Canada: Une Proposition Visant Le Versement De Dividendes Hypothétiques Aux Créanciers Ordinaires Respecte-T-Elle Le Critère De Raisonnabilité Prévu À La Loi Sur La Faillite Et L'insolvabilité?

Certains créanciers s'opposent à l'homologation d'une proposition de Société de Gestion GLI inc. (« GLI » ou la « Débitrice ») aux motifs que celle-ci n'est ni raisonnable ni destinée à avantager l'ensemble des créanciers et que, dans tous les cas, elle ne bénéficiait pas de l'appui de la double majorité requise en vertu de la Loi sur la faillite et l'insolvabilité (« LFI »).

La Débitrice est une société de portefeuille n'ayant aucune personne à son emploi et aucune activité, outre le fait de détenir ses placements. Ses revenus et pertes sont tributaires de ceux de ses filiales ouvrant dans le domaine des télécommunications.

Le Tribunal refuse d'approuver la proposition.

D'une part, le Tribunal constate que le syndic n'aurait pas dû permettre à un certain groupe de créanciers liés à la Débitrice (les « Créanciers liés ») de voter en faveur de la proposition. La LFI interdit à une personne liée à la débitrice de voter en faveur d'une proposition la concernant. Elle peut cependant voter contre son acceptation.

54. (3) [Créancier lié] Un créancier qui est lié au débiteur peut voter contre, mais non pour, l'acceptation de la proposition.

En l'espèce, les Créancier liés, essentiellement le président et actionnaire de la Débitrice, ainsi que des sociétés et une fiducie qu'il contrôle seul ou avec son épouse, sont des personnes liées à la Débitrice. Le vote favorable des Créanciers liés doit donc être ignoré et, par conséquent, la proposition n'a pas recueilli la double majorité nécessaire à son approbation.

D'autre part, la Proposition n'est pas destinée à avantager l'ensemble des créanciers de la Débitrice, puisque le versement de dividendes en vertu de la proposition n'est que théorique et illusoire, compte tenu de toutes les conditions et contingences dont une telle distribution est assortie.

Pour être approuvée, la Proposition doit comporter des conditions raisonnables ou destinées à avantager l'ensemble des créanciers, critère non respecté en l'espèce.

59.  (2)  [Le tribunal peut refuser d'approuver la proposition] Lorsqu'il est d'avis que les conditions de la proposition ne sont pas raisonnables ou qu'elles ne sont pas destinées à avantager l'ensemble des créanciers, le tribunal refuse d'approuver la proposition; et il peut refuser d'approuver la proposition lorsqu'il est établi que le débiteur a commis l'une des infractions mentionnées aux articles 198 à 200.

L'appréciation de la raisonnabilité de la Proposition doit se faire à la lumière des principes directeurs que le juge Gascon, alors à la Cour supérieure, résume dans Magi (Syndic de)1.

En l'espèce, la proposition offre essentiellement aux créanciers non garantis de la Débitrice la possibilité de toucher éventuellement 4,7 % des dividendes à être déclarés par Media5 ou du produit de la vente éventuelle de ses actifs. Média5 est une société spécialisée dans la recherche et le développement dans le domaine de la technologie de transmission de la voix.

Le Tribunal constate que la contrepartie offerte dans la proposition demeure tributaire de plusieurs éléments, puisqu'elle repose essentiellement sur la capacité de Media5 à réaliser les prévisions financières présentement disponibles.

À cet égard, le Tribunal note que les prévisions financières optimistes soumises au soutien de la proposition doivent être considérées avec prudence, en raison du marché en cause et des expériences passées du président et actionnaire de la Débitrice dont de nombreuses sociétés qu'il contrôle ou contrôlait ont fait faillite ou ont été restructurées pour cause de difficultés financières dans le passé.

Par ailleurs, le Tribunal est d'avis que les chances de réalisation de la proposition et du versement de quelque dividende en faveur des créanciers non garantis sont minimes, puisque de nombreux éléments rendent le versement d'un dividende peu probable :

  • Il n'existe aucune obligation par quiconque à ce qu'un dividende soit ultimement versé aux créanciers de la Débitrice;
  • Les administrateurs de Media5 n'ont aucune obligation de déclarer un dividende;
  • Les créanciers non garantis de la Débitrice n'auront aucun contrôle ou pouvoir de surveillance sur les affaires de Media5;
  • Aucune date butoir n'est prévue pour le paiement d'un dividende par Media5;
  • Aucun montant minimal ne doit être versé aux créanciers de la Débitrice;
  • Aucun mécanisme de défaut n'est prévu en cas de faillite de Media5 ou en l'absence du versement d'un quelconque dividende.

Le Tribunal rappelle qu'une proposition ne doit pas automatiquement être considérée comme raisonnable du simple fait qu'elle offre une expectative de toucher une contrepartie, si minime et spéculative soit-elle. Le rôle du Tribunal est de déterminer si la proposition doit présenter l'expectative raisonnable d'une alternative préférable à la faillite.

En l'espèce, le Tribunal est d'avis que la proposition ne présente pas une alternative préférable à la faillite, mais que la Proposition vise plutôt à restructurer Media5 en permettant le rachat d'un de ses importants créanciers.

Au surplus, le Tribunal souligne que le rejet de la proposition permettra au syndic, dans le contexte de la faillite, de procéder à un examen plus approfondi en ce qui a trait à l'existence de transactions révisables.

Bref, le Tribunal considère que le critère de la raisonnabilité prévu à la LFI n'est pas rempli et rejette donc la requête du syndic en approbation de la proposition.

Société de Gestion GLI Inc. et Pierre Guay Syndic Inc. et Arkéa Banque et als., C.S. 450-11-000218-127, jugement du 16 août 2013, Juge Marie-Anne Paquette.

Footnote

1 – J.E. 2006-2185 (C.S.) (désistement d'appel (C.A., 2007-01-19, 500-09-017049-065). Passage cité avec approbation par la Cour d'appel dans: Dupré (Proposition de) c. Tur, 2012 QCCA 830, par. 22; Chan (Proposition de), 2007 QCCA 727, par. 17.

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