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Business Law Today

February 2024

Restructuring in the Cayman Islands: The New Regime

Alex Davies, Spencer Vickers, and Jordan McErlean


  • On August 31, 2022, significant amendments to the Cayman Islands Companies Act introduced the Restructuring Officer regime (the “RO Regime”), akin to Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US and Canada’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.
  • The RO Regime enables distressed companies to appoint restructuring officers without a winding-up petition, allowing bespoke and flexible restructuring efforts with a statutory moratorium to protect the company’s value.
  • The extraterritorial moratorium commences upon filing the petition with the court and requires adequate notice to stakeholders, ensuring a clear distinction between winding-up and alternate restructuring paths.
  • The first decisions related to the RO Regime, such as Re Oriente Group Limited, Re Aubit International, and Re Holt Fund SPC, shed light on how it is working in practice.
Restructuring in the Cayman Islands: The New Regime

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On August 31, 2022, significant amendments to Part V of the Cayman Islands Companies Act (“Act”) took effect to revamp the Cayman Islands restructuring regime. These amendments introduced the new role of a court-appointed “Restructuring Officer” and a dedicated “Restructuring Petition.” The Cayman Islands restructuring officer regime (“RO Regime”) shares certain features with the Chapter 11 bankruptcy procedure in the US and Canada’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.

Now that the RO Regime is approaching its two-year anniversary, we take the opportunity to provide a brief overview of the RO Regime and an update on how it is working in practice based on the first decisions such as Re Oriente Group Limited, Re Aubit International, and Re Holt Fund SPC.

The RO Regime has been developed over a number of years with extensive consultation between the Cayman Islands government, the local judiciary, and a number of financial services industry participants (including attorneys and insolvency practitioners). The introduction of the RO Regime has been welcomed by the financial services industry as a useful tool for companies in distress (and their stakeholders) to assist with the protection of a distressed company’s value and a way to provide “breathing space” while a restructuring is carried out.

One benefit of the RO Regime is that there is now a clear distinction between winding-up processes and rescue or recovery paths. Before enactment of the RO Regime, a winding-up petition was required to be presented prior to any application to appoint officeholders (including for the purpose of promoting a restructuring). The filing of a winding-up petition was often the precise act that a distressed company (and/or its stakeholders) was trying to avoid, particularly where such a filing might trigger a corresponding public announcement on a stock exchange or an event of default on the company’s debts. Given the global reach of many Cayman Islands companies, it is understandable that stakeholders in other jurisdictions would often have an instinctive negative reaction to terms such as “winding-up petition” and “liquidator.”

It is now possible to initiate restructuring efforts using a bespoke method with the benefit of a statutory moratorium effective from the time of filing a restructuring petition that is similar to the US Chapter 11 stay (while avoiding the negative connotations associated with the winding-up petition process).

Key features

  • A company may seek the appointment of restructuring officers on the grounds that (i) the company is or is likely to become unable to pay its debts; and (ii) intends to present a compromise or arrangement to its creditors.
  • The petition seeking the appointment of a restructuring officer may be presented by the directors of a company: (i) without a shareholder resolution and/or an express power to present a petition in its articles of association; and (ii) without the need to present a winding-up petition. This addresses longstanding issues related to the rule in Re Emmadart Ltd [1979], which prevented directors of Cayman Islands companies from presenting a petition to wind up a company (in order to restructure or otherwise) unless expressly authorized by the articles of association.
  • The moratorium will arise on presenting the petition seeking the appointment of restructuring officers, rather than from the date of the appointment of officeholders, and it will have extraterritorial effect as a matter of Cayman Islands law. This was aimed at tackling the uncertainty in the interim period where a winding-up petition had been filed with a view to restructuring, which might have triggered events of default, but a stay on claims only occurred after officeholders were appointed.
  • The default position is that this will be an inter partes process with adequate notice to be given to all stakeholders.
  • The powers of restructuring officers are flexible. The extent to which the directors will continue to manage the affairs of the relevant company will be defined by the order and will depend on the facts of the particular case.
  • During the restructuring proceedings, the company will be able to seek sanction of a scheme of arrangement, a parallel process in a foreign jurisdiction, or a consensual compromise.
  • Secured creditors with security over the whole or part of the assets of the company will still be entitled to enforce their security without the leave of the court and without reference to the restructuring officers. Unsecured creditors and other stakeholders must seek leave to initiate proceedings and circumvent the stay.

Re Oriente Group Limited, December 8, 2022 (FSD 231 of 2022) (IKJ)

Justice Kawaley handed down the first written judgment on the RO Regime. Re Oriente Group Limited provided a number of important clarifications on the law, including the following:

  • Given that the RO Regime expanded the scope of the stay under the previous regime (discussed above), the Court commented that the statutory stay on proceedings under the RO Regime “might be said to turbo charge the degree of protection filing a restructuring petition affords to the petitioning company.” Accordingly, in Re Oriente, the Court found that following the presentation of a winding-up petition against a company, there is no prohibition on a company presenting a restructuring petition and such filing triggering the automatic stay under the RO Regime.
  • The Court emphasized that the “jurisdiction to appoint restructuring officers is a broad discretionary jurisdiction” to be exercised where the Grand Court is satisfied that, among other things:
    • The statutory precondition of insolvency or likely insolvency of the company is met by credible evidence from the company or some other independent source;
    • the statutory precondition of an intention to present a restructuring proposal to creditors or any class thereof is met by credible evidence of a “rational proposal with reasonable prospects of success”; and
    • the proposal has or will potentially attract the support of a majority of creditors as a “more favourable commercial alternative to a winding up of the company.”
  • The Court indicated that the previous body of case law on restructuring under the former rescue regime would continue to be applicable to the new RO Regime.

Re Aubit International, October 4, 2023 (FSD 240 of 2023) (DDJ)

In the second notable decision on the RO Regime, Justice Doyle reviewed the established jurisprudence and set out a nonexhaustive list of twenty-five factors to be considered in future restructuring applications under the RO Regime, such as the importance of demonstrating that the company was insolvent or likely to be insolvent, and whether a proposed restructuring will have a real prospect of being beneficial to creditors as a whole. Justice Doyle also emphasized that the Court will be wary to avoid abuse of the restructuring officer regime by companies with no intention of restructuring and permitting hopelessly insolvent companies to continue trading.

In this case, Justice Doyle found that the petitioning company did not meet the statutory requirements to appoint restructuring officers, as although it was unable to pay its debts (i.e., insolvent), it failed to meet the second requirement because there was “extremely limited information concerning the proposed ‘restructuring plan.’”

Justice Doyle indicated that although the Court did not go so far as to require that the petitioning company presently had a restructuring plan or that one would be implemented in short order, it was still incumbent on the Court to scrutinize whether there was, on the evidence before it, a genuine and realistic intention to present a credible restructuring plan.

Re Holt Fund SPC, January 26, 2024 (FSD 0309 OF 2023) (IKJ)

In a recent development, Justice Kawaley ordered the first appointment of restructuring officers over one or more portfolios of a segregated portfolio company (“SPC”). SPCs are different from typical Cayman companies in that the assets and liabilities of each segregated portfolio are segregated from each other during the life of the SPC and in liquidation, which is known as the segregation principle. Typically, where a particular portfolio has insufficient assets to meet claims of creditors, a receiver may be appointed for the purpose of an orderly closing down of the business of that portfolio.

Until this judgment, it was not clear that restructuring officers could be appointed in relation to specific portfolios given that each portfolio is not a separate legal entity.

This decision illustrates the flexibility of the SPC regime compared with both traditional companies and corresponding segregated portfolio regimes elsewhere. However, the application to appoint restructuring officers was unopposed in this case, so it will be interesting to see if such appointments are subject to challenge in future.


While not appropriate for all circumstances, the RO Regime will be a sensible and effective method by which large, multinational groups may seek to restructure their debt obligations and other affairs for the benefit of their stakeholders.

The Cayman Courts have provided helpful clarification on a number of aspects of the RO Regime, including the breadth of the automatic stay, the applicability of the RO Regime to SPCs, and the importance of a clear restructuring plan before asking the Court to engage its jurisdiction to appoint restructuring officers. It is clear that the Court is concerned with avoiding abuse of the new restructuring regime while also promoting consistency and certainty, albeit under a turbocharged framework.

This clarification will be especially important for foreign courts in considering whether to recognize and assist Cayman Islands restructuring officers in future. Foreign courts can take comfort in the fact that the Cayman Islands Court remains astute to guard against any abuse of the new regime by carefully analyzing whether the statutory preconditions for appointment are met in the circumstances of each case.

The key to a successful restructuring, through the Cayman RO Regime or otherwise, will always be timely action, with the right advisor team to guide the process.

This article is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice or a legal opinion. It deals in broad terms only and is intended to merely provide a brief overview and give general information.