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Two schemes for the price of one? Court grants leave to convene in relation to Amigo Loans' new scheme proposals.

Customers of Amigo loans will have the opportunity to vote at creditor meetings in relation to two alternative scheme proposals, following its recent leave to convene hearing. In a judgment handed down on 15 March, the court gave leave to convene simultaneous creditors' meetings in relation to two schemes - termed the "New Business Scheme" and the "Wind-Down Scheme". The company's preferred option of the New Business Scheme would potentially offer the best return for its consumer creditors in relation to historic mis-selling claims (Redress Creditors), and envisages a possible resumption of lending by Amigo. The alternative “Wind Down Scheme” is a fallback option which would see Redress Creditors recover more than in an insolvency process. Both alternatives offer a better financial return for Redress Creditors than Amigo's original proposed scheme, which was opposed by the FCA and refused court sanction in May 2021.

One concern regarding the previous scheme was that Redress Creditors had not been consulted with or given sufficient information, presented in an appropriate form, which would enable them to understand the alternative options which may be available to them. Effectively engaging with a financially unsophisticated and vulnerable constituency of creditors, in relation to a complex restructuring, is clearly a significant challenge. Even with admirable attempts to couch the explanatory statement for the new proposals in accessible language, the reality must be that few Redress Creditors will read or understand it. However, Amigo has also appointed a committee of customers to consider and give feedback on the design of the revised proposals, and an independent "Customer Advocate" to liaise with and assist consumers, as well as publicising the proposals via social media and popular press.

Amigo's "two scheme" approach is essentially a hedge against the risk of failing at sanction again. If for any reason the company's preferred option of the New Business Scheme is not approved by creditors or the court, the Wind Down Scheme offers the company a "Plan B", which will keep it out of administration. However, for Plan B to be an option, the Wind Down Scheme must first receive creditor approval. It will be interesting to see whether, or to what extent, the simultaneous scheme proposals have an effect on the creditor vote. While the company has gone to great lengths to explain the schemes and procedure, proposing two schemes adds an extra layer of intricacy to an already complex process. Despite the company's best efforts, financially unsophisticated Redress Creditors may struggle to understand what they need to do, or why they should vote on two schemes when one clearly offers the better outcome.

Nonetheless, this is an innovative approach, and could be an interesting precedent for future schemes. It reduces the risk of a scheme company facing a significant financial hit if a scheme fails at sanction and it has to return to square one. For Amigo itself, with the FCA indicating that a return to lending may be possible if its new scheme is sanctioned, the outlook certainly seems to be looking up.

The result of the hearing, which took place last week (8 March), will offer its creditors a chance to vote on its two schemes of arrangement - these being its new business scheme and its wind-down scheme. Commenting on the announcement, Amigo chief executive Gary Jennison said: “We are pleased that the court has agreed that the schemes can proceed to a creditor vote. The financial offer has been significantly improved and we will be doing everything we can to encourage creditor participation.