Business secretary Greg Clark has announced new plans to safeguard workers, pensions and small suppliers when a company goes bust.
While the vast majority of UK companies are run responsibly, there are a minority of directors who deliberately dodge debts by dissolving companies then starting up a near identical business with a new name - known as "phoenixing".
Under the shake-up, bosses will face investigation if they try to escape paying a dissolved company's debts to their staff and creditors. The Insolvency Service will also be able to fine directors or have them disqualified.
The new rules mean that:
- Struggling companies will be given more time to rescue the business and help safeguard jobs;
- Directors who have dissolved companies to avoid paying workers or pensions could be disqualified or fined by authorities;
- Boardrooms must explain to shareholders how they can afford to pay dividends alongside capital investment, workers' rewards and pension schemes.
Business minister Kelly Tolhurst said: "While the vast majority of UK companies are run responsibly, some recent large-scale business failures have shown that a minority of directors are recklessly profiting from dissolved companies. This can't continue.
"That is why we are upgrading our corporate governance to give new powers to authorities to investigate and hold responsible directors who attempt to shy away from their responsibilities, help protect workers and small suppliers and ensure the UK remains a great place to work, invest and do business."
The Government also plans to improve the quality of directors' work by introducing new and better training for directors to make them more aware of their legal duties. It is asking ICSA - the Governance Institute - to convene a group of investors and companies to develop a code of practice for external board evaluations.
More details on these measures are to be published in the Autumn.