At least not without the backing of a court. The NBR writes
The Official Assignee has a wide range of powers but not quite as wide as accounting firm Xero [NZX: XRO] has been suggesting.
NBR asked two lawyers about the rights and powers of the Official Assignee – both were speaking about the provisions of the Insolvency Act 2006 generally, and not about any specific case – and both have the same view.
Mike Whale, a lawyer at Lowndes Law and the editor with Justice Paul Heath of a book on insolvency, says the Official Assignee’s powers to request documents or to examine witnesses are indeed wide.
Mr Whale says it would be difficult to challenge any requirement to produce documents or be examined, unless it can be shown that the Official Assignee was exercising his or her powers unfairly, oppressively or vexatiously.
“The powers that the Official Assignee has been given in these circumstances are really designed to discover the truth of the circumstances connected with the affairs of a bankrupt, information about trading, dealings and so forth,” he says.
The Official Assignee can ask just about anybody just about anything, so long as it’s related to the property conduct or dealings of a bankrupt.
“There’s an obligation on virtually anyone to comply with the Official Assignee’s requests, if they have information or hold documents.”
However, that doesn’t give the Official Assignee free rein to go on fishing expeditions.
There has to be a direct cause for the OA to go for information. They can’t just, for example, request the password to a bank account of someone just to have a good look around. Read more »