very difficult to establish, and for example the European Medicine Agency failed in its attempt to use frustration to extract itself from a long lease on its central London premises as a result of the fact that it had to move to Amsterdam following Brexit.
The Court of Appeal has recently handed down judgment in Wood v Commercial First Business Ltd and Others and Business Mortgage Finance 4 plc v Pengelly  EWCA Civ 471, on the issue of broker “secret commissions”.
These decisions have caused something of a storm in the industry, and somewhat surprisingly in our view the NACFB is recommending “both regulated and unregulated firms, working in all sectors, should be transparent about their commissions and fully disclose the amount of commission received”.
We came across an interesting argument concerning the right to sue after securitisation of assets in a recent reported case we ran for an asset finance company, Haydock Finance Limited v Starcruiser Bussing Limited  EWHC 622 (Comm).
The case involved commercial vehicles and acting for the funder we brought a claim against the hirer for return of the vehicles and the guarantor for a substantial sum. There appeared to be no merit whatsoever in the Defence as served, but by the time of the hearing the Defendants turned up with a so-called “Securitisation Analysis Report” prepared by an academic in California who describes himself as an “Expert Analysis on Auto Agreement Backed Securities Data.”
The FCA has published revised consumer credit information sheets, the first update since July 2018. In accordance with section 86A of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, Funders are required to include a copy of the relevant information sheet when notifying a regulated customer that they are in arrears or default.
Adam Patel (pictured below), joined Bermans in 2017 as a Trainee Solicitor and qualified as a Solicitor in October 2019 into the Asset Based Lending team.
Alissa Marsh (pictured below), joined Bermans in January 2017 as a solicitor working across both of our Asset Finance and Invoice Finance departments.
L-R Martin March, Phil Farrelly and James Whittaker
As we head into 2021 and the inevitable restructure of the economy as we (hopefully) return to some sort of normality, we thought it would be useful to share details about the depth of experience in our Insolvency team and to share some of their experiences during the lockdown.
Partner and Head of Insolvency, Phil Farrelly, will be known to many of you and has been with Bermans since 2005. He is a familiar face on the North West legal scene and has extensive experience of acting for insolvency practitioners, ABL and other lenders and directors in all aspects of corporate insolvency.
The team has recently been strengthened with the arrival of two experienced insolvency solicitors.
Bermans, commercial law firm in Liverpool and Manchester, is delighted to announce that it has promoted 6 individuals to more senior roles at the firm.
Andrew Henderson (left) joined Bermans in 1985 and has developed an expertise in asset finance litigation. He has been made a Partner and joins Alex Chapman, David Gledhill and Jonathan Berkson as partners in the specialist Asset Based Lending team that is ranked in the Legal 500 London Asset Finance Lending rankings.
He deals with matters such as fraud, freezing orders, title claims, delivery up claims, guarantee/indemnity claims, shortfalls and general debt recovery for a wide range of asset based lenders.
Whilst much uncertainty remains as to the future arrangements for asset financiers doing business across Europe, we can now say that in terms of specific legislative requirements upon the operation of asset financiers within the UK, required changes would appear to be limited to the deletion of references to “standard European consumer credit information” (SECCI) from CCA regulated consumer credit agreements as reported in our last Briefing.
On 2 December 2020, the Consumer Credit (Enforcement, Default and Termination Notices) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1248) (“2020 Regulations”) came into force, amending the Consumer Credit (Enforcement, Default and Termination Notices) Regulations 1983 (SI 1983/1561) (“1983 Regulations”).