- This guidance note has been prepared to assist market participants understand the Panel's approach to remedies generally. The examples are illustrative only and nothing in the note binds the Panel in a particular case.
- If the Panel makes a declaration of unacceptable circumstances,1
it may make orders:
- to protect rights or interests affected by the unacceptable circumstances or
- to ensure (as far as possible) that a bid proceeds as if the unacceptable circumstances had not occurred.2
- The Panel may not make an order directing a person to comply with a requirement of Chapter 6, 6A, 6B or 6C.
- The Panel may make interim orders.3 These can be to the same effect as final orders, can operate for up to 2 months and do not require a declaration of unacceptable circumstances to be made first.
- The Panel does not seek to punish when deciding on a remedy. But the remedy may adversely affect a person, provided it is not unfairly prejudicial.4 In addition, a declaration, orders or other statement (eg, reasons) may expressly or impliedly involve a reprimand of a party or adviser.
Declaration of unacceptable circumstances
- The Panel may declare circumstances unacceptable in relation to the affairs of a company. This both conveys the Panel's view that standards have not been met and enables the Panel to make final orders.5
- Declarations are published in the Government Gazette.6
- A copy of a declaration (and of the Panel's reasons for making it) must be given to each person to whom the declaration relates.7
- The Panel usually informs the parties of its intention to make a declaration, inviting comments on technical and factual aspects of the draft document. The Panel may at that stage be prepared to consider a remedy for the unacceptable circumstances, without the need for a declaration and orders. The Panel encourages parties to resolve matters wherever possible and welcomes any offer by a party to remedy potential unacceptable circumstances. While parties are free to offer a remedy at any time, the Panel is more receptive to resolutions proposed by the parties if they are offered earlier in the process.8
- Interim orders are usually made to prevent unacceptable circumstances from happening, continuing or getting worse while proceedings are conducted. They may be made to preserve the status quo until proceedings are completed. They may also be made to ensure that the Panel's power to fashion the most appropriate remedy in the circumstances is not forestalled by intervening events.
- The Panel can make any order as an interim order that it can make as a final order.
- Relevant factors for making an interim order include:
- whether the risk that unacceptable circumstances will occur, continue or worsen in the absence of an order outweighs the adverse effects of the order on the person to whom it is directed and the market
- the strength of the evidence
- whether the circumstances can be adequately remedied by final relief alone and
- the availability of alternative measures, such as undertakings.
- In general, the Panel will not hold up a transaction by interim orders, unless mischief will occur that cannot, or cannot conveniently, be reversed by final orders.9
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Example: Unless the information deficiencies are significant, it will usually be preferable to allow a bidder's statement to be dispatched pending a final decision on the alleged deficiencies.
- The Panel may make any final order that meets the description in paragraph 2. This includes remedial orders,10 ancillary or consequential orders, and costs orders.
- The Panel considers that its power to make orders includes power to make an order:
- that a person do something contrary to a relevant provision in the Act (eg, Chapter 6). The Panel does not consider that the power extends to making an order that a person do something contrary to another law (eg, Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act). 11 As part of their submissions on proposed orders parties should refer to any such issues, in which case the Panel will consider how it might recast the order to avoid that issue
- that affects property interests 12 or existing legal rights and obligations.13
- Before making final orders the Panel must:
- have made a declaration of unacceptable circumstances
- give each party, each person to whom the proposed order would be directed and ASIC an opportunity to make submissions. If there are identified persons or groups who may be affected, the Panel may seek their comments even if they are not parties. This may be done by inviting them to become a party14 or by allowing them to make a submission without becoming a party (in this case the invitation may be by media release and not direct correspondence)15
- be satisfied that the order would not unfairly prejudice any person. This involves consideration of the prejudice that different persons or groups may suffer by making or not making the order16 and
- consider that the proposed order protects rights or ensures that the bid proceeds as it should have (see paragraph 2).
- In deciding what orders to make, the Panel considers how the order would promote the objectives set out in section 602 and whether the remedy is proportionate to the mischief.
- Orders may be time sensitive. An order that is appropriate at the commencement of a matter may be inappropriate days later because the market has moved or third persons have changed their positions.
- A copy of an order (and of the Panel's reasons for making it) must be given to:
- each party
- each person to whom the order is directed (if not a party)
- the company (if the order relates to its securities) and
- Orders are published in the Government Gazette.17 However, the order takes effect when made.
- In the event of non-compliance with an order, the Panel, ASIC, a party or a person to whom the order relates may apply to the Court for an order to secure compliance.18 The Court may make any orders it considers appropriate to secure compliance with the Panel's order.
Protecting rights or interests
- Final orders to protect rights might include (for example) cancelling contracts,19 freezing transfers, freezing rights attached to securities, forcing the disposal of securities20 and establishing rights to withdraw acceptances.21
Getting the bid back on track
- Final orders to get the bid back on track might include (for example) allowing more time or information for shareholders to assess the merits of the proposal22 or establishing rights to withdraw acceptances.
- Costs may be a relevant factor in deciding whether to make an interim order, conduct proceedings, consent to a review or accept an undertaking instead of making a declaration.
Power to order costs
- The Panel only has power to order costs of parties if it has made a declaration.23
It cannot order costs:
- to a successful respondent, even if it declines to conduct proceedings because they are frivolous or vexatious
- if it finds unacceptable circumstances, but makes no declaration because it accepts an undertaking to remedy the circumstances
- to the Panel or non-parties or
- in an application under s656A (review of ASIC's exemption or modification power).
- Costs may be directed to be borne by a party or another person.
- It may be appropriate to award costs to ASIC where it has participated as a party in an application under s657C.
- The Panel's approach to cost orders is guided by the following considerations:
- the Panel's primary role is to resolve disputes expeditiously and informally
- a declaration relates to circumstances, not conduct, and may involve no finding of fault
- costs orders are the exception not the rule, so may not follow to a 'successful' party and
- a party is entitled to make, or resist, an application once without exposure to a costs order, provided it presents a case of reasonable merit in a businesslike way.24
- Costs may be awarded against a party if it:
- presented a case that was not arguable or made unsubstantiated assertions25
- delayed or obstructed proceedings,26 abused the process27 or unreasonably refused to negotiate28
- sought an unmeritorious review29 or put material before a review Panel that it failed to put before the initial Panel
- wasted time on a particular issue or elongated proceedings30 (partial costs referable to the additional expenses may be appropriate in this case) or
- failed to comply with a direction under ASIC regulation 16(1) or Panel order31 (the costs of the other parties attributable to the failure may be ordered).
Undertakings to pay costs
- The Panel has power to accept a written undertaking from a person to pay such costs as determined by the Panel if an application fails.32
- An undertaking may be offered, for example:
- to persuade a Panel to conduct proceedings or grant an interim order where it has otherwise formed a preliminary view that it will not do so33 or
- to persuade a review Panel to conduct proceedings.
- Such an undertaking would be to pay the costs of the other parties in the event that the application (review) fails. In the case of a review, it might extend to the costs of other parties on the initial application and on review.
Amount of costs
- The scale is usually the Federal Court scale of fees on a party-party basis, but it may be higher, including full indemnity costs.
- In general, costs orders or costs undertakings are limited to the costs actually, necessarily, properly and reasonably incurred in the course of the proceedings.34 They may include costs of legal and other advisers and of directors, and extend to the costs incurred in recovering costs.
Procedural issues regarding costs orders
- The Panel will generally include a procedure for assessing and paying costs when making a costs order. Undertakings should also address this.
- An example of costs order terms is Attachment A.
- The confidentiality undertaking in relation to Panel proceedings applies to the whole of the proceedings. It therefore applies to the production of documents to an independent cost consultant for assessment.
- Matters before the Panel may be resolved by undertakings under section 201A of the ASIC Act 2001 (Cth).
- An agreed resolution, such as by undertakings, can be more flexible and quicker than orders. It may also obviate the need for the Panel to make a declaration. A party may offer an undertaking to resolve the matter at any point in the Panel's process. However, the timing of the offer is a relevant factor that the Panel considers when exercising its discretion whether to accept an undertaking in lieu of a declaration or orders.35
- The Panel considers that the public interest is generally served by accepting an undertaking that addresses unacceptable circumstances to the Panel's satisfaction.36 The Panel may not then need to make a declaration or orders, although it may still make a declaration if it wants to send the market a signal.37
- An undertaking should be as simple and direct as possible.
- If not addressed, the following provisions will be implied into an undertaking:
- the person offering it will do all that is necessary to secure performance of it and to enable persons whose rights and interests are affected by the circumstances to have the benefit of it38 and
- it will be fulfilled as soon as practicable.
- In the event of non-compliance with an undertaking, the Panel may apply to the Court for an order directing the person to comply.39 The Court can make any order including that a person comply with the undertaking or pay compensation.
- The Panel's functions extend beyond resolving disputes. This is explicit from the rule-making power under section 658C, which gives the Panel power to establish standards. The Panel also publishes guidance, media announcements and reasons.
- If the Panel decides not to conduct proceedings,40 or makes a declaration41 or orders,42 it must give the parties a statement of reasons for its decision, although these may not address all the submissions made. The Panel may also give reasons when it accepts an undertaking or takes no action. The President may give reasons when consenting or declining to consent to a review of a Panel decision.43
- The Panel will normally publish its reasons.44 It generally gives parties a confidential draft of its reasons and an opportunity to make submissions on issues of fact or unfair prejudice. Reasons may include reflections on the actions of a person or a reprimand of a person. The person should not be unaware of the risk of an adverse finding.45 The Panel has wide immunities for comments it might make,46 but of course must be fair, proportionate and base its comments on credible information.
- In most cases advisers are more familiar than their clients with the technical, procedural, strategic and tactical aspects of takeovers. The Panel has no formal powers to deal with advisers, but expects advisers to take all reasonable steps to ensure their clients comply with the law, ASIC policies, stock market rules and Panel policies (and, if there is an application, with the Panel's Rules for Proceedings).47
- Advisers may be referred to (and even criticised) in the reasons for decision.
- The Panel may take other actions as well. These include:
- privately admonishing a person
- reporting its findings to ASIC,48 or a person's 'employer', or a person's professional organisation or
- including its findings in a media release.
|GN 4||GN 9|
First Issue 28 February 2001
First Issue 19 August 2002
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Attachment A: Example of costs order terms
A costs order may include the following terms:
- Within 10 business days of the date of the order, each payee (ie, a party in whose favour the costs order is made) must provide the payer (ie, the party against whom the costs order was made) with a bill of their costs actually, necessarily, properly and reasonably incurred in the course of the proceedings.
- The bill must be itemised in sufficient detail for the payer to make an assessment of whether it will agree to pay it.
- Within 5 business days of receipt of the bill, the payer must tell the Panel and the payee whether it will pay the bill.
- If the payer does not object, it must pay the costs within 10 business days of receipt of the bill.
- If the payer objects:
- the Panel will appoint an independent cost consultant to assess the costs and
- if required by the Panel, the payee must provide a bill of costs in taxable form and make its file available to the cost consultant.
- Within 10 business days of the assessment:
- the assessed costs must be paid by the payer and
- the consultant's costs must be paid:
- by the payee, if the cost consultant reduced the costs by 10% or more or
- otherwise, by payer.
- The Panel may, on application, make a further order for payment of interest if a person fails to meet the deadlines in these costs orders.
- 1Section 657A of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). All references are to the Corporations Act unless otherwise indicated
- 2Section 657D(2)
- 3Section 657E
- 4This may be described as the fairest order having regard to the various interests to be reconciled and the discretion to be exercised. Cases include Gjergja v Cooper  VR 163; ASIC v Yandal Gold Pty Ltd (1999) 32 ACSR 317 at -; Flinders Diamonds Ltd v Tiger International Resources Ltd  SASC 119 at -. As to balancing the rights of buyers and sellers on market, examples include NCSC v Monarch Petroleum NL  VR 733, 8 ACLR 785, 2 ACLC 256 and ASC v Mt Burgess Gold Mining Co NL (1994) 62 FCR 389, 15 ACSR 714, 13 ACLC 271
- 5The Panel may make a declaration of unacceptable circumstances but no orders: Examples - BreakFree Limited 04  ATP 39; BreakFree Limited 04(R)  ATP 42; Summit Resources Limited  ATP 9; in Gondwana Resources Limited  ATP 9, the Panel accepted undertakings in lieu of orders. See also GN 1
- 6Section 657A(5)
- 7Section 657A(6)
- 8See paragraph 39 below
- 9See eg, Village Roadshow Limited  ATP 4 at ; Gondwana Resources Limited 02  ATP 15 at  and ; Ambassador Oil and Gas Limited 02  ATP 17 at 
- 10Defined in section 9
- 11See Attorney-General (Cth) v Alinta  HCA 2 esp at  per Gummow J and  per Hayne J; ASC v Bank Leumi Le-Israel (Switzerland) & Ors (1996) 14 ACLC 1576 at 1588-9. There may be limited other areas with a sufficient nexus to Chapter 6 that an order under section 657D also overrides that law. The party asserting this in a particular case would need to convince the Panel of it
- 12AMP Shopping Centre Trust 02 ATP 24 at -
- 13Pinnacle VRB Limited 11  ATP 23
- 14This was done in AMP Shopping Centre Trust 01 and 02. Not accepting an invitation until late in the proceedings may have costs implications: AMP Shopping Centre Trust 01  ATP 21 at 
- 15ASIC Regulations 23 and 24 and see BreakFree 04(R)  ATP 42 at 
- 16See footnote 4
- 17Section 657D(4)
- 18Section 657G
- 19Allegiance Mining NL  ATP 3; Mount Gibson Iron Limited  ATP 4; Touch Holdings Limited  ATP 3; STI-Global Limited  ATP 12
- 20Midwest Corporation Limited 02  ATP 15; DataDot Technology Limited  ATP 13; Bowen Energy Limited 02R  ATP 19; Viento Group Limited  ATP 1; CMI Limited  ATP 4; CMI Limited 01R  ATP 5; Real Estate Capital Partners USA Property Trust  ATP 6; Avalon Minerals Limited  ATP 11; Gondwana Resources Limited 02  ATP 15
- 21See Skywest Limited 03R  ATP 20; Consolidated Minerals Limited 03  ATP 25; Consolidated Minerals Limited 03R  ATP 28; Firestone Energy Limited  ATP 4; Avalon Minerals Limited  ATP 11; Ambassador Oil and Gas Limited 01  ATP 14. In Goodman Fielder Limited  ATP 1 an undertaking (with ASIC relief) was accepted for offering of withdrawal rights. Similarly in Mildura Co-operative Fruit Company Limited  ATP 5
- 22Ranger Minerals Limited  ATP 11; Skywest Limited 04  ATP 26; for an example of an order having the same effect see Firestone Energy Limited  ATP 4
- 23 Sections 657D(1) and 675D(2)(d). A costs order is a type of final order. The Panel has made cost orders, for example, in Minemakers Limited  ATP 8, Austock Group Limited  ATP 12, IFS Construction Services Limited  ATP 15 and Northern Iron Limited  ATP 11
- 24For an example of a case presented without reasonable merit see Northern Iron Limited  ATP 11 at 
- 25Includes reckless or deliberate misquoting of source documents
- 26Infratil Australia 02  ATP 1 at 
- 27Including taking advantage of the financial weakness of another party. See also Pinnacle VRB Limited 11  ATP 23
- 28Including refusing a reasonable compromise during negotiations
- 29Taipan Resources NL 11  ATP 16 at -
- 30For example by providing multiple drafts of inadequate additional disclosure, Minemakers Limited  ATP 8 at -
- 31IFS Construction Services Limited  ATP 15 at 
- 32Section 201A of the ASIC Act
- 33Taipan Resources NL 11  ATP 16 at -
- 34Skywest Limited 04  ATP 26 at . In Realestate.com.au Limited  ATP 1 the Panel suggested that cost claims needed to set out and justify the amount claimed
- 35For example, the Panel considered the approaching deadline to make a declaration under s657B, as well as the time required to address satisfactorily the Panel's disclosure concerns, as relevant factors in declining to accept an undertaking in lieu of a declaration in Brisbane Markets Limited  ATP 3 at -. See also paragraph 9 above
- 36Similar to the maxim "It concerns the State that lawsuits be not protracted"
- 37Summit Resources Limited  ATP 9; Mildura Co-operative Fruit Company Limited  ATP 5 at 
- 38Secured Income Real Estate (Australia) Ltd v St Martins Investments Pty Ltd (1979) 26 ALR 567
- 39Section 201A(3) of the ASIC Act
- 40ASIC regulation 21(2)(c)
- 41Section 657A(6)
- 42Section 657D(4)
- 43Section 657EA(2). The reasons for consent may be incorporated into the sitting Panel's reasons. The President has published separate reasons for declining to consent in Careers Australia Group Limited 03R  ATP 2 and Austral Coal Limited 03R  ATP 15
- 44Including the reasons of any member dissenting from the majority, see Pasminco Limited (Administrators Appointed)  ATP 6 and Touch Holdings Limited  ATP 3. Findings of fact in an order or reasons for an order are prima facie evidence of the fact: s658B
- 45Annetts v McCann (1990) 170 CLR 596
- 46Section 197 of the ASIC Act
- 47Note that a party's undertaking concerning confidentiality and media canvassing under section 201A of the ASIC Act is given on behalf of its advisers as well. The Panel considers that it is accordingly an obligation of the advisers not to act in a way that would lead to a breach of its client's undertaking
- 48ASIC regulation 18