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329
BANKRUPTCY

yet determined. Creditors who fail to prove before the declaration of a dividend are entitled to receive their dividends on proving before any subsequent dividend is declared, but cannot disturb the distribution of any dividend already declared. Before distributing a final dividend notice is sent to every creditor whose claim has been notified to the trustee, but not finally established, with an intimation that unless so established within a specified period he will be excluded from participation in the estate. In the case of a bankrupt firm the joint creditors are not entitled to receive a dividend out of the separate property of the bankrupts until all the separate creditors are paid in full.

Trustee's Administration.

While the interim preservation and management of the estate is conducted by or under the direct supervision of officers appointed by and responsible to the Board of Trade, the ultimate realization and distribution of the assets devolve upon the trustee appointed by the creditors. But besides acting as receiver prior to the first meeting of creditors, the official receiver also becomes trustee by operation of law on the making of an order of adjudication. He vacates the office when a trustee is appointed by the creditors, and certified by the Board of Trade, but again becomes trustee on the creditors' trustee being released, dying, resigning or being removed from office. As the bankrupt's property vests in the trustee for the time being, and passes from trustee to trustee by operation of law, and without any formal act of conveyance, the continuity of the office is thus secured.

Appointment of Trustee.—A trustee may be appointed by a majority in value of the creditors voting, at the first or any subsequent meeting, or the appointment may be left to the committee of inspection. In either case the appointment is subject to confirmation by the Board of Trade, who may object on the ground that the creditors have not acted in good faith in the interests of the general body, or that the person appointed is not fit to act, or occupies such a position in relation to the debtor, to any creditor, or to the estate, as makes it difficult for him to act with impartiality, or that in any previous case he has been removed from office for misconduct or for failure without good cause to render his accounts for audit. An appeal from such objection to the High Court lies at the instance of a majority in value of the creditors, but in the absence of an appeal it is fatal to the appointment. Before being confirmed, the trustee-elect must also furnish security to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade, and such security must be kept up to the amount originally fixed, or to such lesser amount as that department may require throughout the tenure of the trusteeship, failing which the trustee is liable to be removed from office. Where the creditors fail to appoint a trustee, the Board of Trade may do so, but such appointment may at any time be superseded by the creditors.

Removal.—The trustee may be removed by the creditors at a meeting summoned for the purpose without reason assigned, or by the Board of Trade for misconduct, or for incapacity or failure to perform his duties, or on either of the other personal grounds of objection to which the appointment is open. But the removal is in like manner subject to appeal at the instance of creditors. If a receiving order is made against a trustee he thereby vacates office. He may also, with the consent of a general meeting of creditors, resign, but his resignation does not operate as a release from his liability to account for his administration.

Powers and Duties.—The trustee is required to take immediate possession of the bankrupt's property, including deeds, books and accounts, and has the powers of a receiver in the High Court for the purpose of enforcing delivery. After payment of the costs of administration it is his duty to distribute the estate in dividends as speedily as possible. He may also, and with the sanction of the committee, or, where there is none, with that of the Board of Trade, carry on the business so far as is necessary to a beneficial winding-up, institute or defend legal proceedings, employ a solicitor to do any business previously sanctioned by the same authority, compromise debts and claims, raise money on mortgage, sell property on credit, or divide the estate where practicable among the creditors in its existing form. He may, without special sanction, but subject to any directions which may be given by the creditors in general meeting, or failing them by the committee, sell the property or any part of it for cash, including business goodwill and book debts, and either by public auction or private treaty, and generally exercise all the powers which the bankrupt might before adjudication have exercised in relation to the property, or which are by the Bankruptcy Act conferred on the trustee.

Where any part of the property is held subject to onerous obligations, such as the payment of rent, &c., the trustee may disclaim the same, subject in certain cases to the leave of the court, and the disclaimer operates to determine all interest in or liability in respect of the property on the part of the estate. The trustee is required to keep a record book (which is commenced by the official receiver), containing minutes of the proceedings in the bankruptcy, and a cash book in the prescribed form, in which all receipts and payments by him must be entered. All monies received must forthwith be paid into an account at the Bank of England, entitled the "Bankruptcy Estates Account," which is under the control of the Board of Trade, unless where in special circumstances the sanction of that department is obtained to the opening of a local banking account, but in no circumstances must estate monies be paid to the trustee's private account. When monies are required for the purpose of the estate, special cheques or money orders are issued by the Board of Trade on the application of the trustee.

Control over Trustee.—In his administration of the estate the trustee is subject to control by the committee of inspection, the creditors, the court and the Board of Trade. The committee is appointed by the creditors, and must consist of not more than five nor less than three creditors or authorized representatives of creditors. It acts by a majority present at a meeting, and should be convened once a month unless it otherwise directs. If no committee is appointed, the Board of Trade may give any direction or permission which might have been given by a committee. Directions given by the committee, if not inconsistent with the provisions of the act, are binding on the trustee, unless contrary to or overruled by those of the creditors or of the court. The official receiver or trustee may summon a meeting of the creditors at any time to ascertain their wishes, and must do so when so required by one-sixth in value of the creditors or when directed by the court. The Board of Trade may also direct the official receiver to summon a meeting for the purpose of reviewing any act done by the trustee or any resolution of the committee of inspection. Further, the trustee may apply to the court for directions in any particular matter, and the court may also, on the application of any person aggrieved reverse or modify any act of the trustee, or make such order as it deems just. The directions of the court override those of the creditors. The Board of Trade is required to take general cognizance of the conduct of trustees, to inquire into any complaints by creditors, and in the event of any trustee not faithfully performing his duties, to take such action, including the power of removal, as may be expedient. It may also direct a local investigation of the trustee's books and accounts, and may require him to answer any inquiries, or may apply to the court to examine him on oath. If any loss has arisen to the estate from any misfeasance, neglect or omission of the trustee, it may require him to make it good. The orders of the Board of Trade under the powers conferred by the act may be enforced by the court by committal of the trustee or otherwise.

Audit of Accounts.—The trustee's accounts must be audited by the committee of inspection not less than once in every three months; and once in every six months, as well as at the close of the administration, the record and cash books must also be submitted with the vouchers, and the committee's certificate of audit to the Board of Trade for final audit. If it appears that the trustee has retained more than £50 in hand for more than ten days without a satisfactory explanation, he may be removed from office, surcharged with interest at the rate of 20% per annum and lose all claim to remuneration.

Remuneration.—The trustee's remuneration is fixed by the creditors or by the committee if so authorized by them. It must be in the nature of a percentage on the amount of the realization and on the dividends. If one-fourth of the creditors in number or value dissent from the resolution, or if the bankrupt satisfies the Board of Trade that the remuneration is excessive, the Board may review the same and fix the remuneration. A trustee may not receive any remuneration for services rendered in any other capacity, e.g. as solicitor, auctioneer, &c., beyond that voted to him as trustee; nor may he share his remuneration with the bankrupt, the solicitor or other person employed about the bankruptcy; or receive from any person any gift, or other pecuniary or personal benefit in connexion therewith.

Costs.—A trustee receiving remuneration is not allowed the costs of any other person in respect of duties which ought to be performed by himself. All bills of solicitors and other agents employed must be taxed before payment, as being in accordance with the prescribed scales of costs; and the taxing master must satisfy himself that the employment has been properly authorized before the work was done. All bills of costs must be delivered to the trustee within seven days of the request for the same, otherwise the estate may be distributed without regard to such costs.

Release.—When the property, so far as it is capable of realization, has been realized and distributed, the trustee must apply to the Board of Trade for his release, forwarding to each creditor a notice of his having done so, together with a copy of his final accounts, and the Board of Trade, after preparing and considering a report on the same, and the objections of any person interested, may, subject to appeal to the High Court, grant or withhold the release. If a release is withheld, the court may, on the application of any person interested, make such order against the trustee as it thinks just. The release when granted operates as a removal from office, and thereupon the official receiver again becomes trustee, and is thus in a position, even after the nominal close of the bankruptcy, to deal with any circumstances which may arise, or which have not been foreseen and provided for.

Small Bankruptcies.

When the official receiver reports, or the court is otherwise satisfied that the debtor's property is not likely to realize more than £300, the court may make an order for the summary administration of the estate, in which case, if the debtor is adjudged bankrupt, the official receiver in the ordinary course becomes and remains trustee, and certain other modifications are effected with the view of simplifying