Investigations and enforcement: what we do, our outcomes and complaints

Detailed information about the Insolvency Service’s investigation and enforcement work, how we achieve our outcomes and how to complain about misconduct.

The Insolvency Service’s official receivers are responsible for the administration and investigation of a case when:

  • a company goes into compulsory liquidation
  • a bankruptcy order is made
  • a debt relief order is made

Our company investigations team may investigate:

  • following formal insolvency proceedings or where a company has been dissolved without first entering into formal insolvency proceedings, where we receive information about a director’s conduct (in one or more companies) that would make them unfit to manage a company if it was proven, and
  • taking into account all circumstances of the case, a court would be likely to make a disqualification order

We also have the power to conduct confidential investigations into limited companies and limited liability partnerships where we have received information that suggests serious corporate abuse. We can investigate when the company is actively trading or has ceased trading without entering into insolvency proceedings, but cannot use these separate powers when a company has been dissolved. If we feel it is appropriate, we may apply to the court for a company to be wound up and/ or for one or more directors to be disqualified.

The above powers to investigate are civil and not criminal. If it seems that a debtor, a company or its officers may have committed criminal offences or other regulatory breaches, the case may be referred to our Criminal Investigation Team, the police, a regulator or other investigation agency. It is for that body to decide whether it is appropriate for them to carry out any further investigation. This does not prevent the civil investigator including details of the unfit conduct in any civil action we may take.

Our Legal Services Directorate (LSD) provides a wide range of legal, operational and policy advice. It conducts both civil and criminal proceedings to restrict those who have acted improperly during the course of insolvency or the life of a company, to wind up companies in the public interest and to bring to justice those who commit criminal offences within the remit of the Department for Business and Trade (DBT).

LSD works with colleagues throughout the Insolvency Service, DBT, the Government Legal Profession and across the public and private sectors to achieve appropriate enforcement activity to deter financial wrongdoing and to support the DBT Industrial Strategy. LSD and our Criminal Investigation Team do not accept reports of wrongdoing directly from the public. Referrals may only be made by other agencies and from teams within the Insolvency Service.

See also


Published 30 May 2014
Last updated 22 January 2020 + show all updates
  1. Content on page updated to reflect organisational changes.

  2. added document on reuse of company name

  3. Added guidance on complaints about the re-use of a company name

  4. Updated to reflect the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Criminal Enforcement Team transferring to the Insolvency Service on 1 January 2017.

  5. First published.