The New Bankruptcy 'Detective Agency'? The Origins of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy in Great Depression Canada

(2021) 64:1 Canadian Business Law Journal 22-45

18 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2021

Date Written: August 20, 2020

Abstract

In the depths of the Great Depression, R.B. Bennett’s Conservative government appointed W.J. Reilley as Canada’s first Superintendent of Bankruptcy. Reilley’s experience made him eminently qualified. He had trained as a lawyer and had been the Registrar of the Bankruptcy Court of Ontario at Osgoode Hall for many years. The creation of the federal Superintendent’s office in 1932 is one of the major milestones in the legislative history of Canadian bankruptcy law. In the bankruptcy law literature, there is a broad recognition that the 1932 reforms were vital. These accounts are incomplete. This article seeks to provide a fuller understanding of these reforms by examining sources of opposition to the establishment of the Superintendent’s office. Not all accepted the new regulatory approach and the prospects of a bankruptcy bureaucracy during the Depression. Within months of Reilley taking office, critics called into question his qualifications and demanded his resignation. Little is known about the 1932 reforms as the creation of the Superintendent’s office has largely been overshadowed in the insolvency field by the enactment of corporate reorganization legislation in 1933 and farm credit legislation in 1934.

Keywords: Bankruptcy, Insolvency, History, Great Depression, Debt

JEL Classification: K35

Suggested Citation

Telfer, Thomas G. W., The New Bankruptcy 'Detective Agency'? The Origins of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy in Great Depression Canada (August 20, 2020). (2021) 64:1 Canadian Business Law Journal 22-45, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3829985 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3829985

Thomas G. W. Telfer (Contact Author)

University of Western Ontario ( email )

1151 Richmond Street
Suite 2
London, Ontario N6A 5B8
Canada

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