Unsecured Creditor


  • What is a Creditor? 
  • What is an Unsecured Creditor? 
  • Common Scenarios Leading to Unsecured Debts 
  • Position in the Hierarchy of Claims 
  • Rights of Unsecured Creditors 
  • Responsibilities of Unsecured Creditors 
  • Challenges Faced By Unsecured Creditors 

What is a Creditor? 

A creditor is an individual or entity to whom a company owes money. This financial obligation can arise under various circumstances, such as providing the company with goods or services, lending money directly to the company, or prepaying for goods or services that have not been delivered.  

Employees can also be considered creditors if they are owed wages or other benefits that have not been paid. Creditors are categorised based on the security of their claim against the company’s assets: secured or unsecured. 

What is an Unsecured Creditor? 

An unsecured creditor holds a type of claim against a company’s assets without any specific collateral backing their claim. In the event that a company faces liquidation, these creditors stand in line to recover the money they’re owed, but only after those with secured claims have been compensated.  

Examples include: 

  • Suppliers who have provided goods or services to a company without receiving payment. 
  • Customers who have paid in advance for products or services they have not yet received. 
  • Employees owed wages, benefits, or expenses. 

Employees hold a distinct position among unsecured creditors in the context of a company’s liquidation. This special status ensures that any unpaid entitlements owed to employees, such as wages, are prioritised and settled ahead of other unsecured claims.  

Common Scenarios Leading to Unsecured Debts 

Unsecured debts can arise in various situations, such as: 

  • When a company operates on credit terms, purchasing goods or services with the promise of future payment. 
  • Through loan agreements where no specific collateral is pledged against the borrowed funds. 
  • When customers make advance payments for goods or services that are later not delivered due to the company’s financial failure. 
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Position in the Hierarchy of Claims 

In the event of a company’s liquidation, the order in which creditors are paid is strictly regulated. Unsecured creditors are positioned towards the bottom of this hierarchy. The sequence typically follows: 

  • Secured creditors, who have claims against specific assets. 
  • Priority unsecured creditors, a subgroup that includes certain employee entitlements. 
  • Ordinary unsecured creditors, including most other types of unsecured debts. 

After the liquidation of assets and the payment to secured and priority unsecured creditors, only then will ordinary unsecured creditors receive a distribution. This often results in them recovering only a fraction of the owed amount, if anything, due to the limited funds remaining. 

Rights of Unsecured Creditors 

Unsecured creditors, despite their lower rank in the repayment hierarchy during a companys liquidation, hold several important rights designed to protect their interests and ensure fair treatment. This section delves into these rights in detail. 

Voting at Creditors' Meetings

Unsecured creditors have the right to participate in meetings of creditors. These meetings can decide on key aspects of the liquidation process, including the appointment or replacement of a liquidator. Voting rights allow unsecured creditors to influence decisions that can affect the outcome of the liquidation and the potential recovery of their debts. 

Approval of the Liquidator's Fees

Another significant right is the approval of the liquidators fees. Unsecured creditors can vote on the remuneration of the liquidator, ensuring that it is fair and does not unduly diminish the pool of assets available for distribution. This process typically occurs at a creditors meeting and requires a majority vote. 

Receipt of Written Reports from the Liquidator

Unsecured creditors are entitled to receive periodic written reports from the liquidator. These reports provide updates on the progress of the liquidation, including asset disposals, recoveries made, expenses incurred, and estimates of potential dividends. These reports ensure transparency and keep creditors informed. 

Access to Information and Participation in the Liquidation Process

Throughout the liquidation process, unsecured creditors have the right to access detailed information about the companys affairs and the progress of the liquidation. They can ask questions and seek clarifications from the liquidator, ensuring they are fully aware of the proceedings and how it may affect their chances of recovering the debt owed. 

Entitlement to Dividends Post Priority Creditors

Unsecured creditors stand in line to receive a portion of any funds that are left after the liquidation of a debtors assets. This distribution occurs only after the expenses of the bankruptcy or liquidation process and any priority payments, notably to secured creditors, have been completed. 

Proportional Payment System

If the total assets available after paying secured creditors and liquidation costs do not cover the full amount owed to unsecured creditors, a dividend system is employed. This means unsecured creditors receive a proportional share of whatever funds are left, based on the ratio of the total debt to the available assets.  

For instance, if $50,000 in assets remains to be distributed among unsecured creditors who are collectively owed $100,000, a dividend of 50 cents on the dollar would be issued, equating to a 50% repayment of the original debt. 

Filing Complaints

If unsecured creditors have concerns about how the liquidation is being handled, especially regarding the execution of duties by the liquidator, they have the right to lodge complaints with regulatory bodies such as the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) or seek redress in court. 

These rights are integral to ensuring that unsecured creditors are treated fairly during the liquidation process, providing a structured framework within which they can assert their claims and participate actively in the proceedings. 


Responsibilities of Unsecured Creditors 

While unsecured creditors have rights during the liquidation process, they also bear responsibilities that are crucial for the orderly progression of liquidation. These responsibilities ensure that the process is fair and transparent for all parties involved. 

Active Participation in the Liquidation Process

Unsecured creditors are encouraged to take an active role in the liquidation process. This involves attending creditors meetings, submitting votes on crucial decisions such as the appointment of a liquidator, and engaging with the process of asset distribution. Active participation helps creditors stay informed about the progress of the liquidation and any decisions that may affect their chances of recovering their debts. 

Reporting Knowledge of the Company’s Affairs

If unsecured creditors possess insider knowledge about the company’s affairs that could influence the liquidation process, they are responsible for reporting this information to the liquidator. This may include details about undisclosed assets, fraudulent activities, or any other information that could affect the outcome of the liquidation.  

Sharing this knowledge helps ensure that all assets are accounted for and that the distribution process is as equitable as possible. 

Legal Obligations When Filing Claims and Participating in Meetings

Unsecured creditors must adhere to specific legal obligations when filing claims and participating in creditors’ meetings. This includes: 

  • Filing a Proper Proof of Debt: Unsecured creditors are required to submit a Proof of Debt form to the liquidator. This document is crucial as it provides the liquidator with detailed information about the debt, including how and when it was incurred, and the total amount owed. It must be supported by relevant documentation, such as invoices, and properly signed to validate the claim. 
  • Adhering to Deadlines: Creditors must submit their claims and any other required documents within the stipulated deadlines. Failure to meet these deadlines could result in the exclusion of their claim from the liquidation process. 
  • Participating Ethically in Meetings: During creditors’ meetings, unsecured creditors are expected to act ethically and in good faith. This includes voting on matters such as the liquidator’s fees or the appointment of a liquidator in a manner that reflects the collective best interests of all creditors. 

Challenges Faced By Unsecured Creditors 

Unsecured creditors often face numerous challenges during the liquidation process of a company. Their position in the hierarchy of debt repayment exposes them to several risks and uncertainties. 

Common challenges and pitfalls include: 

  • Limited Recovery: Unsecured creditors typically recover a small fraction of what is owed to them, as they are paid after secured creditors and certain priority claims, such as employee entitlements. 
  • Lack of Security: Unlike secured creditors, unsecured creditors do not have claims on specific assets, which diminishes their leverage in the liquidation process. 
  • Lengthy Process: The liquidation process can be lengthy and complex, requiring significant time and resources, with no guaranteed outcome for unsecured creditors. 
  • Inaccessible Information: Unsecured creditors may not have access to full information about the debtor’s assets and liabilities, making it challenging to assess their potential recovery. 

This article is general information only and does not provide advice to address your personal circumstances. To make an informed decision you should contact an appropriately qualified professional.