16 Jul 2012

Wave of civil prosecutions expected over failed finance firms

7:03 am on 16 July 2012

A wave of civil prosecutions are expected to appear in the courts over the next few months, as receivers and investors of failed finance firms sue company directors, auditors and trustees in a bid to get some of their money back.

Already, the receivers of Nathans Finance, and Bridgecorp have filed cases worth hundreds of millions of dollars and there's a prediction that more will follow.

More than 200,000 New Zealanders lost $6 billion in the collapse of finance companies since 2008.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the receiver of both Nathans Finance and Bridgecorp, is now seeking more than half a billion dollars in compensation from the directors and auditors of those two failed finance firms.

PwC's lawyer, Murray Tingey, an insolvency specialist at Bell Gully, says it's inevitable that more receivers will follow.

He says now that the criminal processes have mainly been concluded, it opens up the way to bring a civil claim.

A recent court ruling found the country's largest corporate trustee, Perpetual Trust, was negligent in its role to two Nelson-based finance firms, LDC and Finance and Investments.

Financial advisor Chris Lee says that ruling paves the way for receivers or investors to claim compensation from directors, auditors and trustees' insurers.

He says it allows the prospect of cases against auditors and trustees and opens an insurance pool of about $2 billion for investors to get compensation.

"If New Zealand could get even half of the insurance money that they have paid premiums to have access to, so if even they got $1 billion of compensation, that would be huge benefit to 200,000 New Zealanders who lost their money in finance companies".

However, Bell Gully's Murray Tingey says it's only worth pursuing a such a case if there is money available.

He says Bell Gully is trying to target where there are assets available because there is little point in suing someone if they don't have any assets.

Mr Tingey says in New Zealand many directors have their assets tied up in family trusts which are difficult to claim against, so whether there is insurance is an important factor.

Meanwhile, the receivers of Lombard Finance and Investments and Capital and Merchant Finance are also expected to make compensation claims soon.