A no liability company is a public company that is limited by shares.1 As per s.112(2) of the Corporations Act, 2001, a company is eligible to be registered as a no liability company only if it fulfills the following essentials:
A body corporate that has not yet been registered as a company also needs to fulfill the aforementioned criteria in order to register itself as a no liability company.3 The rules pertaining to its registration are enshrined mainly under s. 117-123, 136(1), 148, 152, 156, 162, 254B, 601BA. Following are the steps that a company must undertake in order to register itself as a no liability company:
The doctrine of capital maintenance propounds that a company should not repay its shareholders from its undistributed profits, as their position falls below that of the creditors. The doctrine is based on the logic that creditors only provide credit to the company for ordinary commercial transactions, and thus, their position must supersede that of the shareholders. This doctrine is intended for the protection of creditors, proper application of share capital, prevention of fraud and selective distribution of dividends etc.
The doctrine was developed by means of precedents, wherein the English cases of Flitcrofts case and Trevor v Whitworth are the most crucial. While in Flitcrofts, it was considered to be the creditors’ right to “see that the capital is not dissipated unlawfully” and the members were not returned the capital “surreptitiously”, in the latter case, the buyback of shares by the company was held to be ultra vires. Further, in Aveling Barford Ltd. V. Perion Ltd. , shareholders were held to have the right upon the capital only after the creditors of the company were paid. The principles stated in these cases were subsequently included in the statutory provisions of various countries, including Australia, UK, US, New Zealand, Hong Kong, etc.
Thus, subject to certain exceptions, the application of the doctrine provides:
As noble as its intent is, the doctrine is losing its relevance in the contemporary corporate world and has been a subject of a much generated debate. Rules pertaining to capital maintenance have been reformed, and a variety of tests (such as solvency, fairness and disclosure) are applied to ascertain the capital decisions. United States and New Zealand have scraped off the doctrine, and apply a general solvency test wherein the shareholders are entitled to distribution during the solvency of the company, and creditors do not get a first preference. In India, companies are permitted to reduce their share capital after passing a resolution and by obtaining a court order. In the UK itself, shares were permitted to be classified as ‘redeemable’ or capable of being bought back by the company in the year 1980.
These progressive reforms have now been adopted by Australia. The Corporations Act requires the directors of the company to fulfill the solvency, fairness and disclosure tests before distributing dividends to shareholders, reducing the share capital, buying its own shares, or providing financial assistance to persons acquiring its shares during the solvency of the company. The company needs to mandatorily be solvent to take such decisions, or else it will attract penalty under s588G pertaining to insolvent trading wherein the directors will be held personally liable.
The doctrine of capital maintenance had been struck down by Corporation Act. The doctrine has been argued to be of ‘no use’ to the creditors, is outdated and meritless, as the exceptions that it bears supersede it. Further, the logic provided is fallible as, in practice, creditors do not rely on the share capital to recover their debts and usually enter into contractual agreements with the company to protect their own rights. Thus, the doctrine is irrelevant in the Australian context.