Improved creditor and community protection seemed attainable goals when Professor Daniel Prentice described s. 214 of the Insolvency Act (‘s. 214’) as ‘one of the most important developments in company law this century’. The profession and academics perceived that wrongful trading in its legislative form had a bright future because it promised to provide much needed protection. ‘Wrongful trading’ was introduced to minimise the abuse of limited liability by company officers. An honest director could not be liable for a company's debt despite reckless, unreasonable and cavalier business practices. Insolvency practitioners were having difficulty establishing dishonesty under the fraudulent trading provisions. The courts demanded a strict standard of proof for fraudulent trading and many cases never made it to court despite a prospect of recovery against directors. Wrongful trading by comparison is a recent development that, in theory, refines the standard of a director's duty and clarifies that conduct need not be fraudulent, illegal or unconscionable to attract legislative censure. Section 214 measures a director's conduct against a minimum standard of commercial morality and competence.
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