19 Feb 2020

Former high-flyer banned over loan company's ruthless repossessions

4:54 pm on 19 February 2020

A father-son duo have been banned from being directors, or involved in the management of a company in any way, after their loan company was found to have engaged in ruthless and illegal operations.

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Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The ban was sought against Allan and Wayne Hawkins who ran Budget Loans Limited, by the Commerce Commission.

Allan Hawkins was one of New Zealand's richest men in the 1980s until his company Equiticorp collapsed in 1989 owing hundreds of millions of dollars to investors.

Two years later he was sentenced to six years jail for fraud.

Allan Hawkins unsuccessfully opposed the ban application at a three-day hearing in November 2019.

Judge Gibson, who delivered the written decision today, said Budget Loans used "high-handed and intimidatory tactics in dealing with debtors."

He said Budget Loans conducted operations with "ruthlessness" and that Allan and Wayne Hawkins were "closely involved in the day to day operations", and while they knew repossessions were illegal "both respondents were plainly unconcerned and dismissive".

He said it was clear very little had changed in Allan Hawkins' character since the Equiticorp collapse.

Allan Hawkins was banned from company management for eight years, and Wayne Hawkins for 10.

The orders to ban Allan and Wayne Hawkins were made against them personally, however Budget Loans as a company had also faced litigation.

The Commerce Commission said from 2009 to 2014 Budget Loans and Evolution Finance (together Budget Loans) misrepresented its right to repossess goods, its right to recover interest and costs from borrowers and the amounts borrowers were required to pay.

"In some cases Budget Loans repossessed debtors' property so extensively that houses were left almost bare. In other cases, it repossessed items that it should have known were of low value, and dumped them," the Commission said.

Commission Competition and Consumer general counsel, Mary-Anne Borrowdale, said in May 2018 Budget Loans was fined $720,000 on 125 charges under the Fair Trading Act and ordered to pay reparations and emotional harm payments totalling $91,000.

"Those amounts have not been paid, except for one payment of about $139, and this sum was paid when a Court seized the funds. Not only have borrowers not received reparations, payments continue to be collected," she said.

At the time of the sentencing Judge Sharp stated it was "cynical and deliberate" offending. He said the repossessions were "reprehensible" and were "used as a direct means of coercion."

In 2010 the company also plead guilty to 34 charges of breaching the Fair Trading Act and fined nearly $31,000.

The ban was the first the Commerce Commission had sought under the Fair Trading Act.

It has previously sought bans under the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act.