Partner

Bernice Ellis

Bernice has a broad-ranging commercial-disputes practice, but her specialities are insolvency and debt recovery, shareholder disputes, building and construction disputes, and tax disputes. She is sought out for her sound technical advice, along with her straight-talking and commercially pragmatic approach to protecting the interests of her clients.

Bernice’s forte is managing and resolving complex claims. She has a proven track record of being able to quickly get to the factual and legal heart of a dispute, assemble and analyse evidence and develop solutions for her clients, regularly collaborating with a broader team of the client’s advisors. With an unfailing focus on getting a commercially practical result for her clients, Bernice regularly acts for insolvency practitioners, financial institutions, debtors, creditors, company directors, and shareholders.

Expertise

Bernice’s expertise includes:

  • Advising on and litigation for partnership and shareholder disputes, including rights and remedies such as oppression claims and equitable winding ups
  • Advising on insolvency-related issues, including rights and obligations of insolvency practitioners, creditors, debtors, security holders, company directors, landlords, tenants, and trustees
  • Acting in insolvency-related litigation, including public examinations, voidable transaction claims, insolvent trading claims, and debt recovery
  • Advising on and litigation for building and construction disputes, including as concerns Security of Payment legislation and in an insolvency context
  • Advising on and litigation for developers, builders, owners, and subcontractors in building contract disputes, including as concerns defects and rectification work
  • Advising on and litigation for State and Territory payroll tax obligations and liability, including grouping, de-grouping, contractor and employment agency arrangements, structuring with discretionary trusts, and penalties
  • Advising on and preparing objections to Federal tax amended assessments and penalty assessments, including acting in litigation appealing objection decisions

Recent Projects

  • Acting for companies and directors in the Australian gold industry object to amended assessments of GST and penalties, and resist ATO debt recovery action.
  • Advising a large multi-faceted corporate group about ACT payroll tax grouping obligations, liabilities, and prospects of successful applying to de-group various entities.
  • Acting for a liquidator to publicly examine and then successfully pursue company directors for unreasonable director-related transactions and breach of duties.
  • Acting for a liquidator to publicly examine and then successfully pursue a secured creditor to recover unfair preference payments.
  • Acting for directors of an insolvent company to successfully defend a liquidator’s claim for uncommercial transactions and insolvent trading.
  • Acting for liquidators of a large Canberra commercial fit-out company to recover payments owed by various organisations, including an ASX listed company, under construction contracts with the company in liquidation
  • Acting for one of Canberra’s largest building companies to enforce a Security of Payment adjudication decision, which led to the non-paying developer being wound up for presumed insolvency, a contested adjudication by the liquidator of the builder’s proof of debt, and the builder successfully opposing the developer’s application to terminate the winding up.
  • Acting for one of Canberra’s largest civil works contractors to enforce a Security of Payment adjudication decision, including defend the non-paying client’s appeal of the decision brought in the ACT Supreme Court, through to a High Court of Australia special leave application about the application of issue estoppel to ACT Security of Payment legislation.
  • Acting for the Nominee of a large Canberra building company to appeal a rectification order issued by the ACT Construction Occupations Registrar for defects in a mixed- use high-rise commercial building.

Professional Memberships / Accreditation & Activities

  • Recommended Lawyer, Restructuring and Insolvency and Dispute resolution: Litigation, Legal 500, Australia
  • Recognised Lawyer, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Litigation, The Best Lawyers in Australia
  • Preeminent Lawyer, Commercial Litigation, Dispute Resolution & Insolvency, Doyle’s Guide
  • Professional Member of the Australian Restructuring, Insolvency & Turnaround Association
  • Professional Member of INSOL International
  • Member of the Insolvency and Restructuring Committee (Business Law Section) of the Law Council of Australia

location

Canberra

Special Counsel

Alison Malek

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