Protection Against Court Winding Up of Cayman Islands Hedge Funds in Management Wind Down

Many investment funds that have come to the end of their commercial life will conclude that the interests of their investors are best served by the closing down of the fund, conducted by its management, including the investment manager, with the return to the investors of their due share of the assets of the fund after settlement of liabilities; such closing down is usually effected by the distribution to investors of cash or assets, or by the assignment of shares in a special purpose vehicle set up by the fund to take illiquid or other assets of the fund, or by a combination of these.  Funds will typically achieve this by a combination of redemptions (voluntary and compulsory), in cash or in specie, and the imposition and lifting of suspensions of redemptions and gating provisions as necessary.  Such wind down schemes, to be valid and enforceable, will require compliance with the contractual entitlement of the fund to adopt and impose the scheme under the fund’s constitutional documentation, i.e., the fund’s articles of association and offering memoranda.  Funds which have ceased to operate as active investment vehicles have recently attracted the attention of the first instance courts of the Cayman Islands (and the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda), in the context of petitions to wind up a fund which is in management wind down.  This kind of informal wind down will usually be effected and managed by the fund’s board of directors and the investment manager.  A source of discontent amongst investors may be the level of fees charged by the investment manager during the wind down period which, whilst accepted to be at a level appropriate when the fund was operating as a going concern and taking in new investors, is perceived to be disproportionately and unjustifiably high in a wind down.  It may also be perceived that any wind down managed by the investment manager inherently provides an incentive (conscious or unconscious) for the investment manager to prolong the wind down process for the purpose of earning continuing fees.  A trend is emerging from a number of recent cases before the first instance courts of the Cayman Islands (which may be followed in other jurisdictions) that it is open to the court, almost as a matter of course, to impose a compulsory winding up order in respect of an investment fund merely because it has ceased to operate as an active investment vehicle, even if it is in a process of a management-conducted winding down.  In a guest article, Christopher Russell and Shaun Folpp, Partner and Senior Associate, respectively, at Ogier, Cayman Islands, analyze and critique this trend, and detail its implications for the drafting of constitutional documents of Cayman Islands hedge funds.

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