The Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (commonly referred to as the "CCAA" or the "CC, double A") is a Federal Act that allows financially troubled corporations the opportunity to restructure their affairs. By allowing the company to restructure its financial affairs, through a formal Plan of Arrangement, the CCAA presents an opportunity for the company to avoid bankruptcy and allows the creditors to receive some form of payment for amounts owing to them by the company.
The CCAA is restricted to larger corporations, as a corporation must have amounts owing to creditors in excess of $5 million to be eligible to use the Act. Corporations that do not reach this $5 million threshold can utilize the Division I Proposal under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. The CCAA also allows a company, if it so chooses, to address its shareholders in addition to its creditors. Typically, when the shareholders of the company are impacted by the Plan of Arrangement, they are often given the opportunity to vote on the Plan.
The process begins in the Court system when the company applies to the Court for protection under the CCAA. The Court will issue an Order giving the company 30 days of protection (often referred to as the "Stay") from its creditors to allow for the preparation of the Plan of Arrangement. The Court can extend the Stay against the creditors upon further application to the Court by the company. Typically, the Court will continue the protection beyond the initial 30-day period if the company can demonstrate that it is likely that it will file a Plan of Arrangement and an extension of the Stay is not prejudicial to the creditors, as a whole. There is no time limit on how long the Stay can be extended. During the Stay period, the company will often continue operating, although it may commence restructuring activities at any time.
A Monitor is an independent third party who is appointed by the Court to monitor the company's ongoing operations and assist with the filing and voting on the Plan of Arrangement. The Monitor's duties include monitoring the business, reporting to the Court on any major events that might impact the viability of the company, assisting the company in the preparation of the Plan of Arrangement, notifying the creditors (and shareholders) of any meetings and tabulating the votes at these meetings. The Monitor prepares a report on the Plan of Arrangement that is usually included in the mailing of the Plan.
The Plan of Arrangement is the proposal that the company is presenting to its creditors on how it intends to deal with debt it owes at the time of the initial filing with the Court. There are no restrictions on what the Plan can entail. It is not uncommon to see offers to pay a percentage on the dollar of debt, either as a lump sum or over a period of time. Plans can include an offer of shares of the company in exchange for the debt outstanding or a combination of cash and shares. The debtor can identify a particular creditor or group of creditors as "unaffected." Unaffected creditors are included in the Plan and are not to be paid in the normal course. One of the benefits of the CCAA is that it allows for this flexibility when trying to put together a Plan.
In order to be able to vote on the Plan and receive any distribution under it, a creditor must file a Proof of Claim with the Monitor. The Proof of Claim sets out what is owed to the creditor and is reviewed by the Monitor and the company. Any discrepancies between the creditor's Proof of Claim and the company's records are investigated by the company. The Plan will outline the procedures for dealing with disputed claims.
Ultimately, the company files its Plan of Arrangement and forwards it to the creditors/shareholders. A meeting of the creditors (and shareholders, if applicable) is called to vote on the Plan. For the Plan to be binding on each class of creditors, a majority of the proven creditors in that class, by number, together with 2/3 of the proven creditors in that class, by dollar value, must approve of the Plan presented to them. If a class of creditors approves the Plan, it is binding on all creditors within the class, subject to the Court's approval of the Plan. If all of the classes of creditors (and shareholders, if applicable) approve the Plan, the Court must then approve the Plan as a final step. Upon Court approval, the company continues forward as outlined under the Plan until it has satisfied the requirements under the Plan.
If a class of creditors or the Court does not approve the Plan, the company does not automatically go into bankruptcy, but the Stay is lifted. However, once the Stay has been lifted, the pressures that caused the company to initially file for CCAA protection from its creditors will likely return and, accordingly, it is quite likely that the company will be placed into receivership or bankruptcy.